12 Unreasonable Misconceptions Even The Best Photography Clients Have

Photography can be a lonely business. Most photographers are one-man/woman shows, which means the majority of our day is spent alone. There are no co-workers to share ideas with or listen to us vent our frustrations. This is where online communities, such as the PhotoBlog Community, have helped to change that. We now have our own special place where we can share our work, ideas, accomplishments, disappointments, and frustrations. We brag about our best photography clients and commiserate over the not so great ones.

With clients come Photo by Anne Edgar
With clients come misunderstandings, but it’s all part of what makes our jobs as professional photographers interesting, right? Photo by Anne Edgar

As is the case with most businesses, there are always going to be frustrations around what clients think we do and why we do it. One of the most common topics found in online groups is managing the client’s expectations. Based on the posts I have read and my own personal experiences, I’ve compiled a list of things clients will never understand about running a photography business.

12 Unreasonable Misconceptions Even The Best Photography Clients Have

12. What Rights They Have To Their Photos

We live in a digital era. Everyone seems to have a cell phone, tablet, or computer. As a result, social media has created an image-based world. Photos stand out above the written word. Because of our obsession with images, our clients are now more interested in digital files than print products. They also believe that once they have their digital files, they can do whatever they want with them.

The truth is, photography clients are only buying a License for Personal Use when they purchase the digital files. There is a big difference between Copyright and License for Personal Use. Christine Tremoulet writes in her blog post on Copyright,

These are actual, LEGAL terms. They have a meaning behind them. It is pretty important. If you give your clients the Copyright on their images, it means that they have the rights to do everything with them and you have NO more rights to use them.

That’s BIG deal! Clients need to be educated on what their legal rights are once they’ve purchased digital files. They can use them for personal use ONLY! They are not allowed to alter them in any way–hello, Instagram filters! Nor are they allowed to sell them. It also means that the photographer retains the Copyright and can use the images to sell prints, display in a portfolio, and post online.

11. Kids Won’t Behave All The Time, And That’s Okay!

I don’t shoot many family sessions anymore, and this is one of the main reasons why. I chase my own kids around enough as it is, I don’t want to chase someone else’s. However, I know tons of family photographers who thrive on the chase. They love those candid, not-so-perfect moments.

Sometimes kids can act like jerks--but, you can relax, we still love photographing them. Photo by Mikel Kristensen
Sometimes kids can be punks–but, you can relax, we still love photographing them. Photo by Mikel Kristensen

However, with that style of photography comes the parent that can’t stop apologizing for their child’s behavior. In Amy Tripple’s article Ten Things Your Photographer Will Never Tell You (But Wishes You Knew!), she says:

There’s no need to stress that your children are being “bad”… they’re being kids and I honestly love the challenge!”

This is true of all photographers who shoot little ones. If they didn’t truly love what they do, they wouldn’t be doing it. It would be wonderful if all the moms and dads out there would relax, trust the photographer, and enjoy the session.

10. Our Job Is To Create, NOT Re-create (aka – That Pinterest Photo!)

Ah, Pinterest! I would be willing to bet every photographer who shoots paying clients has had at least one client request to re-create a photo they saw on Pinterest. I can’t tell you how many times this has happened to me personally and it drives me nuts.

Photographers are artists. We create beautiful works of art for our clients, whether it’s a stunning family portrait or a beautiful couple on their wedding day.

It’s our hope that they trust us enough to let us create unique images just for them. Not a copy of what someone else has already done.

The best way to prevent this from happening is to let your clients know that while you appreciate them sharing photos they love, you are not going to copy someone else’s work. Ask them what it is about the photo they love. Is it the lighting, wardrobe, location, styling? Use that image as a guide for how to best meet the client’s expectations.

It's a photographer's job to create art, not re-create someone else's art
It’s a photographer’s job to create art, not re-create someone else’s art

11. How Much We Hate The Cell Phone Photographers

Any wedding photographer will tell you that nothing is more frustrating than when a guest ruins the perfect photo with their cell phone or “fancy” camera. One of the greatest things to happen to weddings is the “un-plugged” wedding. This is where couple’s ask their guests keep all cell phones and cameras put away until the ceremony is over. It’s a genius idea and one that I regularly bring up with my brides. While it may not be an issue at every event, when it does happen it can be really frustrating.

It’s not just confined to weddings anymore either. I know of several portrait photographers that have had similar problems. The clients bring along a friend or grandma to the session. The next thing you know, grandma has her phone out and is taking pictures over the photographer’s shoulder.

Photography clients don't understand how much we hate casual smartphone photographers showing up to a photoshoot. Image by: Kendra Swalls
Wedding guests with their cell phones is one of the most frustrating parts of photographing a wedding.

8. We Really Do Value And Appreciate Our Clients

Photography is a passion, not a job! As I mentioned earlier, we all love what we do or we wouldn’t be doing it. While some clients can be frustrating and difficult to work with, we truly care about each one. Without them, we couldn’t pursue a career we love while also paying our bills. Our goal is to provide each client with lasting memories of a special moment or time in their lives. They aren’t just another name on a schedule, they are a new friendship and connection.

7. It’s NOT The Camera That Makes The Photos Great

We all know that friend, or family member, that gets a new DSLR for Christmas and suddenly thinks they’re the next Annie Leibovitz. It can be really frustrating when photography clients don’t understand the talent and knowledge it takes to really capture a great image. No matter how fancy or expensive your camera is, it can never replace the eye of the photographer behind it. There is a great video on

There’s a great video on You Tube where New York City photographer, Lara Jade, is given a cheap child’s camera and asked to take high fashion photos with it. The result is really a testament to the fact that the camera isn’t what makes a great photo.

6. Photoshop Is Not A Miracle Worker

Clients have this skewed idea that Photoshop is a magic tool that can make impossible things, possible. With just a wave of our magic wand, it can smooth out wrinkles, remove pounds of fat and make their rowdy 2-year-old look well behaved.

Even if Photoshop can remove the peanut butter smears on your child’s face or change the color of your shoes in every photo, no photographer wants to spend hours fixing all those things on every photo in your gallery. Which leads me to my next point…

5. Editing Takes Time

Clients tend to assume it takes very little editing to create the finished product they see in their gallery. When in reality there’s A LOT of thought and time that goes into taking the RAW image and turning it into something we would feel proud to present. The article How I Process: A Look Into a Pro’s Workflow is the perfect example of the time and thought that goes into editing a photo.

4. Feedback Means The World To Us!

The gallery is uploaded and ready to go. You hit the send button and wait anxiously on pins and needles for a response. Hours, days, maybe even weeks go by and all you hear is crickets! It’s one of the most anxiety-inducing parts of this job.

In a society of instant feedback, it’s easy to think the worst when you hear nothing. We start imagining all the negative things they must be thinking because it’s like the old saying, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all”.

In reality, people are busy. They look at their pictures, share them with their friends, but don’t necessarily think to let you know how much they love them. I have enjoyed some wonderful meals at amazing restaurants, but I don’t often think to let the chef know how much I enjoyed his creation.

Follow up with your photography clients after you send out their gallery. There is no shame in asking them how they liked their images.

3. The Unseen Amount Of Work That Goes Into A Session

Photography clients will never recognize the actual amount of work you put into making a photoshoot happen. Photo by Luis Llerena
Clients will never recognize the actual amount of work you put into making a photoshoot happen. Photo by Luis Llerena

Emails, contracts, pre-consultations, driving to and from a session, uploading images, editing images, ordering sessions, print orders, blogging, social media posts, and delivering orders.

There are so many behind the scenes things that go on before, during and after a session that clients never see or think about. The actual session itself is only about 10% of the entire process, but it’s the only part they see.

This is a frustration point that is not likely to go away at any time. Every job has behind the scenes work that goes unnoticed and unappreciated. It’s just part of what we signed up for when we chose this career.

2. Why We Don’t Give Away RAW Files

If you were to poll a group of photographers, this would most likely be one of the most frustrating topics. I have been asked a few times by clients if they could have the RAW files and every single time I politely tell them “no”.

Most of the time when a client is asking for the RAW files, it’s because they’re afraid of missing out on something great. They worry we’ve eliminated something they would have chosen to keep. Having a strong level a trust with your photography clients is key. They have to trust that you are the professional and are fully capable of doing the job they hired you to do.

While I have never given in to this client request, I have struggled with ways to tell them “no” without sounding put out. One of the best ways I have found to do this is by saying something along these lines:

Handing over RAW files is like giving someone the draft to a great book. There are spelling and grammatical errors, extra passages that need to be removed, and finishing touches that need to be done. You don’t get the same effect as you would handing over the polished, final copy. The same goes for a RAW image.

1. Pricing

Not only is this the #1 most discussed topic in social media groups and forums, but it’s also top of the list for client complaints. No matter if you’re priced too low, too high, or just right, there are going to be clients that can’t, or don’t want to, pay what you are worth. There are also going to be clients that don’t understand or value the service and products you provide.

Photography clients just get why you charge what you do.
Price according to your skill level and cost of doing business–not what someone else says you should be charging. Photo by Crew.

It all goes back to point #3. Photography clients are basing their understanding of our pricing on the 10% of work that they see. They don’t understand they are paying for much more than just the couple of hours they are in front of the camera.

Pricing is a difficult topic to discuss, both with photography clients as well as other photographers. Everyone seems to have an opinion about how little or how much you’re charging. You can’t please everyone, or fit yourself into every budget. If you price yourself according to your business, your needs, and your skill level then you are doing it right!

photographer wishes

Have A Funny Client Complaint To Share?

Can you relate to this? Are there other aspects of running a photography business that clients will never understand? Have a particularly humorous (or rage inducing) request you want to share? That’s what the comments section is for–be sure to share your experiences with us below!


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About the author

Kendra Swalls

Kendra Swalls is the owner of Paisley Layne Photography, a premier boutique portrait and wedding studio in the Dallas/Ft Worth area. With a background in education, Kendra incorporates her love for photography with her passion for teaching others through workshops, e-books and tutorials.

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