The Flip Side of Managing Client Expectations is Exceeding Them.

Blue Skies. Puffy clouds.

We did a job recently for a client I have worked for now going on 20 years. We don't do a lot of work for them but last year we shot beautiful portraits for a series of ads, a bunch of product shots that are now in catalogs, on posters and on spec. sheets. But the thing we consistently do for them is the photography for their holiday cards. They love to show off their employees by figuring out (along with the advertising advisor) clever ways to include all 125 people who make their high technology company run. Last year we shot images that were stylized like Andy Warhol's lithographs. The card was stunning. This year we were on to something else.

I contracted for two days of shooting and I went to their location, with an assistant in tow, and we set up a lighting design with a light blue background that would make cutting out (creating clipping paths) people from the background to composite them on one of the card panels easy. We had a very enjoyable time and the client schedule people and breaks, people and lunch, etc. perfectly.

The client was as gracious and genuine as could be and the staff kept the good coffee flowing. They ordered a really wonderful lunch (sandwiches, salads, etc.) both days, along with tantalizing desserts and snacks that I'll be swimming off for weeks. You just couldn't ask for more from a client.

But there was a glitch for them. They had three people who could not attend either day. One was ill, another traveling and I'm not sure about the third person. Whatever. The client seemed okay with the missing people at the time of the shoot but after they saw all the other fun images they realized that it would be demoralizing for the absent people not to be on the card this year.

I got an e-mail asking how much it would cost to shoot each of the three individually, at my studio. Well, we're on opposite ends of the highway, a trek of at least half an hour (if traffic cooperates) and I thought it would be a mess to get their people here. And, the funny thing was, I wanted to see all the staff included, as well. In a way it felt like including them would provide an extra layer of closure for the job.

I responded and let them know that I'd be (honestly) happy to head back up to their location this morning to get the three remaining people photographed, and that I would do it at no charge. Not only did the marketing V.P. and CEO personally thank me for thinking like part of their team but the people I photographed also let me know how much it meant to them.

I know they would have been willing to pay me a fee but they have been such a good client for so long I wanted to do something to thank them for the years of happy collaboration. This seemed just the thing. I finished up the new images and uploaded them this afternoon. The happy end to a nice project. No loose ends for me and no regret on their part that their project could have been better.

The aspect that made it seem sensible to me to volunteer was that no one asked me for a favor. That's why I felt that it was appropriate to offer.  A good client/photographer relationship is where you both win.


  1. Bravo!

    I've been on the net since DARPA and feel the need to comment about once every 4 years.
    To feel the need to comment on such an act that should be 'normal' is a bit sad, but so be it.


  2. Kirk,

    One can be a good guy and still run a successful business as you are proving. I recently read an article about Steve Jobs and my reaction to it was that one doesn't have to be an SOB to run a business. Being firm and making sure that everyone understands the expectations is key, as you have recently posted.

    And I'd rather hang out with you than someone like Steve Jobs anyway.


  3. I think smart folks understand it's a pleasure to offer a favor vs having one demanded. Now if I can teach my 8 year old that concept....

  4. A fine reminder that the most important piece of equipment in anyone's gear bag is Attitude.


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