How much control do you give your clients? : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

I'll try to use brevity here...I'm amateur. Completely. And though I've had some stuff exhibited in a few shows and sell the odd print here and there, I'm a computer geek by vocation, so I'm going to ask what many of you may consider a novice question.

I was approached recently by someone who wants a dozen or more prints, each of a different subject, mostly external architectural shots. In talking with this gentleman, I got a good feel for what he wants, but I also get the feeling that he has very specific ideas regarding the images, specifically in composition and content. My question to you is how much do you allow your clients to dictate how you shoot? I could ask many more related questions, but I'll just run this one up the flagpole for now.

Thanks for any input/advice you can offer.

-- Chad Jarvis (, January 11, 2002


It depends on how much they are paying! The more they pay the more I'm open to their suggestions. Now here is a creative way out of feeling like you are in an all or nothing bind. Shoot it their way and also shoot it your way and then offer proofs of both versions.

-- Ellis Vener Photography (, January 11, 2002.

You want a happy customer so you have a repeat customer. He may have a specific reason for wanting a certain composition and content. The more you can understand about his specific needs, the better you can meet them.

I've done some art direction in my role in marketing, and, for example, you might have a specific graphic design in mind for a catalog cover or an ad. You then need to have a photo shot that meets the design.

For commercial work, I expect any photographer to meet the requirements I set, and I expect to pay typical professional rates for my area. I wouldn't shop around for rates nor photographers if I'm happy with what I'm getting. The photography cost, though it may be high, is usually a small percentage of the cost of the project where it's being used.

For example, I may spend $50,000 to produce a catalog, and a thousand dollars for a photo shoot is just 2% of the total cost, and inconsequential.

-- Charlie Strack (, January 11, 2002.


This is a question with many different answers. When I worked at an ad agency, the art directors specified exactly what the final photograph was to look like. The photographers that were hired were for all intents and purposes glorified technicians who were able to take a sketch and a couple of reference photos and - with the guidance of the art director - produce a photographic rendering of the sketch provided.

However, I have had couples who are getting married who told me simply that they wanted their wedding photographed in a "photojournalistic style" with no other instructions.

If the client is not looking for your artistic input, then I would not sweat it too much. Take his/her money and do the work to his satisfaction. Case closed.

If you think that your client might be open to your artistic input a small suggestion here and there may be in order. The resulting reaction should determine if the client is receptive or not. Of course, the final usage of the photos have a huge impact on the entire process.


-- Dominique Labrosse (, January 11, 2002.

I did commercial fashion and catalogue work. The art directors used to give me sketches, they wanted the pics to be compased like the sketches, Thsi was pretty standard when an agency was involved. I was paid to fulfill their vision. I eventually got fed up so I became a professional amateur,The quality of the work is the same but I refuse to take money. Hence I remain an amateur. The client knows what he or she is willing to pay for, If you give them what they tell you they want they will be happy, If you do not give them what they want they will be unhappy, If you give thenm what they want and then give them more and it is an improvement then they will think you are a genius artist, There after they willnot second guess you.

-- ED (, January 11, 2002.

Give em none, what they don't control won't hurt them.

They ask you to do a job, so you do the job. Dictate to them.

If you can't do the job then don't take it on.

-- Nigel Turner (, January 11, 2002.

Chad: Listen to Ellis. He knows of what he speaks. On a shoot like this, where there are guidelines, shoot what the customer asks for, then make one the way you think it should look. Let him choose. Just tell him you found some interesting angles that he might want to see, and that you are trying to do a good job for him. Unless he is filling a definate layout, you may find he picks your shots the most. In any event, you will create good will, and perhaps repeat business.


-- Doug Paramore (, January 11, 2002.


There is an old expression: "You don't buy a dog so that you can bark yourself." Some clients, art-directors and designers do want to bark. Others do not. You will encounter both and should engage them accordingly. Undertaking commercial assignments you must always be mindful of the client's brief. In these days of economic pre-eminence aesthetic considerations determined by the demographic profile of the anticipated market are not happenstance - they are stringent necessities. Layout, aspect ratio and space for text are all considerations that have never been able to be overlooked.

Don't be precious. As an inchoate photographer you are lucky to be considered. You are about to be paid to learn!

It is evident from the tone of your observations of the client that you need to develop and hone photographic AND business skills pronto from these experiences and despite exuding all the self-confidence in the world you will not bluff a client who's been around the block a few times. The client has a lot at stake and will ride you to ensure your work attains its expectations. The rewards can be a good deal greater than selling the odd print here and there; but there's nothing for nothing. Selling out? Maybe, to an extent; but remember that the road to oblivion is well paved with many a smart-ass. So listen up, learn, do good work and build a career.

Good luck ... Walter

-- Walter Glover (, January 12, 2002.

I'd like to expand this question a little if I may, to a related area, model/property releases. As an amateur, I'm still trying to put together a reasonably palatable release that would suffice for commercial sale of images that a photo subject would actually be willing to sign. I've been to most of the association sites and have seen most of their offerings as suggested models - I keep looking at most of these, putting myself in the subject's shoes and realizing, that if one of these were presented to me to sign, I'd balk, no matter how honourable the guy seemed to be.

-- Paul Coppin (, January 12, 2002.

Chad, You are crossing over the line here from an amateur who enjoys the craft and art for his own satisfaction and the professional world of a paying client. When you have a paying client I think you need to be pretty conscious of giving them what they ask for, even when what they ask for may be lousy in your opinion. You can certainly make some suggestions of what would look better or ask them why they want something done a certain way, but they are paying your fees. The attitude "don't allow them any input" may be fine, but it also means you may not be paid if the client does not get a satisfactory product and you may not get another opportunity like this. A video production company I am associate with regularly has this dilemma. Some clients PR managers or ad directors have really poor concepts about what works in video. It is not the job of our video production company to ask them if they really think anyone would want to see this crap. It is our job to produce what they ask for.

In my lifetime I have had several hobbies or interests that grew into professions. It is very hard to make the transition. I love creating phototgraphs and appreciate when people enjoy my photographs or are even willing to pay me for them. I, for one, would not enjoy the pressure of trying to create someone elses vision of what a photograph should be.

-- Dave Schneider (, January 12, 2002.

You could include two or three prints of your own ideas as well, and the client may well be receptive to them, but "those that pay the piper, call the tune"

-- Michael Mahoney (, January 12, 2002.

I realize that I already have one answer to this post listed, but I did want to make an observation. The answers follow the lines of the amateur v.s. professional photographer here. The amateur can afford to do his photography as he darn well pleases. The pro better follow the client's wishes. There a lot of good photographers working in other trades because they never learned to satisfy their clients. If a client asks for a specific picture, the pro will deliver that picture. You can still shoot other angles, etc, but you had better deliver what he paid for. Many times the client gives considerable leeway, but sometimes he/she wants exactly what is asked. That does not make you less of a photographer if you can satisfy a client.


-- Doug Paramore (, January 12, 2002.

Pro vs. amateur: at this point in my career, I doubt I'll ever have to make the decision to choose. First, I'm well-compensated in my current vocation, and second, I don't have think I have the talent to actually make a living at photography. But that's a whole nother story...

I didn't want to give the impresion that I don't want to deliver what this guy wants. I do. He is well connected in the DC area, which means the work he wants (by the way, it's all fine art stuff to hang in his Capitol Hill residence) will be viewed by some of the more wealthy and powerful folks inside the beltway. Hopefully that alone will lead to more work. I just wanted to know how far the pros out there let their clients drive. I think I have a pretty good understanding of that now, but here's another question for you: do you allow your clients to come along/observe as you work if they request to do so?

-- Chad Jarvis (, January 12, 2002.

Given the nature of the assignment, and its potential importance to you, irrespective of the client, you might take this approach: Work up with the client one of the subjects only. Listen to what he wants (carefully), then go shoot and produce it, according to your standards, as you interpret his direction. Negotiate the fee for that first picture (relative to the whole shoot, if you wish). Present it as a finished work (preferably) (or proof it, or both). Get paid. You will find out if you two have a compatible vision. If everybody is smiling at the end, then complete the negotiation for the balance. It would appear that your vision in this is at least as important as the client's given the audience, so float the trial balloon. Do it with the same panache you would do the set. If it doesn't work out, you've still sold a good print, which will be credit to you, and very likely you will part respectfully. If the client wants to tag along, you get to check that out too. Personally, I wouldn't prefer to have the client directing the shot, at least not in this instance. If he tags along, shoot it twice as been mentioned, once with him directing, once with you alone. See which makes him and/or happier.

-- Paul Coppin (, January 12, 2002.

Hi Chad

Architects in my case sometimes like to be involved in my shooting process. If they pay me by hours the can use my time as long as they want. And he can look me over my soulders as much as he want. If i have a contract with a fix amount of money for a day shooting and it is a bit short then I tell them thad I have to work fast forward. And then they always just give some short advises.

Good shooting and much success!

-- Armin Seeholzer (, January 13, 2002.

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