The F Stops Here: How To Attract Terrible Clients

You know the type: they send 438 emails IN ALL CAPS haggling over your session fee, offerings, and policies. They show up to the photo shoot wearing mismatched outfits, an array of plaid shirts, and baseball caps after you've brainstormed clothing options, just because “it was too stressful to get all dressed up.” They text you the night of your session, wondering if the photos are online so they can be printed at Walmart. They crop out your logo on Facebook, re-edit their files, and post bad Yelp reviews about your “high prices” and “slow turnaround.” And they make you miserable. They're Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Clients. Which, let's be clear, doesn't necessarily mean that they're terrible people, or that they would be nightmare clients for a shoot­-and-burn, discount photographer they happened to stumble Groupon (upon, sorry). These clients are just, for a multitude of reasons, the wrong kind of clients for your business. Here's how you attract them ­and by reverse logic, avoid them altogether.

Terrible Client Magnet #1: You're Cheap.

Being cheap has as much to do with price as it does with presentation. Let's tackle the price part of the equation first. It's a well­ documented fact that low price = low expectations. Would you expect the same experience from Taco Bell as you would an acclaimed four star artisan Mexican restaurant? We doubt it, which is why you should price yourself for profit, rather than what you think the market can bear. (You'd be surprised at what a certain clientele will pay for a premium product.) Bottom line: bargain customers are hagglers, hagglers are a hassle, and hassles will drive you out of business. Now for presentation: it matters. Are you still using a logo designed by your cousin, on a website that uses as a domain name? Tough love time: that's just not professional. Polished, high­-end presentation attracts high­-end clients searching for a certain style and finesse. Have you ever heard us say that you sell what you show? Show an amateur website and freebie marketing materials, and potential clients will think you sell an amateur product at accordingly low prices.

Terrible Client Magnet #2: You're Marketing In All The Wrong Places.

While Groupon and other deeply discounted marketing tactics aren't evil (forgive our earlier joke), they attract, by definition, bargain hunters. Now answer honestly: is your photography­, your art, your calling, your livelihood, your time­ worth 80% off? Advertising cut rates is an magnet for price shoppers, most of whom will use you and lose you once the next super saver deal comes along. If you're having a hard time developing long-term client relationships, the kind that bear fruit every season, it's time to seek out different clients, from different marketing and referral channels.

Terrible Client Magnet #3: You're A Photographer Of All Trades And Master Of None.

If you're photographing boudoir, babies, commercial, events, headshots, dance kids, maternity, families, kids, seniors, sports, weddings, AND unicorns, then you're robbing yourself of the opportunity to become an expert in a specific field, and thus distinguish yourself from the other generalists flooding the market. By shooting everything, you're going to attract everyone, which, ironically, is a bad thing. Everyone is not a good client; people who value art and are willing to pay for an amazing experience that delivers an heirloom product are clients that will make your heart sing. Trust us: narrowing your specialty to just unicorns will make you happier, more patient, and dusted with way more glitter than the average local photog.

Terrible Client Magnet #4: You're Promising What You Don't/Can't/Won't Deliver.

Your website illustrates lovely maternity photos but you hate photographing pregnant people, so you begrudgingly photograph bellies. A vintage editing style is SO not your thing, but if a client asks you for it, you agree rather than lose the booking. A sweet couple pulls out an iPad during their consultation, wondering if you're Pinterested in shooting all these poses they've pulled and that look like every other trite photograph circulating on the internet. All of these clients could be made into raving advocates for your studio and style: photograph the baby, not the belly; educate the client on why your clean, classic edits will stand the test of time; and discuss why your natural posing transcends the Pinterest trend­ of the day. But if you give in to their requests and betray your own beliefs, then you won't be happy with your clients, or yourself. To thine own self be true, or suffer the consequences of clients that have become a burden rather than a pleasure.

Terrible Client Magnet #5: You're Not Prequalifying Your Clients.

The easiest way to do this: list your session and package prices (or at least your starting rate or average sale) on your website. Those who can't invest in your experience or don't treasure your photography magically vanish, and the focus shifts back to your art rather than your price point. Hagglers or those looking for a deal can look elsewhere, and you can get back to shooting and seeking out clients that understand the true value - which is decidedly not monetary - of the services you provide.
~ The F Stops Here is an exclusive collection of articles by Design Aglow, designed to be used and shared by photographers. Look for this column twice monthly here on the Design Aglow Blog and feel free to grab & share on your site, blog and/or social media pages with a byline and link to

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