Client Problems & Issues

This past weekend I had an actual paid gig shooting an original painting for a client that she wanted to use on a greeting card.

The lighting set up was two 100 watt tungsten hot lights bounced into the white side of bi-fold doors I use as fills. I had my Nikon D300 set up on a tripod set to tungsten white balance, and the painting was set up on an easel. The lighting was indirect with no hot spots, and evenly spread across the painting. I metered the scene, put and 18% gray card in the first frame, and started shooting. I did about a half dozen exposures, bracketing each set. I then went to my “digital darkroom” with the client to do whatever tweaks needed to be done.

Using the gray card in the first frame, I batch set the white balance for all the shots, then, using histograms, picked out the shot that was exposed properly. That’s when the trouble started.

As I did the minor corrections to exposure and contrast, the client mentioned that the colors weren’t right. “The blue is too dark. It should be more powdery. There is too much pink in the clouds. The guidelines aren’t straight.”

I made all of the corrections she requested as she sat there directing me. I saved the psd file with all the correction layers, and a flattened and “finished” high-res jpg, along with all the other non-corrected shots, to a thumb drive and that was that.

I explained to my client that my monitor is calibrated every week, and that while I was confident that what we were seeing on my monitor was a correct representation of the photo, she may see some color and contrast differences on her monitor if it isn’t calibrated. I also mentioned that prints may not be 100% accurate on her home printer if she isn’t using the right color space and profile for the job (yes, I did set the color space to sRGB on the finished jpg).

Sure enough, within 2 hours I got a call from her complaining that the pictures were, and I quote, “Terrible and completely unusable.” This is after she gave me verbal approval of the finished product. She complained that the picture wasn’t the right shade of blue, the clouds were now too orange, the picture was “fuzzy”, and a print of it was “horribly dark”. Even with my reminding her of my warning that what she saw on her monitor or printed on her printer may be different, she was unhappy. I suggested she send the photo to the company who will make her greeting cards knowing that their equipment will be perfectly calibrated to print an sRGB jpg. She said she was going to do it herself at home. At that point I could no longer argue or complain. I simply re-stated that the photo I gave her, that she approved, was viewed on a calibrated monitor and would print out as viewed on a printer calibrated to print sRGB files. I also realized that this is a no-win situation for most photographers.

We’re entering a stage of photography where we are selling our services as photographers and no longer selling prints. Wedding and portrait photographers are providing discs of printable images, but we have no control of how those images are printed. We can painstakingly correct exposure and color, do cropping, resizing, and save as high-res sRGB jpgs, but we then depend on our clients to be able to print. If the client doesn’t know how to print photos, the photographer will get the blame, not the client, and we really can’t take the time to give Printing 101 lessons to every client. All of our talent and work as well as reputation, can be destroyed by a client who does their own prints if those prints suck.

So what do we do? How do we make sure our work is represented properly with clients who insist on doing their own at-home printing?

Talk back...

%d bloggers like this: