If you’re a photographer, then you’ve likely heard a client say the 4 words we all DREAD hearing. “Can you photoshop *that?” and *insert whatever body part that they think is unflattering here. UGH. Your heart just sinks because you know deep down that their photos are fabulous, and they just won’t see it.
Self shaming is a real thing, and it’s actually the reason that my only client who has ever really been unhappy didn’t like their photos. Their self-consciousness ultimately distorted the way they saw themselves in their images. They didn’t like their arm there or the way their chin looked in that one. They even complained about their hair which they styled. Nothing I said changed their feelings.
So how do you respond when clients ask you to photoshop imperfections?
First, I always reply to whatever they say immediately with a compliment.
It’s really important that this doesn’t feel forced. For me, I see beauty in everyone no matter their size or shape. It’s very easy for me to give a genuine compliment and for people to believe what I’m saying.
If this is something you feel like you might have a harder time with, when
Second, I encourage them by showing them images from the back of the camera. This is also usually when a client will say “that’s great but you can photoshop my double chin right?” and laugh it off.
POSING is a huge factor in making this step work. If your posing is flattering, then your clients will love the way they look. So if this is when your client busts out the photoshop request, it’s important to shut it down the right way.
If you just laugh it off too, they may come back later and say, “Remember during the session when I asked you to photoshop my chin? Can you please fix that?”. And because you didn’t really say no during the session, it might feel harder to say no now.
*Posing tips for clients who are self-conscious about their arm flab *ahem me*
…bring the elbow just slightly away from the body and towards the camera, the arm isn’t pressed into their side. This creates a line with the elbow bend and also keeps their arm looking thinner since it’s not hugging their body super tightly.
So if posing isn’t something you feel confident with, start working on a posing workflow. What poses can you adjust to achieve multiple looks with a similar pose? How can you maximize the session time with easy to get into poses and prompts?
And now, how should you respond when you’re in the encouragement stage and they ask you to photoshop something?
Depending on what they are asking you to do, you can of course answer yes if the request is one, something you know how to do, and two, something you are willing to do. Photoshop can be a time consuming process, and when you are editing a ton of photos, it can make things difficult and drag out the editing process.
If the photoshop request is not something in your skill set, its best to set the expectation up front by saying something like, “I think you guys look great in this photo! Look at how your son is smiling at you” or “All I see is how much fun you guys are having”. These kinds of comments give your client something else to focus on.
If the request is something in your skill set, then feel free to let them know the cost up front so there are no surprises. I have in my contract, in different words, but that basically I’ll edit acne, bruises, etc. but anything else is considered retouching and will be done at $X per image. This way they know that if they want double chins removed or skinnier arms, that isn’t included.
Third, I ask them questions to center their focus.
Find out why this session is so important to them. Have they recently achieved a huge milestone in their lives? Are they celebrating something like a graduation or engagement?
When you know why your clients want to do a photo session, you can start to highlight that during shooting so they feel confident and comfortable with you. For example, during engagement sessions I’ll point out how cute the groom is looking at the bride or how adorable their laughs are together. This highlights their connection and brings them even closer which helps with the overall feel of the images.
Fourth and finally, I offer options.
Sometimes a client may just continue to insist that you photoshop their double chin or their kids hair, even though that’s the way they were naturally. Like we discussed with the second tip above, if it’s something you want to say yes to, give them options.
One option could be, “Yes, I can do that but it will be $X per image.”
Sometimes I’ll offer to do one image for free but let clients know additional photos are $X per image.
The other option could be, “Sorry that’s out of my skill set. I would have to outsource that and would need to charge for that,” and then you can go get some quotes to bring back to your client.
When you give your client options, they’re going to feel heard and valued. So even if they need to spend a little extra, they’ll still feel taken care of.