I recently wrote about a session where I lost all of the SOOC files. Then it got worse. The day of the in-person ordering session came and as I was getting the gallery ready, the files that I had exported from Lightroom were too small. They were the size of your thumbnail. I don’t know what I did wrong, but it was a nightmare. Everything was falling apart minutes before my clients were to be at the meeting. We met and I told them the truth. I lost the files and I saved the edits in the wrong size. All the data from her son’s session was gone. I figured since it was a senior session, we could just meet up and do it again. Turns out, he had already left town and was no longer living at home. Well, this just couldn’t get any worse, could it?
That happened 3 years ago. I told the mom that I would do his pictures for him when he came home for a visit or whenever they were ready for me to do them. Guess who I got a message from last week? 3 years later? The mom of this young man!
She wanted to know if I would still redo his pictures and was hoping to get them done soon. She knew she would be spending money to order some of his pictures (of course, there wouldn’t be a session fee and I gave her a big print credit!) and then she said something that just made my day. She now has a daughter who is a senior and she needed to book her session with me and she didn’t want to have to pay for both orders close together. What?? She was actually going to hire me again? After I did the worse thing a photographer could do?
I thought about why she would hire me again and I came up with these 3 reasons.
1. I Admitted My Mistake
I admitted my mistake and offered her credit to make up for it. I had to take responsibility for what I did. I couldn’t blame the computer. Or my camera. This mistake was mine. I was embarrassed by it, but I owned it. I worried she would tell others about it and I would have a hard time booking future senior clients, but that didn’t happen. Being honest with your clients will get you far. They need to know they can trust you and that you will keep your word, even if it’s 3 years later.
2. Be Positive
Be someone that others look up to. If you have a social media presence, be positive. Don’t talk badly about other photographers, don’t talk about other clients and always post positive images and comments on social media.
As a photographer, you are responsible for your reputation. If I didn’t have a good reputation, I’m fairly certain this mom would not trust me to do her daughter’s senior pictures after the whole fiasco with her son. She sees my page, my Instagram posts, my blog posts and my personal page. She knows I am someone that is well liked and honest. Your reputation is built by you, so be careful what you put out there for others to judge you on.
3. Great Service
Provide each client with great service. Whether their order is small or big, they deserve your time and devotion. I’ve learned a few things over the years. Parents talk. This last year, I had 8 girls I did in the spring who all knew each other. I didn’t know that at the time, but they did. And their mothers did. Some of them spent 3 times the amount of money as others. But each was treated the same. Each order was packaged the same. When you provide that kind of service, it allows others to want to come back to you. Even when you mess up BIG.
You may not always have the same forgiving heart with a client like I have. But if you do mess up, I hope these suggestions of how to overcome it will help! It’s not just one thing that makes it easy to forgive, it’s a combination of hard work and treating others right over time that makes the difference.