When speaking with a client on the phone a few months ago I was called rude. Truthfully the statement caught me off guard so I had to question what happened to leave them with that conclusion.

The incident involved a modeling talent requesting that I give permission to their sponsoring supplement company to use an image we did together for an in store poster wrap.

However, the deal needed to happen that day as the company was ready to go to print with their posters.

I was unable to respond to the text message request immediately as I was already on deadlines with other projects. Once I completed my work I called the talent to inquire more about what they were needing so I understood all the details and scope of the request.

I asked about the sponsoring company and their legitimacy as I was unfamiliar with them. I asked what they were specifically planning to use the photo for so I could determine an accurate usage fee to charge the company. I also asked about the rush request to have everything done that day as there is typically a lead time to put everything together, process paperwork and settle payments.

After I got off the phone with the talent I called the company directly to discuss in further detail what they were looking for from their perspective. During the phone call they requested and received my estimate for the usage.

At the time the company did not accept nor did they decline the proposal but said they would get back to me if they wanted the image as most of their materials had already gone to print and it may have been too late to get this image in.

I never heard back.

The following week I was speaking to the talent and inquired what transpired to which they responded that they were “pulled from the ad.” They were upset with me because according to them, I came across very rude and I should not have asked if their sponsor company was legit.

From my perspective I was attempting to look out and protect myself and my work while obtaining all the information I needed to in order to have a full understanding and make an accurate assessment and decision. The talent’s perspective was that I was being rude, unhelpful and not fulfilling the services they paid for.

There are several interesting lessons we can take from this situation. In no way at all was it a mistake to ask the questions I asked. Just as talents need to know details about accepting a modeling gig, photographers too need information before entering into a business transaction.

However, was I rude in the way I asked? That is not outside the realm of possibilities. I was finishing up a heavy deadline and saw a lot of red flags in the request that was being asked of me and that I needed to figure out before moving forward. It is possible that I was too quick or short on the phone or aloof to the talent’s excitement about the potential feature.

Although I have no recollection about being the slightly bit rude; it is something I made a serious note of. Even if it was false in my eyes – perhaps I could improve and provide even better service moving forward.

When it came to the talent complaining about the services they paid for; I was hired for a photo shoot, completed the photo shoot and provided the agreed upon number of edits to the talent for their usage. Anything beyond that is entirely separate. I am not expected to be immediately on-call to provide additional services without notice and agreement.

What if I were on vacation that day or on set and couldn’t respond until a few days later? Would the talent still think I didn’t provide enough additional services for free?

So how does one navigate such a situation?

First, I thanked the talent for the candid feedback. Why? Because it is important to get unfiltered testimonials – even if you don’t always agree with them. There is always an opportunity to learn or make improvements in what you do.

Second, I apologized for their experience. It doesn’t matter that I don’t agree that I was rude – they did and that is a subjective point of view. I claimed responsibility for that. I offered an explanation, but certainly not an excuse.

Third, I asked if there was anything I could do to help make up for the misunderstanding to please let me know.

That is where I left it. When it came to the comment on services they paid for – I didn’t even touch it. There was no win to be had there.

At the end of the day they were upset because they didn’t get used for the advertisement and it was much easier to blame me than to point the finger at their sponsor company.

Unfortunately that is how it goes sometimes. But it is important to handle these scenarios quickly, calmly and with proper thought.

James Patrick
IG @jpatrickphoto