Lessons I Wish I Didn’t Have to Learn as a Headshot Photographer


We’ve all come across that one guy who wants to beat you up on price.
Let me tell you a little story.

A long time ago, I had a lawyer ask me how much I would charge to photograph portraits of him at his office along with candid shots of he and his team working.

I gave him a rough idea of what I would charge. The following week, he called again and asked the same questions but differently. Again I answered his questions and gave him a rough idea of cost.

A few days later his assistant called and asked the same questions.

It was as if they didn’t understand what I charge– or at least that’s how they acted. But underneath their act was the subtle effort to try to get me to lower my price. Every question had a certain tone like “really, that’s how much?”. Also every answer was met with a repeat followed by a long pause.

Needless to say, I was annoyed and frankly VERY surprised when they eventually hired me to photograph the firm. I didn’t think much of it other than that I’d be walking into a “high maintenance” situation.

Boy was I wrong.

The photoshoot went well, though the owner was overly controlling and narcissistic. Despite the challenges, I delivered amazing images.

Just when I thought the worst was over, came the multiple emails and calls about retouching costs. I heard comments like “I didn’t realize that’s how much retouching is” despite it being discussed before the shoot and clearly outlined in the invoice.

The client liked many images but didn’t want to pay for retouching them all. Eventually, he paid for $900 worth of retouching. Did I mention he is a narcissist?

Soon after I delivered the final images, I received a chargeback notice from my bank.

If you don’t know, a chargeback is the term used by banks when a customer disputes a charge and the charge is then reversed. In other words, my bank account was suddenly negative $900.

I’ll tell you what eventually happened in a sec but first here’s where I went wrong.

I LACKED SYSTEMS for the corporate side of my photography business. My process consisted of verbally giving a quote, followed by an email, followed by an invoice with an outline of what the package includes with a contract attached to the invoice at the bottom of which was a required signature.

It was messy and not comprehensive, allowing potential clients to question prices before becoming a client and after.

My process now includes a VERY detailed fee schedule which follows a phone conversation communicating to my clients that I have systems in place even when that fee schedule is tweaked for each individual client.

Implicit in using systems with clients is that your process is used for everyone across the board and therefore is non-negotiable.

And while I eventually got my money back from the bank, having a contract with a signature line at the end was not enough. Per the bank’s instructions, each and every line in my contract now, requires an initial before moving on to the next line item and then a signature at the bottom.

When a client agrees to hire me after seeing my fee schedule, I send them that exact fee schedule as a quote, clearly outlining what my service includes, how many images, retouched or not, where it will take place, with what outcome, what background or delivery and within how many days. Plus I have a list of add-ons that are relevant to the client such as additional retouches or outfit changes or additional setups.

This quote requires an initial before moving on to the contract.

Now back to the chargeback.

My saving grace were all the emails I was able to provide alongside the contract showing that the client knew exactly how much the retouching would cost him. The bank returned my money.

While the bank investigation was taking place which can last anywhere from 30-60 days, the client had posted all the final retouched images on his website.

I pulled in the big guns with a lawyer friend of mine who sent him a cease and decease letter *and* with a DMCA takedown notice to Google, I was able to bring down all the web pages with my images on them.

I now use a customer relationship management software and it’s a GAME CHANGER my friend.

The CRM that makes it possible for me to send a quote to my clients, require an initial on that itemized quote, and then require a contract to be initialed and signed before they pay the deposit for their session is called 17Hats. If you sign up, my affiliate link will save you 50% the first year!

Establishing a solid system in your business can save time, money, and hassle, ultimately leading to success without the need for costly mistakes.

Comment below👇 and let me know what systems you already have in place that are serving you well.

Hi, I’m Vanie!

Pronounced like Bonnie… and I blame my parents for the misspelling of my name! I went from having $300 in the bank to building a six-figure headshot photography business doing what I love. I’m here to teach you how to do the same!




Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *