Explaining Retouching


TPF Noob!
Jan 21, 2008
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I've been shooting portraits and pinups, mostly for art galleries and publications, for 8 years now. I rarely do commissioned work, but a woman came to me asking me to shoot 50s style pinups of her for her boyfriend for valentines day.
I've done this before for friends, so I've never charged them. After I met with this woman, I had a price in mind for a very simple shoot, and offered suggestions like putting her on the cover of a 'magazine.'

After talking for a while, she told me her budget was $150. I almost died! For the amount of work she wanted (at least 3-6 photographs to print, an entire disk of photos, printed photos and frame them, as well as creating a fake magazine in illustrator), I can't believe she was shocked when I told her that wouldn't cover much of the shoot.

So she proceeded to tell me that she doesn't want any retouching, so that should take time off the 'price' and it shouldn't be that much money.
I tried to explain for 10 minutes that the photos needed to be retouched, at least a little, even if for lighting and just a bit of skin softening, blemishes, etc.
She also told me that her friends thought her snapshots were very great and she was photogenic, so the shoot shouldn't take long and I wouldn't have to retouch such a photogenic person.

Yes I explained to her that even the most beautiful supermodels needed retouching, and I didn't mind cutting down my retouching, it still needs to be done.

She asked to see a before/after so she could understand why a photo needs retouching. Apparently her basic photoshop skills made her think that a 'couple of layers' should take care of everything.

Here is my question: honestly, ive never had a woman NOT want photoshopping! it's usually quite the opposite! How do I explain to her that all photos in every magazine are retouched, even though they don't look like they are? and how to I back up my prices? She came to me because of my artistic qualities, and non-commercial look, so she is paying for that aspect, not the minutes, but how do I get that across to a very stubborn client?
OR is this a lost cause, and I just tell her I can't help her out?

Sorry for the long post, I'm just really frustrated! She wants an example of an unretouched photo tomorrow, so I don't know where to go from here! (remember I don't shoot portraits, i usually deal with art galleries! I have no idea how to deal with clients!)

thanks for ANY help and advice! Also, what do you consider would be a respectable amount for all of those services? I was thinking at least $600, not counting the fake magazine cover.
Next time you see her, say,

"Sorry, I are very busy and I don't think that I can book any more clients without compromising the quality of my work, and that wouldn't be fair to you or any of my clients."
basically, the same as what ryan said..."sorry, but these are my fees and to maintain the quality & reputation of my work, I do nothing less".....try to refer her to someone else, they will at at least remember that you tried to help them in someway.
Yeah I agree with the others, I wouldn't open myself up to this type of negotiation. The PP'ing is part of the entire process and not something you can just pass on to save a few bucks.

My guess is that you would say you'd PP less to save her some money but when you actually see the pics, chances are you'd spend just as much time as normal because you want the pics to look the best they can.
I would agree with the previous 2 replies and would like to add my 2 cents. It's fine to "fire" some of your customer and you shouldn't feel guilty about it. Basically it seems as if this client is 1) unprofitable for you and 2) could potentially damage your image. Turning down business for either reason makes perfect business sense. It's obviously not worth it to do all that work for $150 and you don't to give her license to hurt your brand name by doing who knows what to your images and misrepresenting you. My advice would be to tell her what she is asking is against your policy and indicate that she can probably find someone on Craigslist to provide what she's looking for. I would even be hesitant to refer her to someone you know because do you really want to turn her over to someone you deal with on a regular basis? The reality of dealing with the general public is that you'll never make everyone happy and sometimes you just need to refuse the business.
You should charge her $150 just for the time you spent on explaining this to her!

But seriously, these kind of customers are not worth it. Never give out images that are not post processed. Your name will be on the pictures, and for $150 it is simply not worth it.

So even if you cut out just the retouching, you still need to do color correcting and stuff. I always state this very clearly in my contracts. For each delivered image I charge a post production fee. That way the customers normally picks out only the pictures they want, and never ask to get "everything" as that would be pretty expensive in post production fees alone.

I never even get into arguments about doing post processing or not. It's simply an integrated part of the process. If a customer has a problem with that, I simply don't want their business.
my 2 cents. i agree with the others and here's what i'll add.....

if you don't retouch she may not be happy with the outcome and possibly want her $ back or start bad mouthing you.

i def would walk away from this one.
I'm so glad to hear this! This woman was making me feel like she was so gorgeous that I would be ridiculous to retouch her. I think I will drop this shoot, but I don't have any photographer friends that wouldn't retouch the photos. Maybe she should look for a student? I honestly wanted to help her out because I thought it was a nice thing to do for her boyfriend, but not at my expense.
I'm emailing her today!

Im curious how you guys stand behind your price? Like I said, I've been shooting for galleries for many years. I'm having quite a bit of trouble figuring out prices, although I know what my time and the quality and uniqueness of my work is worth. But I have a hard time conveying this to people.
Sounds like you're doing the right thing "dumping" her. I would just say "sorry, this shoot would cost you $600 and I will not give away any unedited photos".

Pricing can be hard. I've been lucky enough to have been a hired staff photographer in the past with a fixed income so didn't have to worry about pricing. Right now I'm venturing out on my own, but I also have a "day job" where I'm working at least a few days a week. This gives me a base salary that I get by on and at the same time it allows me to be tougher on my pricing.

My pricing is resonable, but not cheap. After all I want the customers that are willing to pay for my services in the long run. Thats the only way to make a living. So if someone is not willing to pay, I probably shouldn't get them as a customer anyway as I won't make much money on them.

So I either do fully paid work, or free volunteer work. I don't do cheap work just to be nice to someone I don't even know.
Send her a before and after. Be firm on the price. Let her walk if she wants.
If you think she's difficult now wait until you're doing business with her -oh just another couple of layers and a little softening, and don't you think we should tuck this in, and....

Apparently her basic photoshop skills made her think that a 'couple of layers' should take care of everything.

Reminds me of a pissant manager that explained to me that my programming job was not difficult because "it's just functions, you just have to write some functions" to which I replied "I'm just sitting here clicking the mouse all day long but you can't fkucing do it".
I keep reading & hearing that if a client has a price range (i.e the $150) you should offer them what you would be willing to sell for that price.
Could you just tell her that you'll do x amount of photographs that will be retouched because that is part of the process and not offer them on cd and only small print sizes?
Because your talking magazine covers and images on a disc and frames so why not just cut all of that?
Tell her to look for a student, when you are in college $150 can be a reasonable amount of money especially if the student can use it for credit in a class.
Im curious how you guys stand behind your price? ...I know what my time and the quality and uniqueness of my work is worth.

I never defend my pricing. I don't feel a need to do so. They can use me, or not. If someone should persist in arguing, and I get particularly annoyed, I might say, "Sorry you can't afford it." But that would only be after it was clear I wouldn't get the sale.

As for the request to fore go retouching, I would simply state, "I don't work that way." She doesn't get to decide how I do things.

Good luck!


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