I remember hearing the phrase, "Photographers may own the copyrights, but our clients own our reputations."
Sometimes in the world of photography, we photographers can get caught up in our artistic abilities to create great images. Many photographers, myself included, participate in many photo shoots where our subjects are upcoming models building a portfolio. Sometimes these sessions fall into a more informal arrangement between photographer and model, collaborating on different themes and looks. These sessions can be for monetary compensation, but often they are for a trade of image usage to prints, or model/photographer time, for the use of images (TFP).
In these TFP situations, it seems that we often forget that there is still a client/service provider relationship. Both the model and the photographer are clients and providers. For the focus of this post, I will direct this to photographers.
The reality is that regardless of the compensation currency, the person that is in front of the camera is either the client, or a potential future client. With many photographers being on the similar skill levels, and even having similar equipment, what often separates us from each other is the commitment to service. That's right, customer service.
Keeping the client in mind, we need to understand that everyone on our sets are the foundation of our reputations. Do people like working with you? Do they feel challenged? Respected? Valued? What about if they feel marginalized, threatened, or unsafe?
Recently, a local photographer had some damning allegations levied towards him. Some of the accusations were inappropriate conversations during late hours, unwanted touching, and even unwanted undressing during photo sessions. Charges continued along the lines of the photographer threatening to post images online that were not intended to be for public viewing. So what do you do if you are a photographer and true, or not, find yourself in a similar predicament? Personally, I feel that you have two choices.
- IGNORE IT. That's right. Do not dignify an allegation with a response. This is a tactic that many companies, politicians, and businesses take, because saying nothing is better than saying the wrong thing.
The challenge with this strategy is it does not allow you to take accountability for wrong doing or a misunderstanding.
- OWN UP TO IT. Sometimes a misunderstanding is just that. Hiding from it may make a photographer seem guilty or "creepy." When the person might have just a different personality than others. Owning up to it keeps a lot of the rumors at bay, and lets you set the narrative.
The challenge with owning up to it, is that the rumors might be true, and liability can be attached. While this can be a hit on business, clients will still often maintain your trust.
Don't believe me? Look at all the blunders by companies like United Airlines, Starbucks, Denny's, Delta, and other companies, yet we still patronize them.
Its about integrity, not perfection.