Beyond the camera: Handling rejection of your photography
Say for a moment you just finished a portrait session. Maybe it was just a friend needing some fun portraits or lifestyle photos for social media. Either way, it was a fun shoot, and you can’t wait to show her the photos. After reviewing the back of the camera, you speed home and transfer the photos to your computer and start the post-processing.
You slowly review the photos and select your favorite from the bunch. Excitement builds, and you can’t wait to show your friend the final outcome. You finish exporting a small sample of finished photos and you email them right away. Your heart is pounding as you can’t wait to hear her reaction.
She emails you back right away and the first words you read when you open up the email on your phone are “Thanks, but I don’t like them”. Your heart drops, and you feel crushed!
Handling rejection: What you do next is critical
I have no doubt this scenario has happened to pretty much all creative artists, especially photographers. You’ve been told many times your work is amazing, and wonderful by friends and family and then something like this happens. It’s a punch to the gut. What is most important is how you handle this reaction and move forward from here. It may happen more often and you need to get used to handling situations like this.
First, here are a few things you don’t do:
- Throw your hands up and give up.
- Delete your friend’s email and phone number from your phone
- block them on social media
- Immediately think about selling all your camera gear
- Start second guessing yourself and your skills
Chances are you have worked really hard to develop your photography skills. Just remember it can happen to beginners and advanced photographers. You have to realize you can’t please everyone. Not everyone will like the photos or the outcome of your shoots.
Now, here are a few recommendations on what you should do:
- Keep calm, and breath
- Review the images in question, and try to look at them from the clients point-of-view
- Write down some questions you could ask to help you understand the issues they have
- Keep shooting because you love photography
Keep in mind, it may have nothing to do with you or your photography. Many clients simply don’t like the way they look on camera, and no matter what you do, this will never change. They could have been hoping for a secret angle or pose to help them look skinnier and amazing in photos. Most people don’t realize how much post-production work is done on magazines and ads they see everywhere. This creates some pretty unrealistic expectations.
Ask yourself, is it really a rejection of your work?
In your mind, you may have perceived the response as a rejection. To be honest, we all hate rejection and confrontation. It can bring on anxiety and other really bad feelings. The best thing to do is wait until you are calm, and then set up a time to speak with the client one-on-one. Maybe a quick phone call will help clear up any misunderstandings. Try to put yourself in their shoes to see what you missed.
Communication and setting expectations will help you understand how to move forward. Approach any conversation with an open mind and without anger or resentment. You have to clear your mind before the conversation so you can focus on the issues at hand.
Asking for feedback
It’s ok to ask for feedback, so you can better understand the issues the client may have with your work. Believe it or not, sometimes they will not have any specific answer to your questions other than “I just don’t like them”. Putting feelings and emotions into words can be hard for anyone, especially if the feedback is perceived as embarrassing to the client.
If you value the relationship, work to make them feel comfortable in explaining their feelings. Hand-holding is sometimes an essential part of the process. Most importantly, you just have to understand you can’t please everyone.
Also, be sure you are welcoming feedback on your photography. Yes, everyone will want to give you feedback. Not because you asked for it, but because we all feel the need to express our opinions. Most important is how you handle the feedback being presented to you.
Learning from your experience
The main goal of this story is to help you understand that every experience is a chance to learn. No matter what reason the client gives you, they will not all be happy with the outcome. Even if they loved your portfolio. It can be easier said than done, but you can’t take it personally. We fall in love with our work as artists, but we have to learn to let go and move on.
Based on your conversations with your client, you should both clearly agree on how to move forward. I don’t know what that looks like, but setting clear expectations will help in the delivery of any project. This is technically where contracts also come in handy, but that is another story altogether.
Pick yourself back up
You should be your biggest fan. Believe in yourself and your skills as an artist and photographer. Don’t let one experience bring you down, and keep you from doing something you love. Surround yourself with a community of like-minded individuals that will give you constructive feedback on your photography. Continue to ask for feedback and keep learning from every shoot. Best wishes and happy shooting!