Customer Service-You Talkin’ To Me?

“You’re a terrible photographer.” The Woman said with an angry look on her face. “I am very unhappy with these pictures.”

“Oh?” I said with a smile and followed her back to the viewing room where the Passer is patiently waiting for the woman to tell me what was wrong with her pictures.

“Look at that.” She says and points to a glamor shot I had taken of her 20-year-old daughter.  It was a nearly perfect images, the light and shadows well balanced, the head tilted at an interesting angle-nearly perfect, there was just a hint of a gap as her hair fell out in a fan from the head tilt.

“Looks good.” I said and nodded. “I like it.”

“You like that?” She demands in absolute horror, “Look at my baby’s hair.”

“Sorry you don’t like them.” I say.

“Is that all you have to say?” She says

“Pretty much so.” I say and walk out.

The Passer came by later and told me I needed to watch things like that, as the woman was still mad.  I still like the picture, but I’m not the one buying it.  And it’s fine that the woman didn’t like the portrait, but it’s not fine that she starts off by telling me what a terrible photographer I am.

Assembly Line Portraits are perfect businesses for creating two things, high volume profits and volume high complaints.  The job is to run everyone in and out, get the line down, get the  next Set shot, flow through them like sand through a sieve.  This is easy enough to do, but it often leads to people complaining about stray hairs, crumpled ties, crooked jewelry, and varied and sundry other odds and ends that people having a portrait taken like to complain about.

The Company has tried to address this issue by making appointments longer, the idea being that the Photographers will now spend a lot more time futzing over the subjects and tweaking the lighting and making sure the images are centered and the subject’s eyes are opened.  What has happened, for the most part, is that the Photographers have a lot more free time to read books.

I don’t get too many complaints, and I don’t hear most of the ones I do get as I am not at the Pass Table.  The Passers get to hear all the This Photographer Sucks comments and why didn’t he tell me so and so and such and such?  Even after 15 years I still tend to whip them in and whip them out.  I don’t keep up with hair styles or clothing fashions and if you walk in with your hair standing straight up or you shirt open to the waist, I assume you want it that way.

My goal, as a general rule, is to get one really good portrait a sitting, and there are plenty of times that I don’t reach that goal.  The people I see, for the most part, don’t really want to be here.  I still try to get necklaces straight and tell the kids to spit out their gum and the usual stuff.  I like doing the unusual portrait once in a while, and I really did like the one that I took of the woman’s daughter.  I tend to think that she would have been unhappy no matter what the portraits looked like.  And I wouldn’t have fixed this image, as I didn’t see anything that needed fixing.

A common problem is a Mom that wants to make sure everyone else is perfect, so that she hops up and twists around and otherwise destroys her own clothes and jewelery while she tries, usually in vain, to get her kids perfect.  She is then unhappy when she sees the pictures, as everyone is perfect-except for her.  A lot of necklaces seem to be designed with a mind of their own, they shift and twist and move with only the slightly provocation.  Sometimes I try to fight this loosing battle, sometimes I just do the best I can to hide the offending bit of jewelry.

The Passer also has a lot to do with complaints and retakes-if The Passers are pissed off at The Photographer as they sometimes are,  then the Subject will be encouraged to seek out the Photographer and pitch a hissy fit. The fact that I don’t much care what they have to say or how childish they act only makes them want to annoy me more.

The Subject often picks the worst pose in the lot to start with as their favorite.  Our job, as I may have mentioned, it to Sell Portraits.  This can be easier if The Passer likes the portraits The Photographer is taking, but there are some places where it just doesn’t much matter.  The Buyer will buy no matter what the portraits look like and the Nonbuyers will complain that The Photographer is terrible.

One of the Old Timer Passers still thinks that the quality of the portraits matters-I left that train a couple of towns back.  The Photographer and the Passer both see things the Subjects don’t see, and the Subjects often see things we fail to see, such as something wrong with their hair or clothing-often something only they can see or will ever notice.  It’s just an excuse not to buy.  But this one Passer loves to rant and rave about things like pens left in pockets or a hair out of place.  That way, her reasoning goes, if they don’t want to buy portraits they are forced to say that don’t want to buy portraits-instead of saying they WOULD BUY if only the portraits had been better.  This is also a way to push the blame off of them and onto The Photographer.

In the end we can take away all of their excuses except one, they don’t want to buy portraits at the prices we are asking.  But this Passer prefers to think that she would always do better, if she just had a decent photographer to work with.

My favorite Passers are now the Old School hard liners who run the Nonbuyers out the door without letting them sit down-while they do everything in their power to maximize the size of the orders from the Buyers.  Honestly, if you don’t want to buy portraits, we don’t want to see you.  And if you only want to buy Perfect Portraits, well, I probably don’t want to see you either.


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