Photography Mistakes That Can Destroy Your Reputation

Professional reputations are fragile things. They can take years to build up but they can be knocked down in seconds… taking customers, potential buyers and future dreams with them.

These are just some of the things you should avoid doing if you want to hold on to your name as a photographer that buyers want to deal with.

Dropping the Quality
Your portfolio should show your best work but it should also contain representative work. There’s nothing wrong with choosing your sample pictures carefully, spending time on them in post-production and making sure that they look persuasive.

But the result is always going to be a standard that the client will expect you to meet.

Fail to meet that standard and you’re going to do nothing more than disappoint — the first step towards a damaged reputation.

A portfolio is like a bid. To keep your name safe, you’ll need to reproduce the same level of work every time a client hires you.

That means top quality work every time — even when you’re tired, ill or just having a bad day.

Breaking the Law
Photography itself isn’t illegal, of course, but there are plenty of laws that photographers need to know before they can start selling images. You’ll need to have model releases for photos that contain people, property releases for some buildings and you’ll have to make sure that there are no visible logos that could land the buyer in trouble.

And it goes without saying that you have to own the copyright to any photos that you sell.

If a buyer ends up in legal hot water after using an image you sold him, you’ll be feeling the heat too.

Going Missing
One of the advantages of photography is that you don’t have to go into an office every day and make nice with the boss. The disadvantage though is that communicating with clients then becomes something that takes thought and effort.

You don’t have to answer emails as soon as they come in but if more than 24 hours passes, the client has a right to wonder what’s going on.

You don’t have to talk on the phone every day to tell the buyer what’s happening but you should update her about any delays that will affect the commission.

And you don’t have to let the buyer know where you are every minute of every day, but if you’re going to be incommunicado for a few days, a heads-up before you leave is always a good idea.

Leave the buyer wondering if you’ve been kidnapped by aliens — and whether he’ll get his images — and other buyers are less likely to ask you for some too.

Writing Badly-Judged Blog Posts
Blogging can be a great way to show potential clients who you are and how you approach photography. But it can also be a very effective way to turn a name that commands respect into a name that provokes disdain.

This post, for example, was about real estate, not photography, and turned its guns on a competitor. The result was a torrent of criticism from other readers, including potential customers. The company that posted the blog was forced to apologize, the blogger was fired and her name is now mud.

When you put your name to a blog post, understand that what you say in that post reflects you and your work — and remember too that the Internet doesn’t forget. What you say online stays online.

Writing Badly-Judged Comments
And exactly the same is true of comments. A post on your blog is clearly yours and the fact that it’s on a professional site is usually enough to make most photographers think twice before writing something they might regret. But comments appear on other people’s blogs and no one really pays attention to the name, right?


If you’re going to put your name to a comment on a blog post — and especially if it carries a link too — again, treat it as a professional communication. Anyone Googling your name will see it.

Creating More Problems than you Solve
Commercial clients don’t really want pictures. They want solutions. They have an empty space on a page and they need something to put there that will have an effect.

Buying a picture from you solves that problem.

But if your solution creates a bunch of other problems — because you’ve delivered the image in the wrong format, at the wrong time, or poorly taken — then it will quickly become known that a dollar spent on you is a dollar wasted.

That will leave your reputation worth little more than a dime.

Building a name as a photographer that people can rely on takes time and consistent good work. It comes naturally for good photographers — and can disappear quickly for any photographer too.

[tags] photography reputation [/tags]

One comment for this post.

  1. Andy Said:

    This is a very good point to bring up for people new to the freelancing game...of any sort. I can attest to that. I'm talking about another advertising industry, but the experience is the same...

    I had a client off and on for 16 years who took on a project for a national corp much larger than I (or I) could chew, but insisted on creating utterly insane schedules for delivery. I would constantly advise them to bring in more people...even though it would be taking money out of my pocket. I wanted them to get a good product. In the end, the impossible schedules were just that...impossible. The job did get done, but in the end I lost the client, and since pretty much every advertising industry is incredibly incestuous, I lost another large client to inter-company chit-chat. Basically ruining about 17 years of freelancing the area.

    Luckily I have new clients who can organize and schedule properly, but it's still a scary experience.

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