What to do when a client puts a filter over your photo


Nicole Hill


Have you ever had a client add a filter to your photo? Imagine with me that you just had one of those shoots where everything falls into place. The lighting was perfect, your edits were on FIRE, you felt so inspired and proud as you sent the gallery off to your client.

You sit back and wait with excitement to see which image your client will share first, and then you get the notification your client tagged you on Instagram! YES! The moment you were waiting for. Then your excitement disappears when you see the post where your client put an awwwwful Valencia Instagram filter circa 2011 on your photo. 

Why would your client do this? Was she unhappy with the photos? Does she think this looks better? Do you ask your client to take the photo down? Should you remind her that your contract states no edits? Do you offer to just send her the raw files? Do you cry? 

This is something that’s happened to absolutely all of us, especially if you’re taking lots of photos for people. It’s happened to me a million times, and I’ve seen it happen to my students in The Photographer’s Path. In today’s episode I walk you through what to do when your client puts a filter on your photo, and in this episode I share a story of one of the absolute WORST times this happened to me. Press play to listen in and hear all the details about a situation where I worked so hard on a shoot, only to see the final images published INSIDE A MAGAZINE not turn out the way I had imagined! 

So What Do You Do?

Ok so how do you respond when a client puts a filter on your photo? Well, it’s simple. NOTHING. That’s right, you do NOTHING. Absolutely nada. Zip. Zero. Boom. NOTHING! 

It’s important to remember the only thing that truly matters is that your client is happy. I’ve seen photographers get upset and end up ruining relationships with clients because they’re embarrassed of what the client did to their work. 

But let me repeat that. The only thing that truly matters is that your client is happy. It’s the only thing. This is going to be a common problem you will deal with over and over again in your career, I promise! So I’m going to share with you a good ole’ Hill family recipe and story to help you understand this. 

So, a little backstory about my family. My great-grandparents actually fled Mexico to come to the United States wayyy back in 1917 during the Mexican Revolution. My great grandpa feared for his family’s safety, and the country was suffering. They knew they needed to get out, and they did just barely! Their train car was attacked by bandits as they were escaping Mexico. It was like a scene out of a horror movie. In our family history book it shares that my great grandpa was helping a priest take care of the people who were shot and dying by praying over them, and there was SO much blood on the ground that it was hard to stand without slipping. This was what my grandparents went through in 1917… 

By the grace of God, they survived it. They came to the US, and they had my grandparents, and they had my mom, and then my sisters and I came into the mix, great-granddaughters and granddaughters and daughters of Mexican refugees. 

It’s About The Recipe

My family has passed down throughout the years my great-grandma Hermila’s enchilada recipe. This recipe might actually be THE most important family heirloom we have. It came with her in that train car, and our family has been making it since the early 1900s. It has never been changed. NEVER. The recipe is perfect, and you’ve probably never had an enchilada that tastes like this. They are insanely delicious red enchiladas with this rich, spicy, chocolatey flavor!  

Every single Christmas we make the “enchis,” and we follow the exact same recipe. My mom spends days soaking the chilis to get the perfect flavor. Then the day of, it takes her hours to get all the final touches in place. This past Christmas, I saw a pot of green enchilada sauce on the stove and my family roared, “what is this?! This is blasphemy! Who is eating green sauce?!” My sister’s husband was terrified and said “your mom is making them for me.” 

My mom, rescuing him, said “Jacob isn’t a fan of the red sauce.” Then she turned back to the pot and didn’t seem to care. The rest of us were like “HOW? WHAT? Jacob, you’ve been eating these for yeaaaars and never said anything about it!”

It was simple. He loved our family and knew how much the legacy of the enchiladas meant to us. So even though he didn’t like the enchiladas with red sauce, he ate them. My mom looked at us like we were being SO dramatic and said, “as long as he’s happy… I don’t care. More red sauce for us!”

My mom’s an amazing cook, and the recipe is delicious regardless of if it’s with red or green sauce. Plus, when you’re cooking a meal for someone, especially one that takes days on end, you don’t WANT them to swallow it down being polite. You want it to be a showcase of how much you care about them, and you want them to love it. You’ll make tweaks to do that.

You Want Your Clients To Love Their Images

This is so important to remember when it comes to your photos and clients. I KNOW why we get upset when we see a client put a filter on our photo. We’re looking at the photo knowing the hard work and long hours spent editing it, and we can see where the filter made the green tones look off and where that filter did us dirty. However, our clients see it as a filter they like and added it to the photo.

When I really started photographing people seriously, I was in the early Instagram era and the late Myspace era (am I aging myself?!) where the trend was literally to put SO MUCH FILTER on a photo that it looked insane. This would happen to me allll the time, and I would get so embarrassed that people would think I did that edit. 

It took me a long time to realize that it doesn’t matter, and that it wasn’t about me when a client did something like that. It took me a long time to realize that all I had to do was to keep showing off my work where I could by sharing the photos I loved with my edits on my feed while untagging my account from the bad edits. When I realized this, I also realized that my clients loved the photos they got. They just wanted to add their own personal touch to them.  

It’s funny, because almost every time this has happened to me the client shares a gushing IG caption about how much they loved the images. So if they want to add a little vibrancy or personal vibe to them, that is ok. As photographers we are providing a service to people and that is it! 

Focus On Your Client’s Experience

Now, if you’re upset and thinking, well they broke the client contract! They ignored that clause about editing the photos! They knew what my work looked like, and they still did it! Well as photographers, we notice that and it drives us nuts. Something important to understand is that some battles aren’t worth fighting, especially when they involve a client slapping on a VSCO filter and posting the photos they paid for to Instagram. Unless they’re taking that filtered, weird imagery and sending it to Vogue with your name on it, you can’t worry about it.

Your client experience is always more important than that. Making sure that your clients get a beautiful gallery of images matters. Displaying that beautiful gallery on YOUR portfolio to show YOUR work how it’s intended to be matters. And, more than anything else, making your client feel valued and respected MATTERS THE MOST.

When you can do this, and when you can swallow your pride and realize that not everything can always be the exact way you pictured it (literally), you can also build a roster of clients who keep coming back, who love working with you, and who are excited to see their photos. When you focus on how they feel, how their experience with you goes, and how you treat them, they trust you. They keep coming back to you. They tell other people about you.

So I want you to remember those enchiladas, and I want you to realize that some of us prefer green sauce, and some of us (the right ones… just kidding) prefer the red sauce, but it doesn’t mean we don’t like the recipe.

I hope you enjoyed this episode, and would love to hear from you. Reach out to me on Instagram if you have ever had a client put a filter on one of your images!

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meet the photographer


I've spent the last decade of my life traveling the world as a fashion photographer and I created Horizon Found to give you everything I wish I had when I was starting my career. Here you'll find community, inspiration, and education - to help guide you down the path towards building the photography business of your dreams. My dream is to use this platform to help build a supportive environment in the photography industry.


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