How to avoid scope creep and manage your photography clients

Aug 24, 2023

Alex Baker

Alex Baker is a portrait and lifestyle driven photographer based in Valencia, Spain. She works on a range of projects from commercial to fine art and has had work featured in publications such as The Daily Mail, Conde Nast Traveller and El Mundo, and has exhibited work across Europe

How to avoid scope creep and manage your photography clients

Aug 24, 2023

Alex Baker

Alex Baker is a portrait and lifestyle driven photographer based in Valencia, Spain. She works on a range of projects from commercial to fine art and has had work featured in publications such as The Daily Mail, Conde Nast Traveller and El Mundo, and has exhibited work across Europe

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In professional photography, one challenge consistently rears its head and tests the patience of photographers: scope creep. Although it might sound like something from a science fiction story, scope creep is a genuine and frustrating phenomenon that can wreak havoc on even the most carefully planned projects. 

If you’re a photographer earning money or aspiring to do so, then this straight-talking video from Scott at Tin House Studio is for you. 

Defining the Scope Creep Beast

Scott asks us to imagine this scenario: You’re a talented photographer, and a potential client approaches you with a seemingly straightforward request – they need photographs of 10 products. You confidently agree to the task and provide a reasonable estimate for your services. However, as the project unfolds, what initially appeared as a well-defined scope suddenly expands beyond its original boundaries. This is scope creep in action.

Scope creep is the gradual and often unchecked expansion of a project’s requirements, tasks, or deliverables beyond what was initially agreed upon. It’s a sneaky adversary that can lead to overexertion, extended deadlines, increased costs, and frustrated clients. In photography, scope creep often emerges when clients request additional shots, angles, retouching, or other modifications not part of the original agreement.

Nipping Scope Creep in the Bud

The question then becomes: How can photographers effectively manage scope creep and maintain control over their projects and profitability? The answer, says Scott, lies in effective communication, thorough project management, and setting clear boundaries. Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you navigate the treacherous waters of scope creep:

  1. Get a Clear Brief: Before you commit to any project, ensure that you have a crystal-clear understanding of what the client wants. The number of photos, types of shots, and deadlines should all be discussed and documented upfront. If the client’s requirements are vague or constantly changing, it might indicate that they’re not serious about the project.
  2. Estimates, Not Quotes: Instead of providing a fixed quote, consider offering an estimate based on the initial project scope. Explain that estimates may change if the scope evolves. This flexibility allows you to adjust the estimate if new requirements arise without feeling bound by an unalterable figure.
  3. Communicate during the Shoot: If a client asks for additional shots, angles, or modifications during the shoot, acknowledge their request but immediately explain the potential consequences. Inform them that these changes could extend the timeline and affect the overall project cost.
  4. Revisit the Estimate: If a client insists on changes that expand the project scope, provide them with an updated estimate. Clearly outline how these changes will impact the timeline, resources, and costs. This empowers clients to decide whether the additions are worth the investment.
  5. Client Management: Remember, the burden of preventing scope creep falls on the photographer. It’s your responsibility to manage client expectations, ensure they understand the implications of their requests and offer solutions that align with their budget and timeline.
  6. Project Manager Mindset: Embrace both your photographer and project manager roles. Efficiently juggle creative work with managing client communications, setting boundaries, and orchestrating shoots to avoid unnecessary disruptions.
  7. Agent or Producer Assistance: If you have the luxury of working with an agent or producer, involve them in managing client expectations and negotiations. Their expertise can help maintain a healthy project scope.

Scope creep might be a universal challenge for photographers, but it’s not insurmountable. Through open communication, setting clear expectations, and confidently addressing changes in scope, you can keep your photography projects on track and ensure your creative journey remains as smooth as possible. Remember that you always want to under-promise and then over-deliver, not the other way around. A happy client is often a returning client, which then creates a happy photographer.

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Alex Baker

Alex Baker

Alex Baker is a portrait and lifestyle driven photographer based in Valencia, Spain. She works on a range of projects from commercial to fine art and has had work featured in publications such as The Daily Mail, Conde Nast Traveller and El Mundo, and has exhibited work across Europe

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One response to “How to avoid scope creep and manage your photography clients”

  1. Robert Hall Avatar
    Robert Hall

    Scott’s videos are excellent AND if you think about his tutorials, the gist of many of them could be applied to any creative endeavor where you are making $$ for your time and skills.