I could feel my body shaking from the adrenaline of where this conversation was going. The words coming out of the director's mouth felt like an out of body experience, was she really saying what I think she was? - We weren't a professional digital team and maybe they should hire out instead.
WHAA? Let me set the scene.
2014-15 ish, I was working at one of the world's largest auction houses, inside the Fine Arts Department as a Lead Digital Retouching Specialist. Our team consisted of me, one other retoucher and two photographers. We had the responsibility of photographing, retouching and color matching to print every item that came in for consignment. The volume was anything but modest, think of 800 art items in a single sale, x 3 to 4 photos each that were channeled to the web and print. Having a process and workflow was key to being able to keep quality and productivity at a hefty pace.
NEW DIRECTOR AND THE HIGHEST VALUE CONSIGNMENT COMES IN...
We had been photographing and color matching a new super high value consignment of artwork from a high end consignor through one of our newest director's. Can you feel the weight of this now? lol.
With high stakes, I usually went into applying the higher level proofing process. We photograph, we print and color match first with the paintings in hand, and then release the images to web and public view. This way I know they are as close to accurate color as possible.
All is going well, in my head. In walks the director with our interim department director. Telling him very loudly how the photos online do not look correct, the consignor is unhappy and maybe we should just get a professional team instead.
Hello, ma',m we all can hear you....
I honestly don't know what came over me at that moment, I'm usually the quiet one and allergic to conflict. But in that moment I felt the deep trust in our team's skillset and our process of quality check and I had to speak up and dig deeper.
I stood up, relayed the years of experience our team has, the process we do and then I asked her to walk the process with me. Pulling all the paintings to look at in hand together and compare. Her body language changed a bit, little less tense and we looked through them together. That atmosphere change that happened when she looked at them with me and realized that the images we produced were in fact accurate. It was actually quite glorious for me.
WHAT SHE SAID NEXT AFTER IT ALL MADE SENSE
After all that, she was confident in our team, I just had to listen, wait and then walk her through the solid process we had created over 5 years to ensure a high level of quality. Because just saying, I knew we were right lol.
The director then opened up to me and told me, that the consignor had not seen his paintings in years! They were packaged up in storage and what he was going by was memory. He looked online and thought the colors were all wrong and proceeded to vent on the director which led us to the situation above.
YOUR PROCESS WILL SUPPORT YOU
Once the smoke cleared I look to my co-worker and she said "I don't know what just happened, but you just turned lemons into lemonade."
Be confident in your process and workflow supports you and your client experience. If I had not constantly been tweaking and curating a process for the type of media we dealt with it probably would've all fell apart for us the moment she walked in ranting. Also, with situations that arise you can easily implement an extra should you need within your already solid process for unique situations. Going forward for her we added an in person director review prior to us releasing images. It offered just another sense of security for them and also for my own team.
Also a lot of times you never know where the real source of the concern or doubt is coming from so be sure to listen to your client. Sometimes the problem isn't you and it's a little deeper.
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