How to Manage Client's Color Expectations

Silver Hair

What happens when your client's inspiration image has been filtered? We break it down. 

It's an all-too-common  scenario: Your raven-haired client comes in for her color appointment and shows you an inspo picture of a famous blogger with impossibly silver hair. It’s obvious to you that this influencer has filtered her photo, but how do you explain that to your client? After all, being able to filter your photos was one of the original functions (and appeal) of Instagram. And does it even matter if you explain that the image is doctored, since now your client has her heart set on having silver strands?

Recently, Nam Nguyen demonstrated on his Instagram page how easily you can manipulate haircolor without altering skin tone—making detecting filtered images even harder for stylists. The main reason he and other stylists find filters frustrating boils down to managing client expectations. “It’s challenging when a client brings in a filtered picture because it can create unrealistic expectations,” he explains. “The client can think that she can achieve the same result because she has the same starting level.” Of course, he adds, most colorists probably can achieve the end result the client desires—if not in one session, then in several—but this has to be comprehensively and thoroughly explained during the consultation.

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So can you tell when an image has been filtered? e short answer, says Nguyen, is not always. With the litany of apps like Facetune available, in addition to the filters on Instagram (not to mention the old standby, Photoshop), identifying a retouched image simply by eyeballing it is getting harder. And sometimes, you may know a photo has been filtered because of luck. “One time a client brought me a picture of an Asian girl with silver hair,” recalls Nguyen. “But I knew the girl’s face had been Photoshopped onto a Caucasian model who had a much lighter natural base and finer hair, and was therefore able to achieve a true silver easier. I knew this because the model was a YouTuber who I had been following for years and I watched her vlog her salon experiences.”

That isn’t to say there’s never a time when a stylist would want to use a filter, however. If you seek focusing on the hair while blurring out the background, there’s an app for that. “Sometimes lighting isn’t on your side, so adding a filter to make the hair look more like it does in real life isn’t bad,” says Nguyen. “But over-filtering is not OK.”

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In the end, the conversation you have with the client in your chair—and knowing your limitations—will give her a realistic view of what can be achieved. “I never guarantee a look except with repeat clients whose hair I’ve done before,” says Nguyen, who tends to under-promise and over-deliver. Explain to the client that you will try your best to get her to where she wants to be while keeping her hair healthy. After all, he says, “everyone’s hair takes on color differently.”


[Image: Courtesy of Nam Nguyen]

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