One of those most important parts of any portrait sessions is what happens after the shoot is over. In the last part of this series I want to talk a bit about the end of your photo session, and how you can ensure you have a happy client that will not only come back for more but will tell their friends how awesome the experience was. Almost every day I get a call from someone asking me to advertise on Google. I simply reply “no thank you” as I don’t feel that Google can compete with word of mouth. As I have mentioned in first part of this series, word of mouth is one of the most powerful advertising weapons you have, with the ability to grow your business exponentially. This will be a bit different for everyone, but I think you can take this and apply it to any type of photography session you do.
The shoot is over…now what?
This is an important piece to the business puzzle as this may be the last time for a while you see your client. You want to make sure they feel the full effect of good customer service. Below are a few idea’s on how to leave a lasting impression.
Review the Session
Make sure you build in time to be able to go through the images with your client. Ideally you want to do this a couple times during the session as well, but at the very least make sure you do it at the end. I usually sit the client down, hand them a beverage and start flipping through images on the TV. Stop at images you think are strong, and make sure you can explain why they are strong. This will help sell your clients on strong images. In a headshot session you will have a series of images that are all similar both in wardrobe, and lighting, but being able to compare them on specific differences can be a valuable part of the client relationship. Often times I will find an image I like and show them a few next to it to help illustrate why I like a certain image, better. Keep in mind it is all a bit subjective, and your client may pick one you don’t care for, but knowing how to sell them on an image shows them you know your craft, you know what works for you and what doesn’t, and gives the session a more personal experience for your client. Take the examples from Veronica’s shoot below.
In my article, Investigating the Human Expression, I talk about how we can learn to pick better images, get better at reading expression and emotion, along with how body language can cause an emotional perception to be taken from the image. Simply leaning forward or backward, tilting the head at the neck, bringing the chin down slightly can all play into the strength of the image. Learning to communicate all this to your client will come with practice, but it’s a hugely beneficial technique. Come up with characters in your mind for these images, and communicate the emotion or feeling you get from it.
Delivering Your Images & Retouching
When I started out I offered 4 retouched images with a session. I currently offer 3 images with a session in LA and when I’m busy I don’t offer any, except for the one I choose for my portfolio. All my clients generally receive one image that I like for them, and that is the one that goes on my website. This way you have control over what goes into your portfolio should the client choose images you don’t care for. Everyone’s opinion’s will be different, but if a client chooses an image that I feel strongly against, I will politely tell them that I think they have a stronger image, and will offer alternative suggestions in the same wardrobe and look as the one they chose. Sometimes they go for it, sometimes they don’t, but they always appreciate your thoughts, and it shows them you care. Some clients ask for a list of my favorites from the session as well. This can lead to way too much time spent so I tell them to narrow it to 10-15 images and I’ll give them my favorites from there. This way I don’t get bogged down looking through hundreds of images.
At the end of my shoot I sit down and go through every image. I do basic RAW processing and delete the clunkers. I then do something that not every photographer does, but it works for me. I give them all the rest of the images in high resolution because I would want them. Now some of you will disagree with that, and that is ok, you certainly have to do it the way that works best for you, but for me this makes my clients happy, and I look at them as buying my time not necessarily a bunch of images.
I should note, that I only apply this thinking to my headshot clients. Commercial work will be based on the total number of final images they need. In the case of corporate headshots, I quote them on a per person basis, and only deliver one retouched image per person.
This also allows me to keep the time spent with the client going back and forth of selections and so forth to a minimum. My sessions are typically one and half to two hours long, and then another hour in processing, then aside from any retouching I’m done. 3 retouched images might take me another hour or so to complete. I also know that my acting clients are only going to be using the ones that get retouched anyway, but it gives them the option to easily get another retouched later by whoever is printing the image. I also politely lay some ground rules for their online display and make a recommendation on where to go for additional retouching and printing. Below is an excerpt from my website.
When it comes to a printed image, the printer is just as important as the photographer. Factor this into the investment in your headshots. The truth is plain and simple. If you don’t take pro photos to a pro lab your images will most likely look like crap, and remember that you are holding your photographers work as well, so if you print your awesome looking headshots cheaply and poorly this directly reflects on me! Take it seriously, behind every great photographer is an exceptional printer. So do what you can, when you can, if you can only afford to have 1 or 2 shots printed, then that’s ok! Work with those and then next month get a couple more done. Trust me photographers are not the only ones who notice…agents, casting directors, managers, they all would much prefer a professionally printed photo over one you had done at Kinkos….be better than Kinkos!
I do something for my clients that a lot of photographers don’t do…I give you all the images from the shoot…why? Because I would want them. I also have a quality control habit, and I go through them and weed out the obvious clunkers, and shots that may have missed the mark. I do basic RAW processing, contrast and color correction on all your images, and right out of the gate they are going to look awesome, however they are still going to be un-retouched, and not have the final coat of polish on them, so remember this when you put them online! Keep it to 10 or 15 of your favorites, and don’t go posting your whole session all over Facebook!
When posting to Facebook always check the “High Quality” box in the lower left side of the upload window. Please make sure that my website www.dpheadshotswest.com or www.dpheadshots.com is in the caption.
There are many ways to deliver your images, from Pixieset, to Zenfolio, SmugMug and others. I personally use DropBox, as I have no need for any type of proofing gallery, I just need a good way to send them to the client, and DropBox does that well. The rare times when I do need a proofing gallery I have the option to setup a password protected gallery on my website, that only contains the file number for selection purposes.
Draw a line with Retouching
One major drawback to offering retouching is you will get the occasional client that wants way more done than they should have. It is important to be able to find a way to politely refuse, and this can complicate good customer service from one point of view. It’s a sticky situation; you want your client to have what they want, but on the other hand, (when it comes to actors and performers anyway) you risk making them look too young or not as accurate to themselves as they should. I usually just tell people from the start, that I will retouch it and send it to you, and you can make one round of correction notes. If they start asking for too much I will either charge them more, or in most cases just politely say that I’ve gone as far as I want to go with it, and if they want more they can have it done at the printer, this usually reigns them back in. It’s a rare problem, but it can happen. Certainly with other types of portrait sessions you might have more flexibility.
Have a Fast Turnaround Time
Now don’t sacrifice quality for speed, but getting your clients images out as quickly as possible makes everyone happy. I tell my clients it will take 2-4 days on average to get them the images, often times I get the images out within 2 days, which makes you look good, and if it takes longer than you can utilize the other 2 days and still come in on time. Prompt service is always a sure fire way to show professionalism, and impress your clients.
Spread the Word
I often express to clients the value I have for word of mouth advertising, and give them an incentive to help! I always offer a $25-$40 off coupon for new clients who mention how they found me, and $25-$40 off for existing clients when they return (this incentive can register for them as another retouched image at the printer). I also keep mental track of how many referrals a person gives, and if they refer a lot they may get their next session at %50 off or maybe even for free. I rarely publish these incentives on my website as it gives me the flexibility to apply them or not.
With any type of marketing I believe it is most valuable to know exactly who your target market is. Is it high school seniors? Actors? Corporate professionals? Maybe all of the above! Printing out some simple postcards to leave, at schools, real estate offices, theaters, or schools with theatre programs can also lead to more clients. Maybe buying some advertising in your local paper or regional magazine could be good too. However it is still been my experience that word of mouth trumps these all, as people looking for a photographer will always put heavy weight on what one of their friends say about their experience with you. The downside to word of mouth is it just takes time to build. Even with postcards building up your business is just going to take time, there is no short cut to the top of the mountain in this regard, but delivering quality work, with great customer service will make all the difference. Just settle in for the long haul, and try not to get discouraged, work with confidence, kindness, patience, and compassion and you will find you are not only building a clientele but also lifelong connections that have limitless potential.
To learn more about my style of shooting and retouching check out my tutorial with Fstoppers here