It did not dawn on me until I was watching the first episode of "Top Photographer with Niger Barker" that some photographers do not actually take time to talk to their clients in order to get to know them better. It may seem insignificant, but let me tell you why it matters.
Taking pictures may be your passion, but for those who make a living from photography, there is no way around it: Photography is also a business. But a business need not be denude of a personal touch to function effectively. As a person I’ve always been quite chatty and curious, and you can bet that as a photographer, those traits still apply. Even as I write, it shows. But I make it a point to always speak about what matters to my clients and what the job is about. I believe it is a polite thing to do and also a way of getting to know the client. Wouldn’t you agree?
Through the years working with other photographers, younger or older ones, I realize that some of them being busy as they are, just stick to generic answers via emails. And if they have booked a shoot through this method, those same photographers show up on their shoots, introduce themselves briefly, and get on with their shoot with minimum interaction with the subjects being photographed. They’ve done what the brief asked them to shoot and that’s it. Some wedding photographers don't even know their couple's names! But I do not believe this is the approach that photographers should adopt.
Always Introduce Yourself Properly
You may have already spoken via email, but upon meeting your clients, always introduce yourself properly. Just merely saying “Hey, I am Khatleen, how are you?” and expecting your client to shake your hand and reply “fine” is not fine at all. Introduce yourself and let the client reply with their name as well. Then go on and ask them how they are doing, and do make a few more polite comments about how they look great, about the weather, or even about a joke you might have made through your emails. Simple things really, but those little chats will actually allow your clients to connect with you beyond the emails. Emails are, I believe, very impersonal. But showing interest in your client and what he or she does, will go a long way to make your client feel like you care not just about their money.
Know Your Client
Some might argue that there is little time for them to sit down with all of their clients just so they can have a small chit-chat about their lives and what they want for their shoot. But hey, if you want your clients to enjoy working with you, you need to bond with them. Make time and sit down with them. You are taking their money and they are perhaps letting you see an important part of their lives. Show some genuine interest and make them feel like they are important. Cut the fawning though. I am not asking you to become their best friend, but make them comfortable with you.
Make your models comfortable with you so that there is little unease on a boudoir or a nude shoot. Make your models comfortable with you so that they crack some genuine smiles and "let go" for you to grab the spontaneous photos you came for.
Make your wedding clients comfortable so that they don’t feel shy when you shoot them in their underwear or in the shower on their wedding day. Yes! Ever wondered how Erika and Lanny of Two Mann Studios get to shoot some crazy and phenomenal photos like these ones below?
Become a Good Conversationalist
Of course, in some situations, it is quite difficult to meet up with clients before your shooting day. For example, I live in Mauritius, a small island where a huge amount of foreigners come celebrate their wedding on a beach. Most organize everything through their hotel’s wedding planner but they themselves won’t know much about how the wedding will go down until a few days before their big day. Some clients may contact me via email a few weeks before they are due to come, but others will let their wedding planner do so for them. And let me tell you that the latter, always to my annoyance, calls a few days before the wedding. So that makes the "sitting down to get to know each other" a bit difficult.
I have two solutions to this. The first is give the client a call and the second is get to your shoot early. About the first, it goes a long way to make your clients warm up to you. Just hearing their photographer’s voice will make you less of a stranger to them. And about the second solution, if you really cannot speak over the phone with your client or meet up beforehand, then coming to the shoot early and perhaps asking the client to do so too is an opportunity for you to learn more about the needs and wants of the client. Sometimes an email won’t be as clear as hearing and seeing your client.
Talking is great, but listening is more important. Just through listening, you can clear the fog where it is necessary by asking the relevant questions. It saves time, and boy, do we need to save time when there are editing backlogs that awaits us.
Overall, taking time to know who your clients are and what they like and need will always be a plus. Maybe your clients have a passion for dancing and you could do an amazing couple session incorporating dance; an opportunity to make your photos stand out. Isn’t it what we are looking for? Showing genuine interest, but also listening to their ideas and wants is the best way to ensure clients’ satisfaction and yours as well. Through this process, you will not only be getting them the pictures they want, but also bringing your input to the table and your signature to those pictures. That’s the best way to get a good review, and for them to consider working with you again. And make sure to remember your clients’ names!
Images used with permission of Emma Grigoryan.