What clients want.

Photography from the clients’ point of view.
by Jen Buchanan, Design Partner of Buchanan Studios, Inc.

I’m not a photographer, but I do work with them. I’m a Graphic Designer and I occasionally get the chance to hire photographers. It doesn’t happen very often, usually due to budgets. In my time as a designer I’ve learned several things about creative professionals and how they work. I’ve got a few tips for photographers on how to make the whole process run more smoothly and help ensure repeat business. True, I’ve dealt mostly with commercial photographers, but I think these tips will work for most anyone.

1. Keep your web site up to date.

In researching photographers I always start at your web site. It tells me a lot about you. I learn your style, how you like to light, your areas of specialty and the areas you don’t specialize in. Keep the shots up to date. If I like your stuff and call you, I don’t want to hear how old these shots are and how you have much better stuff that you’ve just shot. If your newer stuff is so great, put it on your web site. Also, if you have diversity, show me diversity. If you’re a wedding photographer and you have only one style of shot, say beach-y, I’ll think that all you shoot are destination weddings. If your shots are all black and white, I’ll think that’s all you shoot. The photographer’s web site is like your intro at a cocktail hour, make sure it’s interesting and you’ll get noticed.

2. Make sure your contact info is current and then be there.

Along the same lines as the current web site. Make sure your contact info is easy to find on your web site. If I like what you shoot, I don’t want to read 5 paragraphs on your artistic vision, I want to call you and get an estimate. If a client calls you and leaves a voicemail, please call them back as soon as you can. Same goes for email. I don’t want to wait for days to talk to you, I’m busy too.

3. Please be professional.

With the advent of digital cameras and Photoshop, more and more people are thinking they can do what you do. Trust me, the same thing happens to Graphic Designers. Show them what it means to be a professional photographer by being professional. I know it sounds ridiculous and I don’t think you are stupid but I’ve had too many photographers say they were emailing me an estimate only to get it a week later. If someone requests an estimate, get it to them as soon as you can, try for a 24 hour turnaround. Also, have a designed estimate. A good corporate ID package goes a long way in making you look professional.

4. Before the shoot

Congrats on getting the gig. Before you shoot you’ll need to make sure you and the client are on the same page for the shoot objectives. Talk to your client and make sure you know what they are looking for, offer suggestions if you’ve shot this type of item or event previously. I love a photographer that can suggest different lighting or offer creative solutions to my design problems. We’re a team on this, hold up your end. If the shoots requires a makeup artist, please recommend a few that you’ve used before with good success, The same goes for stylists. I want this shoot to be as successful as it can. I don’t want to bring in an unknown commodity for you to have to deal with. If there is something I don’t understand please explain it to me. By the same token, when you meet with clients, realize that designers and photographers speak another language. If my clients don’t know the difference between vector and raster, I tell them. Don’t use photo-speak to a group that doesn’t do this every day. You may think it makes you look smart, but making the client feel stupid won’t win you any friends. If you can educate your clients and take a great picture, chances are you’ll be on the top of their call list.

5. The day of the shoot

Be on time. Again, I know it sounds stupid but if I have a shoot that I’m attending with a client and the photographer is late, no one’s happy. Look professional. Creative professionals have the best jobs in the world because we get to show some of our personality in the clothes we choose. We aren’t stuck in the world of suits. If you’ve had a good planning discussion with your clients, all should go smoothly. If things aren’t going smoothly and you feel the wheels coming off the cart, take a minute to re-group with your client. It’s easier to save the shoot halfway through that in is to schedule another day of shooting. Once everything is done clean up your stuff and touch base on when your client will be seeing something from you. Set up the expectations and then make the deadlines. From my point of view it’s easier to plan production know when proofs will arrive rather than waiting in front of my computer.

6. After the shoot

Touch base with your client and make sure everything is as expected. Hey, you never know, they may have 6 more products for you to shoot and need to schedule another day. A little customer service goes a long way in this game. As a creative professional I know that a good relationship is worth its weight in gold. If I find a photographer that is easy to work with and who takes a pretty picture I’ll keep you around and I’ll refer you to my friends. Good word of mouth can build a reputation and keep your business hopping.

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