In this business, we always want to keep improving, but how do we do that exactly? At the end of each year, I like to reflect back and journal out what worked for my business and what didn’t. However, I recently started writing out things I would change or do differently after EACH SHOOT. This is not about tearing yourself down, it is about really looking at your work and asking yourself simple questions that can help make each and every session/wedding better than the rest. A lot of my sessions are with couples, so this is going to be an example of questions I would ask myself after viewing an engagement session.
1. Did I photograph more horizontally or vertically? Did that work for this session or should I have varied it more?
2. Did I make the most of the locations?
3. How are my compositions? Did I think outside of the box with framing?
4. Are the poses varied enough so the client has many to choose form in their gallery?
5. Was I paying attention to how the light was working in each location on BOTH subjects?
6. Does the shoot flow? In other words, can you tell that the couple was more relaxed the more photos were taken?
7. Did I use a variety of my lenses to create many perspectives and angles to choose from?
8. Did I create a story with these images that helps viewers get a sense of who they are together, even without knowing them?
You may not need to write them down like I prefer, but I challenge you to take the time to start making mental notes of things you want to improve at with each session. Also, besides asking yourself things to improve on, ask yourself what you think you did best. Why? Duh! So you can keep carrying through that skill to each session/wedding you photograph. I think the more we study our own work, we are going to grow so much more quickly in our skills, pleasing each an every client!
Now for the second part of this post … the business side! With this part, I mean communicating and working with your clients. This is something I truly find value in and love learning more about! Just like anyone, it is one of the greatest experiences working with someone that has great customer service. How many of you are dedicated to a company because you can count on them? I bet we can all think of a handful! Now make it your goal to be that way for the people who hire you. When someone hires you for a session or wedding, they are putting trust in you. THAT IS A BIG DEAL. From start to finish, treat them like gold. Not only because they are paying you for images but because they are also paying for an experience. Good customer service starts from their inquiry, to the day you mail off their portrait or wedding package.
It may seem like common sense on how to create a great experience, but it is amazing how the little things can slip through the cracks during the process:
– Unless out of town, answer there email in last that 24 hours. Thanks to the world of technology, most of us have smart phones so that we can regularly check emails. My personal goal is to always reply in just a few hours or less. A lot of times I am checking my email while I receive and inquiry. In this situation, I can reply within the few minutes they sent it. The responses on their part come more quickly, and I have found that I can set up meetings right away.
– Follow ups: If a potential client has not replied for a few days or a week+, follow up. I used to have it in my head that I was nagging, but trust me, they really appreciate it! Most of the time they just got caught up in their busy lives and your email was a reminder for them. I usually just say “I was just checking in to see if you were still interested in (fill in the blank) . I would be happy to answer any questions or set up a meeting.” Simple!
– Send reminder emails before a session. This helps with confirming all the details to make sure the session times and locations are all agreed upon.
– During the session: Make your clients feel comfortable! Yes, you are a professional service but don’t be afraid to BE THEIR FRIEND. If they are a wedding client and you are out for an engagement session, ask them about how planning for the wedding is going, etc. They are engaged and happy, therefore the future bride and groom LOVEEE talking about an exciting day that is coming up. I know I would! For any client, encourage them! Make your clients feel like they are doing a good job and following direction. No client wants to feel like they are “doing it wrong”. Make them feel beautiful and confident. Creating a fun experience for every party behind the camera is the most essential part of the shoot!
– Complete your editing when scheduled or early. After a session, your client is dying to seeing some images! Show them a previews on your blog and send follow up emails during the stages of editing to keep them posted during the process.
– Whether they are receiving a disc of images, products, prints, etc … package them in a way that shows you care about each client individually. This allows you to shine in the way you present the art work you created.
– Lastly, after a few days of mailing a package, check in with your client and make sure they received it. This is for you to confirm that shipping went smoothly but to also show your client that you care about them through the entire process of working with them, not just before and during the session or wedding.
These are all things I am learned in the last few years, and I am happy to share with photographers, both new and advanced. Let’s all grow together!