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Helping Clients See Beyond the Obvious

We talked about The Candle Problem and what it means for you and your business.  But what could it mean for your clients?

We all have trouble seeing beyond the obvious.  But when someone points out a simple solution, you usually grasp it immediately – “why didn’t I think of that?”

We sit around thinking about photography all day, but our clients don’t.  We can’t expect them to take time to educate themselves, put all the pieces together, or come up with brilliant new ideas.  We have to be creative on their behalf.  That’s what they hire us to do.  And a huge yet underserved part of being creative on their behalf is communicating our ideas with them.

What that means for booking clients:

Most people hire photographers at the obvious milestones:  Birth, high school graduation, wedding.  But….there’s a whole lotta life between those milestones.  What is going unphotographed that shouldn’t?  Tell people!  Create some personal work based around it if necessary, and blog it up.  Create an incentive for people to book you for that kind of session, lest they dismiss it as “oh, that’s a good idea” and never get around to it.  Get people to act at the very moment they’re thinking about it.

You and I might think it’s a great idea for Dad to hire a photographer every Mother’s Day as a gift to Mom, or to capture the kids putting ornaments on the tree during the holidays – but people aren’t going to come up with that spontaneously.  Especially if it’s not their habit, especially if their friends aren’t doing it.  We have to tell them and show them what it would add to their life.  Otherwise……you’ll only see these folks at birth, their graduation, and their weddings.

The actual photoshoot:

Most people haven’t had full photoshoots before.  They don’t know how to act, but they want to act “correctly” – which usually translates into stiffness and an unusually high number of shots with people looking at the camera smiling an “I’ve been smiling for 20 mins straight and my cheeks hurt now” smile.

Do you want people to be relaxed, ignore you for a minute, and just have fun?  You have to tell them that’s what you want from them.

If they are paying you a lot of money to take their photos, they’re going to stress about “getting it right.”  If they don’t know what that means, they’ll just obsess about all the things they can control.  That’s 1) how their hair looks, 2) what they’re wearing (anyone else have clients bringing bags of clothing with them to shoots, “just in case”?), and 3) how their kids look.

Has anyone else lost a perfectly good shot because mom stuck her arm in to wipe a smudge/tamp down hair just as you pressed the shutter?  I have, and it’s my fault – not hers.  It’s my fault for not explaining enough that you look the best when you’re just having fun, not worrying about stray hairs and smudges.  It’s my fault for not giving her permission to relax, for not assuring her that she looks great, and for not asking her to do what I need her to do –  snuggle and giggle and just enjoy her children.

For better sessions, have a clear conversation with every client to tell them how they can get the most out of their time with you.  Take the time to tell them what works and what doesn’t – they want to know this stuff!  You’re not being demanding or bossy, you’re helping them get what they need.  Your photoshoots will improve dramatically by having a quality conversation before bringing out the camera.

Your sales:

Inertia is a powerful force.  For most people, inertia = an 8×10 and a few wallets.  And maybe a standard shot above the fireplace.

What do YOU think your clients should buy?  How could your images make their everyday life more fun?  What creative things have you seen people do with photos?  Tell your clients about them, blog about them, include a handy guide with their final order for their future reference.  Most people’s experiences with photo products are limited to what they can get at a drugstore – so it’s up to you to show them what else is out there that they’d just love. 

People are going to stick with the obvious, even if it gets them stuck with things that might not be best for them.  It’s our job to communicate and help them get the most out of it, and make them feel like experts by the time we’re done.


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  1. Allison on December 16, 2011 at 10:39 pm

    This is a fantastic piece, very well placed. Thank you!

    • Jenika on December 17, 2011 at 2:45 am

      Thanks Allison! 🙂

  2. Heather on December 17, 2011 at 12:11 am

    Awesome reminders!! I’ve been trying to kick off Engagerazzi photography in my area- I think every guy should have the Big Question photographed! I think we do need to work more to help people see unique times that photography can enrich their special moments- or even just everyday life.

    • Jenika on December 17, 2011 at 2:44 am

      That is awesome! So many proposals that are creative and beautiful, and it’s an incredibly special moment anyway – I agree, why not have beautiful photographs to show your kids?

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