When we think about jumping into photography as a career, we often focus on our hard skills, or the technical aspects of shooting. It’s the part we fall in love with while learning to use our gear and discovering new techniques to capture incredible images. Knowing how to take beautiful photos, however, does not automatically guarantee a successful session. You also need to master your soft skills, which include being able to communicate with your clients and understand their needs. If you’re not capturing the photos your client wants, it doesn’t matter how amazing they are. We must be able to engage our clients on many levels throughout the process, from booking, to posing (for portraits), to delivering images that exceed our client’s expectations. To help ensure you come through in every session for your clients, here are four effective communication skills photographers need to succeed.
4 Effective Communication Skills Photographers Need to Succeed
In a previous article, we reviewed the 4 skills needed to be a successful photographer that included both hard skills and soft skills. In this article, we’ll focus in on thse soft skills related to communication:
It’s a must that photographers be able to build a rapport with their clients. When photographing our clients, we must help them feel comfortable and at ease in front of the camera. Stiff, uncomfortable clients rarely make good subjects. That discomfort will show in the photos. Establishing a good rapport with your clients will help you get better expressions and give your clients the freedom to express what it is they want to see in the shots.
Sometimes, we’ll need to build a rapport with our clients via text or email before ever meeting them in person. In that sense, effective communication skills photographers need to succeed are not limited to in-person Admittedly, it can be difficult to write a catchy email to grab attention and outline your personality and skills, especially if you’re introducing yourself after a brief inquiry. To help, keep your messages concise and on point.
The stronger the client-photographer relationship, the greater the chance you’ll have to deliver images that exceed their expectations. In that sense, building relationships is also important from a business angle. Satisfied clients are more likely to write favorable reviews and recommend you to their friends, family, and even business associates.
While most shoots may go seamlessly from start to finish, others may not. Clients usually get upset when they feel like you aren’t understanding their vision or delivering on your promises. For example, clients may come in and expect to take a more proactive role in determining how they’ll pose, how you should frame the shot, and so on. You will need to use effective communication skills right from the get go to establish up front whether or not you’re comfortable with that as a photographer.
Many clients will throw out suggestions during a session, and there are different ways to approach the situation. Managing expectations and suggesting alternative ways of doing things is key. Typically, it’s best to oblige when time allows, or acknowledge their request and attempt to come back to it later. Other times, clients may suggest a shot that is not possible, unsafe, or is not permitted at the shoot location. It’s your responsibility to manage expectations and inform them if any issues will arise as a result of their request.
Having the ability to set boundaries will come in handy with clients as well as fellow vendors. In reality, you won’t last long as a professional without it. You may get along well with your clients, but success requires that you get paid, and paid on time.
There are some occasions in which you might work for free, but endlessly working for free won’t allow you to build your business. Photography is a creative industry, but think of your business in the same way a plumber would think of theirs. Your fee covers not only time for the shoot and any post-production, but also the years of study and hard work that have gone into your ability to take such masterful shots, not to mention the gear you have to purchase and maintain. Try to get comfortable thinking like a business person and not a photographer so that you can build a sustainable photography business.
Clear and Frequent Communication
Under the umbrella of effective communication skills photographers need is a set of skills known as soft skills, or “people skills.” One of the most important soft skills that photographers must develop for working with clients is the ability to communicate clearly. This includes actually listening what your clients are trying to communicate to you. Long before the shoot, you will need to interpret your client’s vision and establish what it is your client wants. If you photograph engagement sessions, for example, get to know the couple and discover what they value in each other. Maybe it’s the way he laughs or how she feels when he holds her hand. Asking targeted questions and communicating clearly with your clients will enable you to look for and capture those nuances during the session.
In some instances, you may find it difficult to communicate with a client due to a language barrier or something of that nature, but this should not deter you. Assuming the clients reached out because they appreciate your work, you have every reason to make an effort to better understand your client. If you plan to serve a client base that primarily speaks a language different from your native language, why not take some classes to gain a basic working knowledge of that language? Try to minimize the technical talk on your end about how you plan to capture the shots, and so on. Lastly, don’t rush your talk-through sessions. Instead, leave enough time to confirm you’re all on the same page before calling it a day.
How Frequently Should You Be Communicating With Your Clients?
Is booking clients similar to the ‘rule’ of dating where you are expected to wait a certain amount of time before appearing too eager? When it comes to gaining a client’s trust, you must communicate effectively and frequently to ensure that everyone is on the same page. In the first part of our Wedding Workshop series, included in our Premium library of education, we take you through 8 communication touch-points from the initial meeting all the way to the wedding day. Let’s investigate why exactly it’s beneficial to over-communicate when it comes to booking clients.
This entire course is going to follow this framework which is basically our workflow, and our process. We start off with the initial meeting, and what we’re going to say is there’s a minimum of 8 communication touch-points from the initial meeting all the way to the wedding day. Of course, there is actually going to be more than that because more than likely, there’s going to be more than just one email in-between these processes. There’s also going to be emails and phone calls and so forth between and before the initial meeting and throughout.
1. The Initial Meeting
This is where our relationship with the client begins, and is by far the most important in determining whether or not a client will eventually book. In the meeting, we communicate with the aim to understand the clients and their backgrounds, making sure to keep the topic on them and not fall into the trap of talking about ourselves. Understand your clients’ wants & needs by identifying the product that they are looking for, and then tailor their expectations from the start so there are no unexpected surprises later on down the path of communication. This course is designed to show you how to build trust with your clients from the start, because with a steady foundation there is nowhere to go but up.
2. E-mail Following The Initial Meeting
Managing the client after the meeting and guiding them through your price packages and fine details should be your follow-up step after the initial meeting. Having a canned email thanking them for their interest and time, while still providing them with ample information to help with their decision (but not too much to bombard them) is the perfect amount of communication required for this step. The texts, phone calls, and emails that follow suit are critical points of communication as well, but going forward starts with the initial meeting and follow up.
3. Engagement Session Planning
Once they have been booked and all financial matters have been settled, start discussing details to plan their engagement session. Finalize a date, time, location, and figure out if permits are necessary for shooting. Show them that you are prepared for any scenario and show continued enthusiasm for your next encounter.
[REWIND: Five Reasons You Need an Engagement Shoot]
4. Engagement Talk-Through
Although the two prior steps can easily be accomplished over e-mail, the talk-through should be done over the phone, or Skype, so they can begin to familiarize themselves with the shooter. Gaining a comfortable relationship with your clients happens through constant communication and reassurance that they are in good hands. This is a great chance to get a feel for the couple’s favored style of photography and discuss their moodboard preferences.
5. Engagement Teaser Emails
Since engagement sessions usually take place months before the wedding, it is important to maintain a relationship with the couple up until their wedding day. We have a studio management team that stays in touch with our clients to make sure all their needs are met, sending them updates on their images and sending them teaser images (see any example here). It’s a small step in the overall process, but definitely one that shouldn’t be missed.
6. Pre-Wedding Prep Requests
It’s never too early to be prepared. Request a preliminary timeline from the client, or the wedding planner, in order to review the events of the wedding day. Having a timeline in advance allows you to prep for what’s to come without being bombarded with surprises while shooting. The pre-wedding requests can also include must-have shots, family formal lists, vendor lists, requests for shooting permits, etc.
7. Wedding Talk-Through
Similar to the engagement talk-through, this is your chance to give your clients that final ounce of security that you are the one to trust to photograph their big day. Put them to ease by running through the timeline with them and asking them detailed questions to avoid any issues on the wedding day.
8. Post Wedding Communication
The wedding is complete, but your relationship with the client is far from over. Other than delivering your final images, maintaining a strong relationship with your clients following their wedding could eventually lead to more sales in the future; Maternity sessions, family sessions, post-wedding sessions, album sales, canvas prints – these are all potential sales opportunities that stem from keeping in touch and sharing a bond with your clients.
Photographers must be aces in their chosen field from a technical standpoint. However, there are many other skills that photographers need to master. Hopefully, you found these tips helpful for knowing which effective communication skills photographers need to succeed. Remember to communicate clearly and build a rapport with your clients. Doing so will help you not only make your clients happy but also create better photographs. Manage your client’s expectations from the outset and charge what you’re worth in order to minimize disappointment. It’s the best way to keep your dream of working as a photographer alive.
You can see now, just how much communication is involved in this entire process, and how it is susceptible to variability depending on the client and their expectations. The goal is to understand their expectations, tailor them to your standards, and exceed them. To see more on how to effectively communicate with your clients to win their trust check out as a Premium member.