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

  1. Clear Communication
  2. Relationship Building
  3. Managing Expectations
  4. Setting Boundaries

1. Clear Communication

Soft skills photographers need for success in the client meeting 01

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.

2. Relationship Building

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.

soft skills photographers need to succeed building relationships

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.

3. Managing Expectations

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.

effective communication skills photographers need to succeed managing expecations

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.

4. Setting Boundaries

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.

effective communication skills photographers need to succeed setting boundaries

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.

Conclusion

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.