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Inspiration

The Importance of Making Your Clients Your Biggest Fans [My Personal Story]

By Jay Cassario on February 19th 2016

A TURNING POINT

On a brisk and cold New Year’s Day morning in 2012, while on a family vacation, my life was drastically changed forever. While I slept in bed with my wife, sharing a room with my parents who were just 10 feet away, I was awakened by the sound of my mother gasping for air. It was approximately 5 am, and we had no idea what was going on, but we knew immediately something wasn’t good.

Long story short, she passed away that morning. It was sudden and unexpected since she hadn’t been sick. It wasn’t anything we could have prepared ourselves for, but my mom (whom I had an amazingly close relationship with my whole life) was gone. The events that took place that morning was like something out of a horror movie; something that gave me nightmares for several years.

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I wear my father’s wedding band and have a tattoo in remembrance of my mom

While this is something extremely personal, and something I have put off writing about publicly until this point, I feel that it’s time to share my story. My mom was a wedding photographer my entire childhood growing up, and it wasn’t until 6 months after she passed that I shot my first wedding. She never got to see my wedding work, nor did she ever know that I would end up following in her footsteps. While I could talk about everything she has missed, I wanted to write this article to talk more about something she said to me while still alive that plays a big role in how I handle my wedding photography business to this day.

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My Mom and I at my wedding

MY BACKGROUND

I had never taken an interest in photography as a child because my mother always had a camera on her. In my late 20’s, as my career in the fitness industry led to me doing professional shoots as a model, I began to pick my mom’s brain on photography. As I hit the age of 30, and my fitness career burned me out pretty badly, I started to really fall in love with photography. It quickly became a passion that both my mom and I could share together. The last 2 years of my mother’s life, I had started to take an interest in landscape photography and quickly took over as the family photographer.

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[REWIND: The Greatest Lesson I’ve Ever learned]

A year before she passed away, I remember stopping over her house on a random Saturday afternoon. My old room had been converted into a spare bedroom, but it had been a while since I had actually went in there. Randomly, I opened the door and was completely shocked by what I saw. On the spare bed and on the dresser were stacks upon stacks of framed large prints of my photos. There were canvases mixed in, and a pile of smaller 8×10 prints that hadn’t been framed yet. It looked like an obsessed fan (or a print hoarder) had ransacked my old room. I immediately yelled out for my mom to come and tell me what all these prints were and why she had them. She already had my photos framed and hung around the house, but this confused me. As she walked up to me with a smile, like any proud mother would have, she simply said, “I’m your biggest fan.”

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Those four words would end up having more of an impact on me than either of us would have ever known, and they echo through my head still today. My biggest fan passed away a year later, and it’s because of her that I am living my dream today as a professional wedding photographer. It wasn’t until after her death that I’d even thought of shooting a wedding and six months later, I found myself doing exactly what she had been doing at my age.

It was the loss of my biggest fan that pushed me to push harder than I ever would have done had she still been alive. It was the loss of my biggest fan that molded the approach I take to photographing weddings, which has ultimately led to the success I have seen in less than four years.

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The Importance of Building Relationships With Your Clients

I often remember back to that day of walking in my old room and seeing all the framed prints that simply couldn’t be hung up because of there was no more wall space.

Yes, she was my Mom, but it was because the emotional connection she had with my photography that made her my biggest fan. This is the approach I take today with my wedding clients and plays the biggest role in my success. My goal today is to have each and every client become my biggest fans. I want to think that I would one day be over to their house and find the printed photos I captured for them all over, with a closet filled with even more that they had no more wall space for.

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It all starts with the relationship that I build with each and every client. When I meet with them, I explain and stress I want to get to know them. I explain that I’ll most likely be asking them questions about their relationships, their families, and even their pets. I want to know why there are tears on their wedding day, the emotions from which the tears are coming from, and who will most likely be emotional. I want to know as much as I can about them before the wedding day even comes, and the more I get to know them, the better I will be able to tell their story with my photography.

I do this by staying in touch with them, with phone calls, their engagement shoot, and sometimes even meeting for coffee before the wedding. The more emotional impact they have with each and every image I deliver to them, the more they become fans of my work. My past clients love following my work long after their wedding day, and I often stay in touch with them, usually photographing other major events in their lives as well.

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I wrote this to stress the importance of relationships, and how striving to make your clients your biggest fans will ultimately make you a better photographer, and you’ll see more success in your business. Today, my biggest fan is my wife, and since she’s a photographer as well, I’m her biggest fan, too. Our house is filled with canvases and framed prints of our work, and together we love seeing the excitement in the eyes of our clients when they see their wedding images for the first time. I’m sure you all have someone that you would consider your biggest fan, but I challenge you to take the time to build relationships with your clients, and make them your new biggest fans.Jay_Cassario_SLRLounge_7

This is the most personal article I’ve written, but I’m considering to do a couple more. If you would like to see me write more articles like this let me know in the comments. I would also love to hear your stories as well. Thanks for reading!

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1 year anniversary shoot

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1 year anniversary shoot

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1 year anniversary shoot

About

Jay Cassario is a fulltime photographer from South Jersey, owner of the multi-photographer wedding and portrait studio Twisted Oaks, and Brand Ambassador for Leica Camera USA.

WEBSITE: Jay Cassario
Personal Facebook: Jay Cassario
Business Facebook: Twisted Oaks Studio
Google Plus: Jay’s Google +
Twitter: @JayCassario

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Will Wohler

    I can completely relate. I lost my dad two and a half years ago suddenly and he was my biggest fan and supporter. Thank you for sharing that. I have all of the photos that he had, along with his 35mm camera from when he was younger and I treasure it now and have had a huge drive to continue my pursuit of a photography business. I know I have been putting up a wall when connecting to people and this was another sign I need to work on that. Thank you.

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  2. Emerson Bailey

    Thank you for sharing your amazing story!

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  3. Arthur Ehlert

    Very inspiring and beautifully written story! Glad to see you doing well and looking at the positive outcomes. Thanks for sharing.

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  4. Mark C

    Big respect for writing from the heart man. You’re a big guy with a big heart! Takes a lot of courage to write about something so personal as this, and you wrote really well. Your best yet for sure. Your pal, Mark

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  5. Ralph Hightower

    Thank you for sharing. I need to take more photos of my wife and I, and our pets. We had to put our oldest dog to sleep a few weeks ago because of cancer; I used that final photo as an obit to Sweetheart on Facebook.

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    • Jay Cassario

      Sorry to hear about your dog Ralph, I’m prob only weeks away from having to do the same thing. My dog doesn’t have much time left and I’m already fearing the emotions from losing him. Thanks for reading and commenting!

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  6. Tom Blair

    Great picture of your mom and you

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    • Tom Blair

      Also great article with alot of personal info.It takes alot to be a pro today

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  7. William Irwin

    Thank you for sharing something that is so personal. I am glad you took the time to emphasize the importance of personal relationships with the people you capture images for. This will lead to long lasting friendships and hopefully repeat clients as well. Even if they don’t come back at least you shared something with them.

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    • Jay Cassario

      Thanks for taking the time to read it William, and comment! I truly appreciate it!

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  8. Lauchlan Toal

    Thanks for sharing Jay. Sometimes you read something that makes you stop and really reflect on things, and this is one of those articles. Keep rocking the cameras.

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  9. Tanya Goodall Smith

    Made me cry. And think about what motivates me and how I could cultivate better relationships with my clients. I’m so glad to know you and hope we get to hang out again soon.

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  10. Justin Haugen

    FACE DON’T LEAK, FACE DON’T LEAK >_<

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    • Justin Haugen

      Thank you for sharing this story, it was very touching. I’m super close with my parents and the last couple years my dad has been second shooting weddings with me. I will always look at this time of my life very fondly for the time we’ve shared together and watching him grow as a photographer and all the love and support he pours into my business and future.

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  11. Max Bridge

    It’s great you shared your story Jay! I, and clearly many others, have been touched by what you have written. In terms of the advice you gave, I could not agree more. We are all emotional beings. Finding a way into your clients hearts will only improve your photography. It’s a tough skill but one you obviously have down. Thanks man!

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  12. Chad DiBlasio

    Excellent writing man. I knew when we met that we would be long-time friends b/c we share a common heart. I’m honored to know ya brother and to call you friend! Love to hear more of this always! :)

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  13. Marcel Cabrera Jr.

    I was extremely touched with your story and now even more motivated to finally rebrand, get my blog up after 6 years, and get back on track the correct way after a huge downfall of my business. I have a similar personal story (actually many stories) to release soon that I share with many of my clients. It’s been long overdue and haunting me for years, but it’s time. “Facts tell, Stories Sell.” If I had a consultation with you and you shared your story with me, I would hire you on the spot. To be able to share something so personal that gives you an ultimate passion and daily reminder of your reason of why you do what you do and are so good at it, is something that is completely priceless. I’m sure when you photograph couples with their parents (moms especially), you capture it with so much meaning, emotion, thought, and every other feeling/idea in between and put yourself in their shoes to freeze those moments in time to last forever. Such an amazing and heartfelt story and how you turned it all around for yourself. I’m sure your “biggest fan” is extremely proud of you watching over you as your guardian angel and is still framing many prints and canvases of you in her heavenly gallery! God bless you and your family and again thank you for sharing!

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    • Jay Cassario

      Thanks for taking the time to write this, means a lot to me. I was hoping that my story would motivate others to tell their own story and push them. Thank you for mentioning that she is watching over me, I truly do believe that. God bless you as well my friend!

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    • Marcel Cabrera Jr.

      no problem. I don’t get much time to write replies especially with my current situation (15 month identical twin boys, wide battling MS for 14 years, limited help, dramatically downsized my team in San Diego due to trust issues, and working as lead for LJP both photo and cinema, etc x 1,000…).. but when I see an article gem such as yours, I take the time out of the time I don’t have to comment because you have affected me so personally and give me hope. I have seen your past article before about taking the time in focusing on family portraits/candids at weddings and how it is so important to you and your work, and that instantly made me a fan of you and your work. Keep it up, keep sharing those stories, and keep being the superstar to all your biggest fans!

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    • Marcel Cabrera Jr.

      *WIFE* battling MS for 14 years

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  14. Joseph Cha

    Thanks Jay, reading this article makes me realize the impact photography can have on the people around us.

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  15. Jack Arent

    I have heard and understood the message of this story a handful of times since December from reading stories like this and attending live workshops and lectures (last night as of most recent). Authentic connection with your subject is so important, and at the same time difficult to make a priority when you are dealing with personal struggles, it’s all about getting those two feeling in the right order. Thanks for reinforcing your message of being authentic and present with your clients, it’s helped me so much to relax and enjoy my work even more than before.

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  16. Nik Morina

    Wow, what a beautiful story. I have to say it was truthfully inspiring to read this story and relate to what we go through to get to that point in life where we want. You have now inspired me to be better at what I do and even share my personal story someday. So awesome to know there is an incredible person and photographer near by.

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    • Jay Cassario

      Thank you Nik! Glad to hear it inspired you, I was hoping it would!

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    • Nik Morina

      Yes brother it did. See I have been in US the past 6 years. Being that I am from Kosova, as a teenager in the year 1999-2000 I had experienced the war, being kicked out of our own homes and had to migrate to a near by country. In the year 2007 just a month after my dad told me that I had won the right to American citizenship in a lottery he passed away. It was his love of photography that got me into the business. For more than a year I didn’t want to come and live in US, didn’t want to leave my mother all alone. It was her that pushed me to try and persuade my carrier as a photographer in the States, and I did so. Came here late 2009, everything was slowly working out until 2013 when I got the news that my mother has cancer and only few months to live. It was summer day when I took my flight to go see her one last time! It was just hours before I arrived that she had gone to the other side. Coming back to US from that was the emotionally the hardest jurney. A journey that only photography made it easier. Being fans of the couples you photograph is just the best thing a photographer can do to shift his focus, colors, contrast to best tell their story.

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  17. Andy & Amii Kauth

    This is beautifully written, bro. A great tribute to your mother and a great means of educating the communicating. Thank you for being vulnerable. Love all the images as well. We had tears. Thanks for sharing your life with all of us!

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    • Jay Cassario

      Thank you both! I appreciate you taking the time to read it and get to understand my story a little better. Everything in that article helps explain why I do this, why I push so hard, and also take the time to get to know everyone I meet along the way. Glad to hear it wasnt just me with tears, since I had them not only while writing, but reading it over again :)

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  18. Shivani Reddy

    So brilliantly beautiful, thanks for sharing your story!

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  19. Pye Jirsa

    What an incredible story bro, so proud to have you as a friend and on our team. I loved everything you had to say in this article and couldn’t agree more. Thanks for being vulnerable and giving us a little glimpse into your story and background. It’s incredibly inspiring learning what makes each of us tick, and now I feel like I know what makes you tick just a little bit more than I did before.

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    • Jay Cassario

      Thank you Pye, you know how much I appreciate all of that, means a lot brother! I’m really glad I finally decided to write about it, I still wasn’t sure it was time. I felt the message had power to it and could help other photographers understand the importance of relationships, so I went for it :)

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