Your customers are important, so ensure that you look after them and watch what you say.
One of my clients told me about an experience they had with another photographer. They commissioned a shoot of their family and were due to meet at a local woodland spot. It was the first time they’d done anything like this, and they were a bit nervous. Their two children – six-year-old Harry and three-year-old Jade – provided the usual challenges on the morning of the shoot: “I don’t want to wear that!” and “I don’t want to go!” Still, mum and dad managed to bundle everyone into the car and get to the location on time, no mean feat in itself!
The photographer clearly had limited experience with children. He seemed unsure how to respond when Harry complained about feeling cold and when Jade preferred to kick up leaves rather than stand and pose for the camera. However, the parents felt it went well overall. Mum and dad’s anxiety was replaced by relief that there’d been no dramas and there was an anticipation to see the images.
Everyone started walking back to the car park when the photographer commented… “Bloody hell,” he said to the parents, “Your Jade’s a handful, isn’t she?!” Well guess what: this is the sentence they took away with them from their experience with that photographer.
Despite appearances, we’re not in the business of selling pictures, at least not when it comes to the families I photograph. I’m selling memories. When Harry and Jade’s parents got in the car after their woodland shoot, the first thing they asked each other was, “Did you hear what he said about Jade?” They dissected the comment and mentally replayed Jade’s behaviour during the session. They wondered whether the photographer managed to get anything good and felt anxious about seeing the images.
My clients’ memories are created through every interaction they have with our brand: on our website, through our pre-shoot email sequence, and at the final unveiling of their chosen product at our studio. But mostly, I create these memories during the shoot itself. I capture the memories in beautiful, aspirational images that show each family at their best: full of joy and love.
Be The Showman!
When my clients look at the pictures they do so through an emotional filter: they remember how they felt at the time when I took the shots. That’s why the client experience is so important. I know that my clients will arrive at my studio feeling at least a little frazzled – it’s my job to suck the heat out of the situation as quickly as possible. If they are running late, they will be even more stressed, and I have less time to fix the mood, then it’s even more important that I do it.
I meet my clients at the door with a big smile and a warm ‘hello’. From that very first moment, I am a showman in control of the shoot – I use my tone of voice and body language as well as my words to convey how excited I am to photograph them, and how confident I am that the images will be stunning. If the shoot is at our studio, we serve up drinks and cookies, and talk about the trigger for their booking; perhaps they’ve had a new arrival in the family; maybe the kids are starting school; perhaps the shoot was a gift from a loved one. Whatever it provides a useful conversation starter to find out what they’re hoping for from their shoot.
Your Are The Guide To Your Client’s Experience
When possible, I start family sessions in our beautiful garden before transitioning to indoor studio work.
We’re fortunate to have a Grade II listed garden as our outdoor shooting space, and walking through it often prompts a ‘wow’ from clients, distracting them from anxieties. As we start taking photos, I comment on how good my clients look, how amazing the images are, and how well the pictures will work on the client’s wall, or in an album. At the end of every shoot, we book in a date and time for the client to return to the studio to see their pictures. I show them the room where viewings take place and explain our process. I point out the different products we offer and talk them through prices. Then, I help them collect up any coats and bags and walk them to the studio door. I tell them how well the shoot went and how excited I am to look at their pictures. I wait at the door as they climb into their car – even if I’m late for something I have to do next – and stand there waving goodbye as the car departs. Throughout all this, I’m still smiling.
I hope that everything you do and every word you say leads to your clients having a joyful conversation when they drive away afterwards: “That was fun!” and “I can’t wait to see the pictures!” Those are the memories you want your client to experience when they return to look at the images you’ve created for them. A great client experience makes perfect business sense too.
This article was written for N-Photo Magazine, issue 105.
N-Photo is the only magazine devoted to Nikon photographers. Brimming with expert advice, product tests, tips and tricks, plus beautiful images to inspire your next session, you’ll be motivated to get creative with your photography and learn brand new skills with every issue of N-Photo magazine. Packed full of interviews and masterclasses with award-winning photographers, you will discover how to shoot great pictures, as well as enhance any imagery using Adobe Photoshop and other popular tools with helpful guides and step-by-step tutorials.
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