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One of the most important parts in the success of a photography business is knowing how to meet a client’s demands. Pretty obvious so far, but what happens when the client doesn’t know what he wants? Or if what if they have a lot of dilemmas that even you haven’t thought of? The first thing that matters in situations such like these is to remain calm. Being confident and projecting it will help you earn the trust of a potential client. Having a moment or two of hesitation might not be an absolute deal breaker, especially if you have already shown your portfolio, but given the amount of competition in the industry, you’d probably be better off having the right answers on time. Here are a few of the most common questions clients ask before acquiring the services of a photographer. It is a general selection, so you might deal with these questions in the wedding industry, portrait photography, commercial, etc.
Don’t think of the answers as standard lines to say and don’t memorize them, because that’s not the way it works. They’re intended to show you the right approach and the correct mindset when dealing with an undecided or a more difficult client that you have an interest in working with.
1. How soon will the photos be ready?
Whatever you do, don’t lie. That’s the first thing that needs to pop up in your head when you hear this question. Ideally, after having discussed the project or whatever the subject of the photos will be, you should make a realistic estimation in the comfort of your own mind before being asked. By realistic, I mean how long everything will take, from downloading the photos to selecting and editing ,then uploading them on the client’s server or presenting them on other means of storage.
So, when you hear it, don’t say directly “two weeks”. It might sound like longer than what your client might be ready to wait. Instead, walk them through the entire process, and emphasize on the selection and editing process because those are the most time consuming. Explain that editing and retouching are equally creative steps in the production of a good photograph or a good album, and that unlike clicking the shutter, it takes longer to work on a photo in post processing. Most clients should have an idea about this, but that again you could run into someone who thinks everything works much like Instagram. So the right way to do it is by going through all the steps with an estimated time of completion for each. Some clients will try to bargain on the time of delivery and it’s often wise to come to an agreement and meet half way. Remember what I said about your competition.
2. What camera do you use?
Yes, I know, annoying. The answer that probably comes to mind when hearing this, along with the desire for a direct, sarcastic way to present it, is that the camera you will be using is exactly the right camera for the job and that it’s not the gear they’re paying for, but the photographer. Before you say it though, make sure you find a more subtle, diplomatic approach. Reassure your client that you will not be missing any of the tools that might be required for the job (and for your own good, make sure that’s true), without dropping brand names and figures. If, on the other hand your client insists on hearing what gear you use, be prepared to bring everything you mention. If your camera is an older model and you think it might not look good at the shoot, consider renting a DSLR for that particular date. It helps to have some local knowledge about lens and camera rentals so don’t go into a meeting before doing your homework.
3. Can you make me look younger/thinner/better?
If you’re into that kind of thing and enjoy spending days in a row on a couple of photos, go ahead and say yes. If you’re like the rest of us kindly reply that you will do everything in your power to make them look as good as possible.
4. Will I be getting the RAW files?
Again, this has to do with how you normally run your business. Personally, I’m not in favor of giving the unedited files. It’s like delivering a well-tailored suit along with the material samples. But if you do usually give them, or if it’s a matter of winning the client or not, make sure that under no circumstances will you have to give the RAW files before you deliver the final, edited photos. That would be like giving them the steak half cooked.
5. How long have you been a photographer?
You’d be surprised how many photography buyers ask this question. It might not even be that relevant. I’ve met photographers who turned into industry rock stars six months after first picking up a camera and others who are struggling twenty years later. It’s all relative, but clients want to know they’re dealing with someone experienced. Again, I’m not advising anyone to lie, but if you’ve been doing it for less than a year and haven’t become a rock star, you might be in a little trouble, especially if the client is out of your league. Either way, try to focus their attention on your achievements, on the good work you did for other clients in the past, on how fast you can deliver or whatever attractive things you can bring to the table. Don’t say you’re a rookie, a student or an advanced amateur, but don’t go bragging about your ten years of hardcore photography business. Be balanced in all your answers. Don’t come off as insecure, but surely you shouldn’t be arrogant either. Think class. You are both an artist and a business man, certainly not a used car salesmen from a small country town. Also, keep in mind that nobody was born with the skill or the confidence and that honesty is crucial in this line of work. You won’t get very far by lying to your clients that you can to something you know for a fact you haven’t got the skills for.
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