First impressions are important in any business. In a business where your job is to make your clients look good, they become critical. As a photographer, you can expect to be under close scrutiny from the first meeting with a potential client to the time you deliver the final package. With everyone in proximity watching, your image is every bit as important as your images. (See what I did there?) Here are a few tips for polishing up your image to help you close deals and attract new business.
1) Keep a positive attitude. You may have been expecting appearances to be the first thing on this list. How you look is certainly important and we'll touch on that in these tips. Your demeanor is even more important, though, because attitude is contagious. You need to prepare for every meeting, shoot, proofing session and phone call with a conscious commitment to being a pleasant person to deal with. Your contacts will follow suit.
2) Look the part. Speaking of suits, most clients aren't going to expect you to wear one until you're actually shooting in a formal environment. That doesn't mean you shouldn't be well-dressed and well-groomed. Opt for the button up shirt rather than the t-shirt and casual slacks rather than jeans when you meet with clients. When you're shooting, wear the appropriate attire for the venue.
Don't forget that your straps and bags are also part of your attire. Upgrade to gear that completes the professional appearance. I highly recommend taking a look at the great collections from HoldFast. With materials that range from Water Buffalo and American Bison to 100% eco-friendly, and innovative systems created by a pro photographer for pro photographers, you'll look great and work with increased ease and efficiency.
3) Sharpen up your advertising. Joe the Plumber can probably get by with a cheesy business card and a “Yellow Pages” website. People will expect more from a professional in a creative field. Clean, well-balanced design and color coordination in your business cards, website, online and printed portfolio and even the letterhead you use for your bids, contracts and invoicing will give the impression that your work also has these qualities. Don't skimp in these areas.
4) Have an office. Most independent photographers do the majority of their work at home and that's fine. No matter where you work, however, you need a space to conduct business with your clients and it needs to be dedicated to just that. It should be comfortable, clean and well-lighted. Make sure you can seat a few guests comfortably at an area where you can lay out photos, albums, etc. as well as sign the legal stuff.
5) Know your equipment like it's part of you. Whether you're in the studio or covering an event, struggling with equipment is one of the first things a prospect or client will notice. You should be intimately familiar with the operation of everything from your cameras and lenses to your fax machine. Awkward pauses are not conducive to a pleasant working experience.
6) Learn this phrase: “Semper Paratus.” In case you're not up to speed on Latin, that's the motto of a few organizations, including the US Coast Guard and it means, “Always Prepared.” What it should mean to you as a professional photographer is that potential clients and subjects are everywhere. No matter where you are, maintaining that professional appearance and having your equipment ready is just good business sense.
Our friends at HoldFast can help out with that, too. Take a look at the Roamographer Collection for a rugged, but handsome way to carry plenty of gear and look good doing it, even when you're in the back country. Ditching the suit and tie for hiking boots doesn't have to mean you can't stand out as a professional. This smart, hard-working carrying system is the ultimate in classic everyday working gear, combining vintage good looks and rich American Bison leather with great accessibility and convenience.
It's not lacking in innovations, either; the shearling- padded shoulder strap on Roamographer bags features a unique slider that safely holds a camera at the ready, for quick, easy, one-handed access to it when the shot comes up. Watch the short video below to see its elegant simplicity.
Although far from a complete list, these steps will help get you on the right track to building a professional image that attracts and retains customers for your photography business. Happy shooting!