Building A Client Relationship

Value of A Client – Professional Photographer Relationship

The month after I purchased my very first camera, a 35 mm canon rebel, a friend of mine asked me to photograph her wedding and I jumped at the chance. “Of course”, I thought, “wedding photography sounds like a lot of fun.” I had no idea what I was doing, I shot the whole thing with a stock lens in full auto mode in full sun and to this day, the pictures I got are some of my favorites. Granted, if I could shoot the wedding over again given all the things I have learned and all the equipment I have acquired over the last six years, I think I may be able to make some improvements.

Aside from the bad light, under exposure, and lack of editing, I love them and I am happy with what I got. She was my friend, and hanging out with her on her wedding day was fun and relaxed and she was comfortable enough around me to be herself, so that is what I photographed. Now, six years later, I am booking clients and spending a good chunk of their wedding day with them and although we met in most cases merely months before and only once or twice, I still feel like I am hanging out with good friends, and I strive to help them feel the same way so that their pictures will reflect their most confident selves.

The value of Ice cream in a Client-Photographer Relationship

It all starts with ice cream. I always try and meet with the new bride or set up a phone meeting, if getting together isn’t possible. There is a small cafe which is fairly central to my home and the rest of the valley where I live that I like to meet at. It is clean, it is relaxed, and they have gelato. When the bride walks in, the first thing we talk about is how she met her fiance. I try to ask open ended questions that will allow her to open up and let me see who she is and what she is looking for. It always amazes me how much people will give of themselves when given the opportunity. At some point during the meeting we will briefly discuss commission rates, dates and details of the wedding, but I try to keep that short. In most cases, I have already emailed most of that information to them anyway. And then there is the gelato. In my experience, eating gelato always solidifies a friendship. I keep the meeting short, and most of the time, before parting, we have booked an engagement session.

Have the Client Open Up

I like to start an engagement shoot by asking the couple to tell me what it was that first attracted them to each other. No matter what the answer is, it helps to start them opening up a bit, and although they may be nervous, when they talk about what they love about the other person, number one it automatically brings out those qualities, and number two, it reminds them why they are getting married in the first place. I also go into a shoot knowing that no matter what, the first few poses are just a jumping off point to get them warmed up, so I will always tell jokes, do ridiculous dances and sing off key, if I have to, to help them to relax. I try not to worry as much about the picture as I do about gauging their reactions and seeing how they interact. I also shower them with sincere compliments. It may be her eyes that are really standout, or it may be what a gorgeous couple they are, whatever stands out to you. This goes a long way to help a person feel good about themselves in front of a camera. If I caught a particularly knock out shot of her eyes, his smile, a laugh, I show it to them. I want them to see how beautiful they can look together. I want them leaving the session thinking two things:

  • First, that they cannot wait to marry their fiance and
  • Second, that they are so glad they have chosen me to photograph their wedding and engagement.

Shooting a wedding at times can be extremely overwhelming There are so many people to deal with and so many little tiny details to remember, but when I have put in the time and effort to create a trusting and friendly relationship with my clients, it feels more like fun then work, no matter what other problems may arise.

10 COMMENTS

  1. Carrie you are awesome!!! I wish I could have known you when I got married 10 years ago!!! I would have hired you in a heart beat!!

  2. Wow an amazing article, not only about weddig photography but also about making friends and bing such a nice person.

  3. Thanks for all the wonderful advice. I am shooting a wedding in a few weeks in an effort to build my wedding portfolio. I am so happy I have found this info. Hoping to go into it with a lot more confindence. Wish me luck!

  4. Thank you so much for all your advice. I love it. I am also a beginning photographer. I have been doing mostly baby shots and senior pictures right now just to get started. How do you recommend building a relationship with a HS senior you’ve never met so to make their session the least awkward????

  5. I try and spend a few minutes before the first shot is even taken, talking to the person, trying to get a feel for who they are. I ask open ended questions about anything at all to help them warm up to me, I try and show genuine interest in their answers. I make sure I pay attention, I make sure they feel like I am listening to what they have to say. Then I try and make sure that I let them know the things that we will be doing during the shoot, I give them a timeline and lay out how I will go through the shoot. I give them permission to laugh, act goofy, dig deep into their bag of modeling tricks, etc. Since I am still about as mature as say your average 17 year old, they seem to warm up to the shoot pretty quickly!

  6. Hello,

    I’m a beginner photographer. I served 10 years in the military as a store operator.I am very confident in my people skills and listening. I am still trying to find my own groove/special style. any suggestions? I have always found weddings to be beautiful without a camera, but have a strong interest in this field of photography. Never done any photo work let alone own and operate a DSLR.

  7. I’ll be honest, I’m not a photographer but this is still good advice for building any sort of client relationship. I’ve been trying to learn about this topic for a little while and this post has good advice. I’m in the sort of business that needs these kinds of skills so hopefully I can put it all to good use. Thanks for posting!

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