Your Photography Doesn’t Matter!
Okay, you caught me. This is an exaggeration intended to pique your interest (which apparently did the trick!). Your photography does matter; of course it matters. Just as a mechanic must perform effective car repairs or a sub shop must make tasty sandwiches, professional photographers must produce great imagery. After all, the photographic image is our product… or is it? Having successfully made the jump from a hobbyist to a professional wedding and portrait photographer, I am approached by aspiring professional photographers for advice. Usually this advice is image-based: What aperture should I use for this shot? How should I pose large families? Should I be using a full-frame body? But I think they’re asking the wrong questions.
Service Trumps All
Competing in your market on the basis of imagery is a herculean task. As most of us would agree, the market is flooded with photographers vying for market share. But what the market is not flooded with is high quality service providers in the photographic industry. Let me explain. Right now, I want you to think of three working photographers in your town. That didn’t take long, did it? Now, I want you to think of three ways in which each of these photographers are different from the other two. That’s a little more challenging, isn’t it? Differentiation is difficult, but it’s virtually impossible if you’re relying solely on your photography to do it. Differentiation based on service however, is a lot easier to attain. In the initial years of my business, when my images were average at best, I still found quick success as a result of my service standards. And I believe that you can as well.
How to Stand Out through Service
There are already countless articles and studies on the importance of service and how to do a better job providing it. So rather than rehashing all the obvious cornerstones of service, I’m going to list out five specific ways I have personally found to differentiate (and grow) my photography business through better service alone. I have tried be generic enough so that they are easily adaptable for your own business.
- Under-Promise and Over-Deliver
Will it take you a week to edit and deliver images? Tell your client two weeks. Will your session yield 25 images? Tell the client they’ll receive 20. You get the idea. You never want your client to be in a position to be disappointed. Instead, position them to be pleasantly surprised at every turn as they interact with your business, which leads us to our 2nd item.
- Surprise Your Clients
I am always looking for opportunities to serve my clients in clever ways that they aren’t expecting. Case in point, I recently did a family session in brutally hot conditions (i.e. 98 degrees / 100% humidity--I wouldn’t recommend this). Midway through the session, I pulled a cooler out of my car, stocked with ice cold drinks. Their eyes lit up. They were truly surprised that I had thought of this, and it made an enormous impact on their overall experience.
- Communicate, communicate, communicate!
This applies before, during, and after your session. Once you have a session on the books, don’t write off the client until the day of the session. Reach out to them in the days leading up to the session. Let them know you’re excited. Confirm the location. Ask if they have any questions. During the session, reaffirm them. Tell them you love their outfit choices. Explain what you are doing (fiddling with buttons and dials without communication leads to them feeling confused and abandoned). After the session, thank them for trusting you. Ask if you provided 5-star service. If so, request a review. You get the idea. Communication builds relationships, relationships build loyalty.
- Remember the Milestones
Regardless of what type of photography you do, you are likely a participant of a milestone in your clients’ lives (engagement, wedding, new baby, first birthday). It may be just another session to you, but to the client, it is an important event. Remember it. Did you provide newborn photography? Send a first birthday card. Did you photograph a wedding? Congratulate them at their first anniversary. This activity will help convert clients into lifelong patrons.
- Remember Who You Work for
One of the best aspects of being a working professional photographer is the ability to work for yourself, right? Wrong. You work for whoever pays you. And as photographers, we work for our clients. You wouldn’t dismiss a request from your boss, and you certainly wouldn’t put the needs and expectations of your boss on the back burner. The same should be true of your clients. Each day, all day. Work to meet and exceed your clients’ expectations. You may just be the only one in your market doing it.
Service matters. Good service helps grow your business. Great service positions you to lead the market. Outstanding service can launch you to new heights that your photos alone, simply put, could never take you.
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