The importance of educating clients

 In Photography Tips

In the over two years I’ve been shooting corporate and public events, I’ve learned a thing or two about interacting with clients. And in today’s world of social media, educating and interacting with clients is more important than ever.

You may have heard about the “wedding photographer from hell” on various photography blogs this week. I’m not going to go into detail, but basically, the clients hired an unexperienced photographer on the cheap, who in turn didn’t have any communication with them until the day prior to the wedding. No sit-down conversation about what was expected, no shot list — nothing. What’s more, the photographer turned out to be unprofessional, delivering more selfies than usable photos of the bride and groom. You can read more about it on the Daily Mail website.

So this brings about the question: as a photographer, what’s expected of you in terms of interacting and educating your clientele? And in turn, what is the client supposed to tell you (and thus, what should you ask for)?

Photos by Bryan Esler for stellafly

Get to know your client, and their guests.

Research

Before you’re even hired for a gig, make sure you research the client and the event. Chances are the client has had event coverage in the past from other photographers. Is there a common theme in these photos? Is there something you think can be improved upon?

If the specific event is new, look at events that sound similar.

And even if you can’t find photography of anything close to what you’ll be shooting, you should research the client. Know their mission as an organization, know their key stakeholders…know what to expect.

This also helps when preparing an estimate and expectations for the gig as well.

Talk to the client in advance

No matter what you’re shooting, talk to the client, because research can only get you so far. Maybe they have a new marketing person this year, who’s looking for something completely different than last year.

Some clients will have a detailed shot list. Some won’t. Regardless, discuss the “key shots” to the day so you know what to look out for. Doing so will not only prepare you for how to organize, but it’ll also tell you if there is any gear you need to rent, whether you’ll be able to use a flash or not, or any other gig-by-gig specifics. Take notes on everything!

Give them examples of similar events you’ve photographed, especially if they aren’t familiar with your work already. And give ideas of any shots that haven’t been discussed so far, or that aren’t on the shot list.

Finally, be sure that the client understands what you’re talking about. When I was first getting started with event photography, I was thrown into an event situation last-minute, not being able to do much research or talk to the client prior to arriving at the event. So I had a brief five minute session with the client, discussing wants and needs for the evening. She made an emphasis that she wanted “candid” photos.

Now, candid photos to photographers mean one thing. Basically approach the event like a fly on the wall, not making people pose or not forcing yourself to walk up to their tables to group people together. Essentially, no posing.

But to the client, it meant something totally different. She wanted to see smiles no matter what it took. And that misunderstanding led me to lose a client.

So talk about what candid means. Talk about what equipment you’ll be using. Over-educate the client in a way that they feel overly comfortable with you managing photography for the event.

Staying Up Late

Despite the two minute limit on shooting, renting a 300mm lens was totally worth it!

Prep your gear ahead of time

As a part of the conversation with your client, you should talk about what you’ll be shooting with. It’ll tell you if there is any gear that you might need to rent, whether you’ll be able to use a flash or not, or any other specifics.

I shot an event last March for a local non-profit that I was super excited for. But I was unprepared with what I had to shoot with. My longest focal length was 200mm, and that wasn’t enough to reach the stage.

Luckily, I had a second shooter, who was shooting with a crop sensor body, so we were able to capture what was necessary. But had I been prepared for where I’d be staged throughout the show, I would’ve been able to capture what I wanted to, much easier.

I was lucky enough to be asked to shoot the event last year, and as the sole photographer, I knew I had to rent a longer lens. I immediately started scoping out 300mm lenses that I could rent for the weekend. And I must say, I was very pleased with the results.

Arrive early and be prepared

I always try to arrive 15 minutes early to anything I shoot. It lets me get a feel for the environment, which is especially important if I haven’t photographed in the venue before. It allows me to set a baseline ISO and white balance, and take a few practice shots.

It also allows me to review a schedule and any last-minute requests or changes that may come from the client. Additionally, it may allow me to interact with the client’s co-workers, who may have a shot or two that they desire, that wasn’t originally on my list.

Finally, it also enables me to set up key shots for the evening. If there’s a stage presentation, I can try out various different angles of the room. If I’m forced to stay in the back of the room, I can prep my settings so I can quickly be ready.

Check-in throughout

This should go without saying, but you should check-in with the client at least midway through the gig, especially if it’s an event where the client won’t be watching your every move. Make sure that you aren’t forgetting something, but more importantly that they aren’t forgetting something either.

Be the last one to leave

Other than the staff, you should be the last person to leave the event. On your way out, be sure to thank the client, and ask if they have any questions or any other needs while you’re there.

Most importantly, explain turnaround time expectations, even if they had been discussed previously. They may have a need to have one or two photos in a few hours for press releases that they weren’t aware of at the beginning of the event. They may ask for the photos to be delivered in a different manner than the one that you typically use.

I always end an event by saying “let me know if you need anything else.” This opens the dialog for more conversation in the future, allowing me to potentially shoot for the client again.

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A lot of these seem simple and straightforward. But you don’t want to be that next photographer on the news! By handling each client in a consistent manner, it means that you’ll be known for not only your photographs, but also your reliable service.

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