Happy Customers – Going Pro as a Photographer

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LauraThis guest post has been submitted by Professional Photographer Laura Novak (pictured). I asked Laura to share some thoughts on the process of ‘Going Pro’ as a Photographer. You can read more about her in a short bio at the base of this article.

In the process of starting your journey as a professional photographer, there are a variety of different aspects to the business that could feel a bit confusing or overwhelming. There is so much to know, so much to think about and to make decisions on and the last thing you would ever want is to have an unhappy customer.

Happy customers are the key to your business because they are the least expensive channel of advertising in the form of word-of-mouth (and the most credible!). They are evangelists for what you do, love your work and are thrilled with their experience. They are so thrilled that they just HAVE to tell everyone they know about your photography and why you should be hired for their next photography need.

So what makes a happy customer?

In the few and rare instances that we have had people less than thrilled at our studio, I found that it was a misalignment of expectations that created the communication breakdown. If you can learn what someone expects from you and then not only meet but exceed those expectations, you will have a happy customer. In the initial meeting with a client, it’s important to understand where they are coming from, their point of reference for photography (i.e. I want an album just like my mother’s album OR I don’t want anything like my friend had), and what they would like to have at the end of the day. And I’m not just speaking about products or specific shots, but also philosophically and emotionally – since many of us are involved with our clients during a fairly emotional time in their lives.

A happy customer trusts you. He or she knows that you are going to do a good job and if you suggest something it’s because you have their best interests in mind. This trust also gives you a bit of a ‘buffer’ that if something does go wrong like your lab is late with their prints, they are already so happy with what you have done that they forgive a small error in leu of the overall pleasant experience they have had dealing with you and your company.

A happy customer is overwhelmed with your desire to go above and beyond. What this does NOT mean is providing free overtime, discounting products you can’t afford to discount, or over-promising things you can’t deliver. Giving customers too much control actually is counterproductive to their ability to trust you. What going above and beyond does mean is providing them with a complimentary gift for referring you, sending them a birthday or anniversary card, or calling just to make sure everything is exactly what they wanted upon receiving an expensive product.

When someone hires you, there is a great opportunity for that person to be your next best source of business. It’s up to you to create it by focusing your business on retaining and maintaining happy customers.

Laura has written a helpful followup to this post over at her blog – Managing Unhappy Customers

Laura Novak is a a wedding and portrait photographer located in Wilmington, Delaware. Her work can be found in numerous publications such as People Magazine, Martha Stewart Weddings, Elegant Bride, Rangefinder Magazine, Professional Photographer Magazine, The Knot and Modern Bride. In 2007 Laura was chosen as one of two photographers nation-wide as Kodak’s ‘Upcoming Photographers to Watch.’ In addition to the photography studio, Laura also created Strategy Avenue with her finance John, a company dedicated to helping photographers become better businesspeople through products, workshops, and a free business blog for photographers.

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Darren Rowse is the editor and founder of Digital Photography School and SnapnDeals. He lives in Melbourne Australia and is also the editor of the ProBlogger Blog Tips. Follow him on Instagram, on Twitter at @digitalPS or on Google+.

  • Kimberly Lee

    I have been taking pictures since I could hold a camera. I find it relaxing to look through the lens & see the world & all God’s creation in it. I am the photographer for my church & am getting ready to shoot my first “official” wedding. I am very excited & looking forward to serving others by giving them something to cherish for a lifetime. I just did a “fun” shoot w/ the wedding couple & we had a great time & we made it fun. The majority of the photos were amamzing. It also helps to have a very photogenic couple. I have enjoyed & value the suggestions you have provide for newbees like myself. Thank you for sharing. I will benefit from the nuggets of great information you have already learned. Sincerely, Kim Lee

  • ‘trust’ between the photographer and the customers is a settling word for both the parties and much for the photographer. i am photographing since last many yrs. but relied on this word, which the old or new customers don’t forget and recommend u to others also. this is the inspiration of growing business.

  • For me, being personable, having fun with the clients, and always going beyond expectations has always been paramount. Thanks for the guest appearance Laura. And thanks for hosting the conversation Darren.

  • Also be careful when making decisions. Don’t try all the time to go the “extra mile” I did event photography for Microsoft, and I passed out cards so they could check out their pictures on a site I told them i’d be hosting it on (because they kept asking where the pictures were gonna be) I didn’t do it obviously because of contract agreements, but it raised alot of trouble in the Microsoft office and Messes had to be cleaned and corrected, and they told me, that they’d never hire me to shoot for them ever again. That’s a huge client to lose, but s**t happens, and even professionals are restless sometimes.

  • Hi! Excellent as always. Thank you very much.
    I just spotted a typo – it’s in the very last sentence of this post. You have “with her finance John” and I guess it should be fiance 🙂
    Cheers!

Some Older Comments

  • Marcin Petruszka February 1, 2009 07:20 am

    Hi! Excellent as always. Thank you very much.
    I just spotted a typo - it's in the very last sentence of this post. You have "with her finance John" and I guess it should be fiance :)
    Cheers!

  • Eric July 29, 2007 01:46 am

    Also be careful when making decisions. Don't try all the time to go the "extra mile" I did event photography for Microsoft, and I passed out cards so they could check out their pictures on a site I told them i'd be hosting it on (because they kept asking where the pictures were gonna be) I didn't do it obviously because of contract agreements, but it raised alot of trouble in the Microsoft office and Messes had to be cleaned and corrected, and they told me, that they'd never hire me to shoot for them ever again. That's a huge client to lose, but s**t happens, and even professionals are restless sometimes.

  • Tim Solley July 28, 2007 09:13 am

    For me, being personable, having fun with the clients, and always going beyond expectations has always been paramount. Thanks for the guest appearance Laura. And thanks for hosting the conversation Darren.

  • shroticg July 28, 2007 12:50 am

    'trust' between the photographer and the customers is a settling word for both the parties and much for the photographer. i am photographing since last many yrs. but relied on this word, which the old or new customers don't forget and recommend u to others also. this is the inspiration of growing business.

  • Kimberly Lee July 27, 2007 01:50 am

    I have been taking pictures since I could hold a camera. I find it relaxing to look through the lens & see the world & all God's creation in it. I am the photographer for my church & am getting ready to shoot my first "official" wedding. I am very excited & looking forward to serving others by giving them something to cherish for a lifetime. I just did a "fun" shoot w/ the wedding couple & we had a great time & we made it fun. The majority of the photos were amamzing. It also helps to have a very photogenic couple. I have enjoyed & value the suggestions you have provide for newbees like myself. Thank you for sharing. I will benefit from the nuggets of great information you have already learned. Sincerely, Kim Lee

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