Turning Pro Part II: People Skills and Generosity

Turning Pro Part II: People Skills and Generosity

A few weeks ago I wrote 15 Tips About Turning Pro.  I thought it would be a good time to expand on some of those tips and add a few more. Today’s article is the second in that series. Hope you find these new suggestions useful. If you missed part I titled Portfolio and Persistence,  you can read it here.

Part 2: People Skills and Generosity.

What do all successful professional photographers have in common? Great people skills and a generous spirit!

Of course, technical and business skills as well as a good dose of talent are also critical to your success, but when you get hired for a job, the client hires your skills and your personality. It’s a package deal! While this is especially true with wedding and portrait photography, it is also true in commercial work, which is mostly what I do.

I shoot interiors and food, and I can’t even tell you how many times clients have said to me: “Wow, it’s so much fun working with you!  Other photographers were good, but unapproachable and inflexible.” Your clients’ promotion is your best form of advertising, so take good care of them.

Sure, there are difficult customers and challenging situations making us sometimes want to quit. Well, guess what, my friends, that’s the case in every field.  As hard as it might be, stay with that client until they are 100% satisfied with your service, even if you need to offer a partial reshoot at no extra cost.

Your job is to deliver images that have the “wow” factor, no matter the subject or the situation.  Patience, graciousness, and professionalism are the necessary “soft” skills you’ll need to help you grow, succeed and build a good reputation. And if your work is amazing, but you’re the difficult one to work with, consider having an agent to represent you for the people-side of the job.

Great people skills are important when working with clients as well as in building a good network within the photography community. This business is all about sharing and networking. For example, I don’t shoot weddings, but when I get a request to do one, I refer that client to another photographer.

So many photographers are afraid to network because they are either shy or don’t want to share their ‘secrets’.  Networking and sharing is how you find the work and grow your business.  Hey, if you’re good, you’ll get the work. Don’t worry – there’s plenty of work for everyone. So when you’re not able to take an assignment for whatever reason, refer that client with someone else.  I guarantee that such generosity will circle back to you in the long run. If you refer a fellow photographer to your client to help them out, I can assure you that the photographer will reciprocate when the occasion arises. Be generous!

Conclusion: The more clients you have, the more you will improve your people skills. Your clients are critical to you becoming a successful professional.  Their referrals are the best form of advertising you can get.  I know – it’s cliché, but it’s true!  And be generous within the community, especially the newcomers!  Networking means referrals and everyone benefits.

Part 3 titled ‘Passion and Vision’ is coming soon!

Want more tips on Going Pro as a Photographer? Check out the dPS eBook kit – Going Pro: How to Make Money Through Your Photography.

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Valerie Jardin I live and breathe in pixels! Photography is more than a passion, it's an obsession, almost an addiction. When I'm not shooting or writing, I spend my time teaching this beautiful craft during photo workshops all over the world! I am also thrilled to be an official X Photographer for Fujifilm USA. Visit my Website Follow me on Facebook , Twitter , Instagram. And listen to my Podcast!

Some Older Comments

  • Lara White May 31, 2012 12:07 pm

    Networking has been essential to our career. We tried so many different types of advertising in the past, but nothing got results like networking, which is pretty much the foundation of our business. Here's a video where I share how much a single networking event (my first one!) has impacted my career:


    That first networking event led to all kinds of opportunities down the road.

  • EnergizedAV May 29, 2012 10:36 pm

    A rule I've lived by for thirty years: Everybody makes mistakes, it is how we handle the mistake that reveals our character. My clients have always trusted me and worked with me because I will admit a mistake and make it right ... regardless of my cost. Great points Valerie. Thanks

  • Regan May 29, 2012 07:48 am

    I came across this blog and it has a sampling of the thinking I've heard about. Your potential clients are constantly hearing how they can have their work done cheaper. The only way to get around that negativity is with excellent communication skills.


  • raghavendra May 28, 2012 12:17 pm

    Instead of naming as people skills and generosity,
    the apt name will be "all about clients"


  • Ralph Hightower May 28, 2012 08:29 am

    I am not thinking about turning pro right now. Should I ditch computer programming and go into photography? No. I still enjoy programming computers, but my interest in photography was reignited July 8, 2011.

    But I recommend joining Toastmasters International for anyone that has to deal with other people, whether it is with the public or companies commissioning a photo shoot.

    I am an introvert, specifically, on the Meyers-Briggs scale, an INTP. Toastmasters helped me open up. I served as an area governor and as a division governor within the Toastmasters district.

  • Doug Sundseth May 28, 2012 07:23 am

    They're hiring you because you can do something they can't, make sure you do it cheerfully, even when it's hard. If you get a reputation for meeting your customers' deadlines and special requests without complaint and every time, you'll become the go-to photographer not just for the hard stuff, but for the easy stuff, too.

    Just make sure you don't over-promise. And if something unexpected comes up that will impact your ability to meet your promises, make sure the customer knows as soon as possible.

  • Steve May 28, 2012 06:32 am

    I remember a colleague when I worked in an office used to say "I am always nice to everyone - they might be my boss one day". That turned out to be very true and applies to photographers. Be nice to everyone as they might want to buy a photo or commission you one day.

    Got the commission for this one as a result of being nice to someone;