What do your clients expect from you? Have you ever taken the time to sit and really think about what it may be? If not, how do you know you’re living up to their expectations, let alone meeting their needs?
I’m not often in front of the camera. Whether personal or professional, I’m always the one clicking the shutter and I admit that until recently, I had not focused a lot of time on the question of client expectations.
We’ve all heard that managing client expectations in regard to scheduling, session payment, product ordering, etc is vital in providing a smooth and effortless experience for our clients. Those are surface expectations. What are the deeper expectations of their heart? Trust me, I’m not a touchy feely kind of person so this type of question is hard for me to ask. Bear with me and I think you may learn something new.
This year I decided I needed to get out from behind the camera and be photographed for a change and doing so completely opened my eyes to my client’s perspective. Here are some things your client probably expects from you, whether you realize it or not.
They expect you to be friendly, but professional
There is a fine line between creating a comfortable ease so that your clients can relax and crossing the line into, “Did she really say that?” territory. You must maintain the client/photographer dynamic and here’s why… You’re meeting a friend for brunch but you woke up late, got your kids to school late and now you’re running 30 minutes behind. Chances are, she’ll reply to your frantic text with something along the lines of, “Life: 1, Mom: 0.” When you finally arrive, you find that your rad friend ordered for you (and you’re starving because you didn’t so much as get a cup of coffee in the chaos of the morning). A few hours speed by as you chat and laugh and when it comes time to settle the pill, you realize that in your rush this morning, you forgot your wallet! But not to worry. Your friend (being so awesome) offers to cover it without question. You tell her you’ll pay her back at the end of the week and you part ways already planning your next date. But the end of the week rolls on by and she’s still waiting. She’ll still be your pal, and she’ll probably even remind you to pay her back. Could you imagine showing up late to a client session? Or forgetting your camera and asking to borrow their smartphone instead? Or telling them you’ll deliver their images within two weeks and a month later, they’ve still got nothing? The fact is, that though your clients may joke with you and laugh with you and give you hugs, they expect you to be professional. Be on time, be prepared, live up to your word.
Clients expect us to make them feel at ease
Guess what? This will likely require you to look the fool from time to time and it’s important that you not take yourself too seriously or you’ll never be able to master this skill. And make no mistake, it IS a skill. Learning how to talk to someone in a way that distracts them from the huge black box in front of them (“I hear those things add 10 lbs!”) and simultaneously makes them feel relaxed and comfortable is no walk in the park. It takes practice and I strongly encourage you to practice on your friends rather than on paying clients! Clients are not guinea pigs.
Your client expects you to know how to make them look good and to do it
In other words, know your shiz! Understand your gear and your craft inside and out. It means knowing the right angles for different body types (you simply cannot pose a curvy girl the same say you would pose a lean girl). It means paying attention to your client when they talk about the parts of themselves that they are self-conscious about - and not emphasizing those parts. It means you have a good understanding of lighting and the kind that is and is not flattering.
It means knowing how to get a good picture of someone who wears glasses (because that is a part of who they are) instead of asking them to take them off so you can avoid the hassle of lens glare.
If any one of those things gives you pause, then you’ve got some work to do! We owe it to our clients to be able to handle whatever is thrown our way. After all, we’re professionals, right? You’d expect a surgeon to be able to handle any complications that arose from a routine procedure, right? That’s why they get paid the big bucks!
But lest you think I’m digressing and making this all about money, regardless of what you charge your clients, they hired a professional and unless there’s a natural disaster, you shouldn’t have any trouble delivering what you promised.
So, can your clients count on you for these things? Is there a particular area you need to work on? If so, do it! If not, then you’re perfect and you and I can’t be friends. But in all seriousness, the internet is a wealth of information and tutorials. Whatever your struggle may be, there is no lack of resources for you to learn from.
So, go learn! You’ll approach sessions with renewed confidence and your clients will notice the difference.
Lea Hartman is a family lifestyle photographer, a proud army wife and the busy mother of three. While she dreams of vacationing in exotic places and taking tropical cruises, all she really wants is to sleep in! You can get to know Lea better by following along via her website, and Instagram (@leahartman).