What Photography Clients Really Want

Listening to My Clients

Last year, I conducted a few surveys of past and prospective clients to find out what they really wanted. What I discovered is that they overwhelmingly preferred an all-inclusive session option - pay a set fee that includes their session retainer, digital images and a set of small prints.

The response took me by surprise but was so nearly unanimous that I couldn’t ignore it. So, I restructured EVERYTHING. Instead of being a product based business, I became a service based business. Much like a wedding photographer, I priced for my time rather than banking on selling a certain number of prints to meet my sales goals.

It was so simple, knowing in advance exactly what each client was going to get. I craved easy. So many other areas of my life were hectic, chaotic and unpredictable. I jumped in with both feet happily.

What Photography Clients Really Want

But then, all those people who claimed they wanted a one stop shopping experience with me stopped booking altogether. Naturally, I was alarmed but the survey results had been so clear! I toughed it out and supplemented my income by photographing for some publications and photographing interiors on the side. Still, very few bookings rolled in.

Then I started to get clued in to the fact that what my clients said they wanted and what they actually did want were two different things.

A little over 14 years ago I met this guy. He was funny, sarcastic and frankly, weird. Yet, I couldn’t stop thinking about him. I woke up each day in anticipation of the next time I’d get to see him and hung on every word he said. He was absolutely nothing like any other guy I’d met before and certainly nothing like the “Prince Charming” I’d dreamed of. The kind of man I thought I wanted wound up being quite different from the man who filled me with longing and completed my soul. He was everything I never knew I wanted. And still is.

What Our Clients Really Want!

Clients aren’t much different. Here’s what I learned about what clients really want. 

They don’t know.

What Photography Clients Really Want

They truly don’t. They don’t know they want a 24x36 canvas gallery wrap until they experience the impact of it when they walk into a room. They don’t know they want an album until they feel the luxurious cover options and listen to you describe how it tells the story of their family. They don’t think about the difference in quality they’ll receive by printing with you versus printing at their local 1-hour photo lab. 

Educating Our Clients

It’s because they don’t know what they really want that they think all they want are digital files. In their mind, their images will be safely tucked away on their hard drive whenever they’re ready to use them. Maybe they will eventually print off some predictable 8x10’s but their lack of product education and artistic vision will keep them from taking the plunge into unknown territory. They think they want Prince Charming on a white horse but what they really want is the sarcastic weirdo. Are you taking the time to show them?

It was a hard lesson to learn but going forward I’ll be moving back to a business model that gives my clients what they themselves don’t even know they want. And hopefully, in the process, I’ll be investing in client relationships that will last for years to come.

Lea HartmanLea 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).



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