Customer Service in Photography

If you’re running a successful photography business and you work directly with your clients, you know one HUGE rule: Make them happy.

You can’t always make everyone happy, especially if you still want to make a profit…but you do your best! I used to work for AppleCare, and that means my skills had to be about 80% customer service and 20% technical knowhow, so I like to think I have a decent understanding of this.

Sometimes in shows and movies, artists of all kinds can be portrayed as snobby people who talk down to everybody because they’re just so good at what they do. And that…doesn’t hold up to real life. Unless you’re the kind of artist who creates work specifically for private collections or only sell your work online…no one will buy art or photography services from someone they can’t stand to talk to.

Rather than giving a negative example, how about a positive one? Along with some of what I believe are the best things to do when photographing for clients!
(I actually wrote a negative one I was on the receiving end of, but those aren’t fun to read)


I received an inquiry for a photoshoot on Friday. The person wanted product images for their subscription box company as well as some staff portraits, which is right up my alley since I specialize in both Portraiture and Product Photography to pay the bills.

They also wanted the shoot to be on Saturday. I initially thought they wanted the following Saturday, since less than 24 hours seemed like an incredibly short timeframe…but I was wrong!
Typically, I like to meet my clients for coffee to discuss their needs, find their style, see the product, and get a solid plan for the day of the shoot. I usually take these in a nice 30-60 minute session that I do not charge for. That’s my Tip 1: Offer a little something for free. If you can afford it. People like getting things for free, and a free consult for the client only costs me a cup of coffee. I love coffee!
But without time for this luxury, I gave them a consult when they arrived at my studio on Saturday afternoon. I looked at their products, looked at their website, talked a little about what the photographs would be used for, all that jazz. That’s Tip 2: Gain Agreement with the client so you’re both on the same page. I always go over my payment structure too, just letting them know how time is billed and making sure they’re on board with that too. It eliminates any nasty surprises.

Back tracking a little, the client actually showed up a little late. Some people will charge for that time, because it’s time out of their day. Personally, I understand it’s so easy to run late (within reason) and I know that my studio is tucked away and takes a minute to find. That’s Tip 3: Be as accommodating as possible. Everyone appreciates empathy and understanding, and when you’re providing a service, it makes you look so much better to have a good amount of leniency than to be radically ridged.

During the shoot, I did what I could to do Tip 4: Make it a comfortable and fun experience for everybody! I routinely show some of the shots I’m taking to the client so they can see I’m lining up with their vision. If they have any ideas for the photos, I do what I can to integrate and validate ideas. Usually these are pretty good, too! Your client knows their product better than you do, so integrate if you can!

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Once the shoot was done, I thanked them all for coming and promised to have the images to them by a certain day. That’s Tip 5: Always deliver in a timely manner, because clients do not want to wait forever for their images and they have deadlines too. Once you give them a date/time, stick to that! Tip 6: Build trust and rapport with the client and they will come back to you time and time again.

In my case, the client needed the images ASAP (though they understood if editing would take a little longer), and I still got the images to them before the date I told them. It was a very fast turnaround time, but I always strive to make my clients happy!

I’m going to throw on one thing they kept telling us during training at Apple. I’m sure most of you have heard of the Golden Rule (treat others as you want to be treated), but we were taught the Platinum Rule. So Tip 7: Treat others the way they want to be treated. Since everybody is different, not everybody will like to be treated the same way you do.

Let’s recap!

  • Offer a little something for free
  • Gain agreement
  • Be as accommodating as possible
  • Make it a comfortable and fun experience for everybody
  • Always deliver in a timely manner
  • Build trust and rapport
  • Treat others the way they want to be treated

This aren’t in any particular order and there’s always more to consider, but I think these are a pretty solid base to build on. Remember, in just about every industry, customer service is EXTREMELY important!

 

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