Having been a part of quite a few photography groups, I get to read a lot about frustrations and issues that many photographers have with clients, or prospective clients. Many times these frustrations are warranted, but could have been avoided with good communication.
So let me start by saying that, like all my blog posts, I do not claim to be an expert, but rather, I just attempt to help others in my profession.
Many times the issues that I see come up are from lack of a contract. This is an issue, not only legally, but also because you do not have the opportunity to set expectations. I am a firm believer in that there is no such thing as over communication. I think that as photographers we honestly believe that clients know and understand all that we do about photography, not in the technical f-stop and bokeh sense, but rather, why a quality photographer charges $250-1000 for a portrait session.
A lot of this is client education and setting expectations before the shoot takes place. As I said before a contract will help, but many clients do not take time to read the entire contract, and may think that times are approximate or that there is no limit to images, or that you are with holding images because of an imaginary limit. So…
Not just in the contract, but in emails, and verbally. At any client touch point for communication enhance your brand by telling them what they are getting and why. When I meet with clients I talk about why I prefer to offer all day coverage for a wedding versus hourly. When I talk about the engagement sessions I mention that we have 2 hours, and we can do whatever locations, but drive time is included. Things that I include in my contract are
· Safety (If a guest threatens me I can leave)
· Schedule (For weddings I create a photo timeline and they agree to it a week prior, if things change during the day I approach the friend and tell her what is happening and give her options to chose from and outcomes)
· Time (Shooting starts at agreed upon time with or without the client)
· Travel expenses and limits
· My responsibilities (Highlighting things that are out of my control, weather, lateness of clients, obtrusive guests, and venue limitations)
· Venue Limitations (Clients may not know that a church will not let you move during the service or any other crazy limitation, bring it up, and when you arrive if something happens that is unexpected, communicate it with the bride. She has more power in the situation than anyone).
· Food (I need to be fed or have time to get food on a wedding day)
· Permits (not my responsibility)
· Model Release
· Limit of Liability
· Capture and delivery (I cannot be everywhere at once and cannot guarantee any images)
· Post, editing and Archiving
· Time limitations
When I meet with the client I highlight items during my conversation. By doing this, not only am I setting the expectations, I am showing them that I am prepared and knowledgeable, which in turn gains them trust.
If they ask about gear and editing, I tell them. If they ask about Pinterest photos or lists, I tell them why I do not do them. I will look at their photos ideas, but I tell the client that I will put my own twist on the photo. They are hiring me for me, not for the other person. My line for this is that if they have they expectation of recreating certain scenes or photos, they are setting all of us up for disappointment.
Stay tuned for part 2.