As a photographer, wearing our business hats on is such a difficult thing. I mean if you are anything like me, you would want to just create timeless and memorable images for your clients and stop right there. To do marketing in order to gain new photoshoot clients or to even create all the paper work around it… like sending a basic preparation guide to them prior to their photoshoot, seems just so daunting.
What to say in that initial call to your client once they pay up the deposit to book the photoshoot? What written material to send to them? How to make sure that they follow the styling suggestions given by you?
I faced these hurdles in the beginning of my career and in fact even now, the photography students from my workshops often ask me to pass on my preparation guide and other details to them. So, I thought I will jot down all of it here for you.
At the end of the blog post I will provide you with a link to download the necessary template.
So let’s begin. Here are the basic steps to take soon as your client signs you up for a family, maternity, pregnancy or newborn baby photoshoot.
- Initial phone call: Always pick up the phone and make that welcome on-board phone call. Speak with confidence. Clients love to be hand-held. Don’t expect a parent who has booked you for a newborn baby photoshoot to know everything already. They are instead expecting that their photographer will clear all their doubts.
- Time taken for the shoot: In the first go itself set the expectations clear. I even today get clients ask me if “one day will be enough for the photoshoot?” No. Ofcourse not. A family or pregnancy or even newborn baby photoshoot for that matter does NOT take an entire day. Family sessions at best get wrapped up within one hour as children do not have the bandwidth to go on for hours and hours of posing and structured activities like a photo-session. So you have to inform the client very clearly and with confidence that for the sake of the children and elderlies involved in the photoshoot, you assure them that the session with be wrapped up within an hour. Educate your client that more time than that isn’t required. Ofcourse, if it is a newborn baby photoshoot on the other hand, all the posing and changing set ups and props can take up to 2-3 hours but that’s about it. Setting these time expectations right in the beginning helps in clarifying any misunderstandings with your clients at a later stage.
- Props and clothes suggestions: Now this is a tricky territory. I often hear my photography mentees complain that no matter what styling suggestions they give to their clients, the clients would always come wearing whatever they liked. To avoid such difficult situations make sure to start educating your clients every step of the way. I always tell them in the initial phone call that I will send them clear styling suggestions in the email and would want them to send me photos of the clothes they plan to wear prior to the photo session. I also make it crystal clear to my clients that if my styling suggestions are not followed then my clients cannot expect the same standard of images from me that they have seen on my social media. This last point is reiterated to them thrice. Once in my initial phone call. Then in the email confirmation that I send to them and finally in the contract that my clients sign. Repeating is key here. You have to make sure that your client understands the repercussions of not taking the photographer’s styling suggestions into consideration.Let me be honest, I do keep a reserve of timeless-fashion clothes for my clients. But if you can’t invest that much money at the beginning of your career make sure to take advantage of the “return policy” in clothes stored near you and ask your clients to pick clothes (based clearly on your styling suggestions) before they come for the shoot and if they don’t wish to hold on to them, then return them after the shoot. All of my clients always hold on to the clothes once bought and this way, you don’t need to invest in having a repository of clothes options for your clients too. Having said that, I am based in London so we have this return policy applicable in most clothing stores here but when I would be traveling internationally to other countries to do client photoshoots, I did not have this luxury. In that case collaborations with dressmakers really helps. Go ahead and reach out to dressmakers on Instagram and ask them if they would like to collaborate with you in exchange for photos. You will be surprised, how many of them are looking for good photos for their clothes and will be happy to work with you.
- Location suggestions: “Where will the photoshoot be?” that is a standard question your client will ask you. In fact, in most cases they will suggest “I have a big garden with lots of trees so you can come over to my home and do the shoot here.” Now, I am very honest, I get to hear this even now after 8 years of being in this profession. And that is simply because clients don’t know how important it is for us to find the right location to create memorable images for them. And that is why, I will reiterate this again… educate your clients. Make them aware in your phone call that it is very important for you to be at the right location with the correct light and the possibility for depth of field to be able to take great family or pregnancy or even fashion photos. If you are confused about how you should select your location or understand natural light then you can watch my video tutorial on that subject here Remember that a person who is paying you money to book you for a photoshoot will always do anything for the sake of receiving the most remarkable images. Even if it means traveling a fair distance to meet you, the photographer, at the right location. So be confident and be sure of how to guide your clients.
- Cancelation Policy and delay: As a photographer, your only business asset is your equipment and your time. You can buy expensive insurance to protect your equipment but how will you insure your time? The fact is that you need to first value your own time and only then will your clients respect it too. I always remind my clients about the cancellation policy in my preparation email sent to them and also the client contract. Make sure to ask for a minimum non-refundable deposit at the time of booking so that you are ensured that the photoshoot would not be abruptly canceled. Many a times we become hesitant at the beginning of our career to request for a non-refundable deposit from our clients but remember you are giving them lifetime memories. You are the creator of their family heirloom. Your job isn’t easy and not just anyone can do it. So you deserve to protect it by making sure you are paid a deposit that you retain in case of last minute cancelations. I do allow for a one time rescheduling 48 hours prior to the shoot to my clients. But that has to be a genuine reason of course.
- Promised deliverables: “Can we get all the RAW images?” tell me if you haven’t been asked this question more than once in your photography career so far? And I can guarantee you that the clients do not even have the necessary software to open a RAW file but I guess it has become some sort of a trend for clients to ask the photographer for “all the RAW images.” Now, your strict response here should be “NO. I am really very sorry, but I don’t provide unedited images. My work is up to a certain standard and I have a very clear photography style, so I cannot allow for unedited photos to go out. It works against my brand. Also, I want to give you the most artistic images and it would make you feel less euphoric if you see a whole bunch of unedited images instead.” The point is to ALWAYS PROTECT YOUR WORK like it is your child. Set clear expectations in terms of deliverables with your clients right at the onset. At the time they find information on your website, it should all be clearly stated. Your photoshoot package information should be easy to understand so the clients know what they are paying for. You can find all the information about my photoshoot packages here and here to get some guidance on how to design your packages. Then make sure to send them the same information in their preparation guide. Also, write the package information in the contract.
- Other Expectations: A lot of things need to be clearly stated between you and your client. Photography is like any other service based business. Because it is creative and service in itself is not a tangible product that can be quantified, there is huge likelihood of mismatched expectations between the client and the photographer. Which is why you need to define the service offered clearly. Make sure that your client knows the following:They will receive an X amount of images. They will not receive unedited images as extras
They will receive images to select from only once they are edited and will not be shown unedited images during the shoot or after it, to select from.
Since you are the creative person here and since they have booked you on the basis of trust that you will deliver them images of a certain standard, encourage them to follow your creative judgment and let you choose what images are best to be edited based on the lighting, expressions, posing and other criteria. You choose what to edit. Once edited, you will pass on a gallery to them to pick their final package from. Inversely if you ask your clients to take the pick, chances are they will not be able to visualize how the final images would look and would in turn end up selecting the less appealing images. For the sake of your client, you choose. Make it easy for them.
- “What if’s?”: Always pre-empt the “what if” questions of your clients before speaking with them and make sure you provide them the answers even before they ask that question. A good photographer is one that not only takes great images but also one that understands the needs of their clients. Family or pregnancy or even child photography is a luxury. Clients come to you to get these moments chronicled because they believe they need to indulge in creating this lasting memory. So treat your clients with the care, love and nurturing attitude so they feel with you what you would feel while carrying a luxury brand on your shoulder. “What if my child is not in the mood for a photoshoot that day?”: Well for that you need to make sure you let the clients know that they give the child ample sleep time before they arrive to the photoshoot location. Children are usually unhappy if they haven’t slept enough or are hungry. Make sure you ask the parents to feed the children well before the shoot and you as the photographer should also make sure to carry some basic supplies that will keep the children engaged. Such as, some sweets and treats (which you can only offer the children with prior permission taken from the parents.) And also carry a bubble machine. Bubbles always work like magic for children. Make sure to ask the parents what the favourite videos are that the kids like to watch and turn them on your phone and place it right above your camera so the children feel entertained in case of worst case scenario. Make sure also to make it very clear to the parents that their role in keeping the children happy during the photo session is paramount. Young children get anxious around strangers with a big camera and so it is best that parents take lead in calming children during photoshoots. Unless if course, if it is a newborn photoshoot. In that case, I always ask the clients to trust me and let me manage the baby. The more times the baby is passed on to the parent during the Photoshoot, the more restless the newborn baby becomes so in that session it is important for the newborn baby to become accustomed to only one pair of hands, that being the photographer.But if despite all these efforts, children do not feel happy during the shoot then there should be a predetermined understanding clearly written down between the photographer and the client as to whether you would only be able to give them the images that are shot within a certain time span (say if you tried for two hours and were still able to only get 5-6 images out of the session versus the 20-25 promised) or that you would be willing to reschedule for a later date. Either way, everything should always be written down so that later on there is no scope for arguments. The relationship between you and your client must always be amicable.
“What if the weather is too bad that day? What if it is too warm or too cold or it rains?”: Well, if you live in UK like me then you would know that weather can never be predicted. We see four seasons here in four minutes honestly. Sometimes I check the weather and book a photo session assuming that it will be sunny and stunning and there the rain gods come watering down all my photography dreams. So, well, I have a clearly stated clause for my clients that unless it is an extreme weather warning where the rain just refuses to stop at all or that we have a blizzard, unless there is something as unmanageable as that, we will continue with the photoshoot in all other cases. In other moderate climatic conditions, we can always wait it out until for example the rain stops or carry a nice transparent umbrella to make the rain become a prop in our shoot adding a romantic emotion. And if it is too cold for example then we can make the most of winter-layering-fashion and dress up wonderfully and comfortably to make sure cold doesn’t deter us but instead aids the feel and overall look of our shoot.
“What if we get stuck in the traffic and get really late for the photoshoot?”: Well the clear answer for that is for you to tell the clients right at the onset that they are expected to meet you at the shoot location at least 15-20 minutes prior to the start of the session. Clarify this to them before they ask this What if question.
I do this so that I allow for those 20 minutes extra to factor in the traffic delays and the general delay that clients take in getting out of their home, especially if they have small children…
If despite this extra time allowance, they still don’t arrive in time for the shoot or even after 30-45 minutes of the decided time, then again, you need to have this clause clearly stated in writing as to what decision you would take. Either you choose to make the client liable and rebook the shoot with you, which would also mean they would lose their deposit paid or you choose to let them reschedule once more. I haven’t ever had a client ditch me last minute like this but if they would, I would first try to understand what was the genuine reason and err on the side of generosity and offer them an opportunity to reschedule.
- Preparation Guide: Once your client pays the deposit to book a photoshoot with you, you must email them a preparation guide. This helps you in stating all the information in written to them and also clarifying all their doubts. You now have a record of your interaction with your client. Keep the tone friendly but keep it professional as well. Here is the link to download a template for a preparation guide that you can send to your client.
- Contract: Client contracts are paramount to protect you and also safeguard your clients. When working outdoors with little children or even indoors while working with newborn babies, it is very important to have legal document that clarifies what the terms of the session are. The client is trusting the photographer with their most precious child and so each party needs to come together in a common agreement or understanding to ascertain where the liability lies. Even yin case of copyright violations, which is bound to happen since social media has become a beast and once your work goes out there, there is just no stopping it from being stolen, it always helps to have a contract in place that clearly states the ownership of copyright of the image by the photographer.Since your contract will entirely depend on what country, state your photography business is based in and even on the nature of your work, I would not be in a position to give you a template for a contract, because that is a lawfully abiding document. However, here are some links where you can go and source a contract: LawtogsAlso, studio management software such as Shootproof provide contracts as part of their subscriptions.
Let me know if you have any other queries. Feel free to reach out to me by dropping a comment here under the blog.