5 Ways to Deal with Bad Wedding Photos

It’s another one of those photographers’ nightmares that everyone has to deal with, sooner or later in their career. It usually tends to happen to beginner wedding photographers: you shoot the wedding, spend tons of time editing the pictures, then, one day, you get the dreaded call. The client hates your work. They are disappointed with it. They may even ask for their money back. What do you do? How do you deal with bad wedding photos? Here are 5 tips from actual wedding photographers, with enough experience in their portfolios to be speaking with the best of intentions.

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1. Don’t dwell

This is the most important step in learning how to deal with bad wedding photos, unless you want to end up too scared to ever pick up a camera again. The past is in the past and you can’t reshoot a wedding. You can analyze what went wrong, enlist the aid of a very skilled photo editor and try to do as much damage control as possible. However, at the end of the day, all you can do is learn from your mistakes (as everyone does) and move forward.

2. Analyze & acknowledge

Perhaps the conditions in which you shot the wedding were harsh. Perhaps you lack the experience to handle the weather, the light, the temper tantrums thrown by the wedding party, or anything else. Maybe your compositions are bad. Try to pinpoint the causes, in order to deal with bad wedding photos. Understand what went wrong, but make sure to be as objective and detached as possible. It’s actually a good idea to sit down with said ruined set and a trusted fellow photographer and ask for their opinion. A second call could be what you need, in order to prevent you from doubting your professional abilities altogether.

3. Pay up… or not

Sometimes, when you are forced to deal with bad wedding photos, you must simply understand that some clients are out to get their money back. Nothing you say or do will feel like compensation enough for them, before you pay up. You can comply to any other request they make, edit and re-edit the photos until you turn blue in the face – they want their money back and that’s final. At this point, your options are those listed in the contract you signed with them. If the client has just cause to ask for their money back, both legally and ethically, there is little you can do but pay up. Whatever you do, don’t let yourself be bullied away from your money.

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4. Get a second shooter, be a second shooter

The best way to learn wedding photography is by being a second shooter. Wedding photography pros recommend second shooting weddings for at least a year, before you attempt to go it on your own, as the main wedding photographer. Similarly, if you’re starting out as a main wedding photographer, it’s almost mandatory to enlist the aid of a second shooter you can trust. At the end of the day, they can make a world of difference, in terms of client satisfaction.

5. Trust your instinct

Lastly, the main takeaway, when you have to deal with bad wedding photos, is that you should always trust your gut when it comes to taking on a gig. If you feel you lack the experience and/or are worried the responsibility is too much for you to handle, find a gracious way to say no. You should never let a client pressure you into a booking, because chances are at the end of the day no one’s going to walk away happy – not you, nor the client.

A Businessman’s Approach to Photography : The Best Method for Signing New Clients

Guest post by Topher Kelly

Photographs courtesy of Jared Bauman

In a world of salesmen who assure clients that they know “what’s best,” the Socratic sales method, one that revolves around listening and asking questions, isn’t the most popular approach. That said, there’s something to the Socratic sales method that most modern businessmen, whether they are a small town photographer or a Fortune 500 CEO, often underestimate. The art to of listening can uncover a potential client’s key fears, objections, and interests. This is information vital to making a connection and transforming a potential client into an impressed customer and loyal advocate.

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The reasons for employing the Socratic business method boils down to three simple benefits. Professional photographer and business coach Jared Bauman sums it up nicely: “When you ask the right questions and take the time to listen, the client will tell you what you need to know, you’ll learn about all their reservations and objections, and most importantly, you’ll gain their trust.” The key to achieving the benefits Bauman mentions depends on connecting with the potential client and asking the appropriate open-ended questions. “Try to keep them talking and relate to them whenever possible…the goal is to make them feel at home,” says Bauman.

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According to Bauman, the most rewarding part about this method is when that person is so involved in the conversation that they literally lean forward to you, their new acquaintance, and say “I can’t believe I’m telling you this!” With that in mind, your goal should be to make them feel at ease with you, so that they feel comfortable talking about where they are from, their engagement story, and as many other details as your time permits. Find out their style, income, and how big their family is without asking those questions directly. If you can do that, they’ll trust your vision of their special event and, more importantly, your pricing sheet.

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For photographers, the Socratic method is about more than just locking down a client. It’s about finding out if you and the potential customer in front of you are a good fit. “Most photographers, especially if they are just starting out, can’t shoot 300 weddings in a year. This process helps you solve the equation quickly – do I want to work their event? Do they want me to work their event?” says Bauman.

“What people often forget is that in the photography business, like any business, customers buy people, not the brand. You need to be genuinely interested in your potential clients and sell them what makes you unique as a person, not your Jared Headshotphotography service. That’s the step you need to take to be successful in this competitive industry.”

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With a background in business, Jared Bauman provides the photography community with professional coaching and education. He is an expert in photographer pricing, and has toured the country speaking about how to maximize profits through a clear and simple pricing structure.  Jared is teaching a free live online course on creativeLIVE August 1-3.

You Screwed Up. What’s Your Next Step?

Guess what? We’re human. And because we’re human, we’re going to make mistakes along the way. I wish there was a way to avoid it, but inevitably it will happen. You’ll make a mistake. Your customer will get angry. And you’ll have a big decision on your hands.

The good news is that almost all mistakes are fixable. You have to act quick and decisively. But when you do, not only can you fix the immediate problem, in some cases you can come through it with an even more loyal fan on your hands.

The biggest mistake companies make is ignoring the situation and not having a thought out plan in place for when the inevitable occurs. If its just you, you can make split decisions based on circumstances. But if employees are involved as well, its especially important for them to understand action steps and what they can do to fix the situation.

So what do you need to consider when creating a customer response strategy?

You Screwed Up. What’s Your Next Step?Start by assessing your customers’ feelings.

When someone is angry or disappointed, the first thing they want is a listening ear. They want to feel like they are being heard and that their feelings are recognized as acceptable for the situation. Don’t burst in with solutions or counterpoints. Instead, listen to their complaint all the way through. When they start repeating themselves or come to a lull in the conversation, only then should you break in and move things forward.

Choose your words carefully.

If you truly made the mistake, admit it. The first words out of your mouth should be “I’m sorry”. Your customer has been analyzing the situation for quite some time, and their biggest fears will be that they will have to live with the problem and that you won’t help fix it. “I’m sorry” can literally relieve 90 percent of the tension.

Even if you feel your customer shares in the responsibility of the problem, “I’m sorry” can change the dissatisfaction your customer is feeling, and put you on the road to making amends.

Dig Deeper – Are You Going to Ruin 2013 Too?

What’s next?

Every situation requires a slightly different outcome – think about these outcomes before hand. A customer unhappy with the final images will have different issues that someone you “forgot” to get their images to them on deadline. Will you reshoot the portrait? Provide the images as fast as possible? Offer a discount on the final bill?

In some cases, it is best to hear what your client expects before you make suggestions. In one case, we were prepared to knock several hundred dollars off the final bill for a mistake we had made. But when we asked the client what we could do to make amends, she stated she would be happy with the 11×14 image she really wanted but couldn’t afford at the time. That saved us a lot of profit – and she was much happier with her final solution.

Don’t make excuses.

Your customer doesn’t care if your car died or your son was sick. If there is a problem, the only thing they focus on is how it impacts them. If you truly had a misunderstanding, make sure you clarify your policies so the same situation isn’t repeated in the future. Then move on, and avoid the blame game.

Increase communication.

Once a problem exists, its better to give 110 percent throughout the rest of the process. Call or email with updates. No matter how long it takes, make sure your customer understands the process along the way, and is brought into the loop if anything affects it.

A memorable gesture.

Now is the time to go above and beyond with your customer service skills. This is the critical step because this is where you can turn lemons into lemonade. Do something above and beyond what they expect as a small token of your regret. It may be a frame for the wall portrait they purchased. Or a few extra prints they held off buying. Or even a basket of flowers sent to their home. Make them feel like you not only said you were sorry, you meant it too.

Nope, your customers aren’t perfect. But neither are you. Just letting them know they will be taken care of and that you think enough about who they are to make things right even when things go wrong.

The #1 Secret To Becoming A Great Photographer Is

Being so good at photography the people in your sphere can’t ignore you.

Sounds simple enough. Yet who defines “good” or “great”? That term is questionable, which is why we ultimately refer to our sphere – the marketplace that loves us and is willing to help us grow our business.

The 1 Secret To Becoming A Great Photographer Is

You can’t define great photography by what you think is great (or even what your family/friends tell you is great). The world is full of starving artists whose mother/father/girlfriend/husband thinks they have the best eye in the world. Instead, we must define it by looking at the trails that others have left before us.

Why Professionals Follow Other Photographers’ Footprints

In every field in existence, in every niche you can imagine, someone has been there before you and created success around it. Those are your models. That’s where you gain your inspiration. [Read more…]

What Should You Be Trying For: One Big Customer or Many Small One’s?

Imagine your business in this manner. You have one great client that you love. They love everything about you and they pay you dearly for your services. Whatever you need to survive each month ($1,000? $10,000?), that’s the fee they pay you to photograph for them.

Sounds pretty impressive right?

What if we imagine your business in another light. Instead of one great client, you have 100 great clients. Every single month just enough of your great clients come in to give you the perfect amount of income you need to sustain your lifestyle. Your pricing is set up perfectly and they are happy to pay what you charge.

Now here is the question.

Which one of these situations is better?

I bet you instantly went one way or the other. And for good reason. There really is no right or wrong answer. Everyone has a different customer philosophy. Every business is built a little differently. Let’s look a bit further into the big client philosophy.

Some photographers head out looking for that one big client they can work for week after week, relying on them as their primary income source. Yet when you rely on one customer, that one customer becomes your world.

The one that pays the most towards the bottom line has the most control over you.

If that one customer decides they want to try something new, they can let you go literally overnight. Your income source drops out of the picture in one swoop. You lose it all instantly.

While the one big client may seem to be your “meal ticket”, it can also cause the most stress in your life.

Big clients can be a great way to run a photography business. Yet they also put you at the most risk, and can ultimately cause you the most stress, especially during hard economic times.

There really is no set rule to the number of clients you should shoot for in your business model. However, I’ve found to reduce stress, I look for no more than 20 percent of my income from any one source. So for my monthly income, that would mean I would need at a minimum 5 different sources to supply my income. Here’s why.

If you lose one big client and they supply you with 100 percent of your income, you literally can go from having a business to being out of work overnight. You can’t afford your bills if nothing is coming in.

If you have five clients each supplying you with 20 percent of your business, if one client decides to leave, it is still a 20 percent hit to your bottom line. But its much easier to absorb that shock for a few weeks while you find a client to take over that position. You can tighten your belt and spend quality time looking for your next client.

For me, that’s less stress.

Sound better to you? Or does the thought of losing 20 percent of your income still make you a bit queasy?

What if instead of having 5 clients provide you with 20 percent of your income, you went with 10 clients providing you each with 10 percent of your income? Or 20 clients providing you with 5 percent of your income?

The more clients you have, the less meaning each will have to your overall bottom line.

Before you get too excited with the numbers here, its also worth thinking about how your stress will move up on the other side.

When you have one client providing you with 100 percent of your income, you spend all of your time thinking of ways to satisfy that client. You provide them with top quality customer service. You look for the best products and services available to please that one client.

Everything you do is built for that client.

When you add other clients into the picture, you have more to think about. You no longer have to satisfy one client, you have to satisfy 5 (or 10, or 20). The more you have, the more you spread yourself out. Instead of focusing your energy on one thing at a time, you now must be good at multitasking. Client A may be coming in for a photo shoot, Client B may need a sales presentation, and Client C’s work may be in production mode requiring editing in Photoshop.

Each client demands your attention in a different way, every single day.

So what is the best answer? Big clients or small clients? The choice is yours. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Am I good at multitasking?
  • Do I get bored easily?
  • Do I enjoy working with lots of people or seeing the same person again and again?
  • What are my stressers, money or tasks?
  • What do I prefer to do every day?

There is no right or wrong answer. Only the best answer to suit you. Yes you may end up leaving money on the table. And yes, you may have the occasional problem along the way with either choice. But the key is in your overall strategy. Doing what’s right for you means you’ll always approach clients in a manner best suited for you. You’ll be able to give them the right amount of attention to fit the situation. They will love your business because you deliver what you promise.

And that’s really all we can hope for.

14 Do’s and Don’ts To Win Over Your Photography Clients

The key to a great business is having great clients. Here are some simple rules to ensure that your customers love you and want to use you again and again. And again.

Do find your competitive edge.

What makes you special? What makes you unique? Its not just your passion or your love for the business. It has to be your approach to photography and the way you run your business. Find that one unique thing that sets you apart and use it to bring in a ton of clients.

Don’t badmouth your competition.

You probably have one or two competitors who you think very little of. They run their business completely against your ethics and you know “dirty little secrets” about them that makes you have anything but trust. Don’t tell. As much as you know about them, its important to turn the other way and simply ignore. The clients that are best suited for you will quickly figure that out for themselves if they visit that business. Just stay true to your word and do the best you can do.

Do find ways to build relationships.

The most difficult way to build a business is to focus on bringing in new client after new client. If they’ve never heard of you when they begin their search, it will take time to educate them on who you are. Instead, keep your existing clients happy, and they will refer you to all of their friends and family.

Don’t sell, sell sell.

Your job isn’t to sell what you do. Instead its all about building strong relationship with pillars of the community. If everyone is talking about you, everyone will have to use your services. Avoid the temptation online and off to spread your message as “would you like to buy from me?” They will find you when they are ready. [Read more…]

10 Ways To Love Your Photography Clients

“A customer is the most important visitor on our premises.
He is not dependent on us. We are dependent on him.
He is not an interruption in our work – he is the purpose of it.
We are not doing him a favour by serving him.
He is doing us a favour by giving us the opportunity to serve him.”
– Mahatma Gandhi

Gandhi spoke those words back in 1890. And in every way they still apply today.

The most important thing within your business is your list – your customers – the people that can give you the opportunity to run a successful business for as long as you choose to stay in business. If you want them to choose to spend their money in your studio, here are 10 ways to stand out from your competition.

1. Don’t set up your packages and promotions based on what you want to sell. Set them up based on what your customers want to buy. Listen to what they say. When you truly listen to your customers and modify things to make your products and services that much better, they will love what you do.

2. Go beyond order taking and showcase your expertise within the industry. Anyone can take orders. But a real professional will prove their artistic talent by building relationships and directing people on what to do next. Collages, albums, montages – you are the artist and show your clients how your vision is put together through your photographs.

3. Make reliability a key ingredient to your mission. When you do as you say and often times go the extra mile without having to be asked, your clients notice. [Read more…]

The Biggest Assumption About Marketing – Are You Guilty?

What is the first rule of thumb when it comes to marketing your photography?

Never, ever assume anything about anything. Ever.

Because the moment you assume someone knows something, chances are you’ll get your marketing all wrong. Because its almost never true.

Here’s why.

You’ve been dreaming about being a photographer for years. You might even have a strong business, and have been photographing clients for years. But as you live and breathe photography, it becomes a part of who you are. You think in shutter speeds and aperture settings. You look at the world through an imaginary lens – all the time. And you constantly look at how you can gain new clients by the marketing materials you produce.

But your prospects and customers haven’t. They don’t work in your office. They don’t read photography magazines. And chances are they haven’t thought much about the art of photography. She has other priorities. She’s living in her own world 24 hours a day, and that world probably doesn’t involve a lot of research in photography.

Until she’s ready for your services. Then she starts her investigation. But even at that level, every prospect will have a different way of doing things. Some will spend hours researching online. Some will be happy with a flyer they’ve received in the mail.

Which means some will be better educated than others. But the problem is you don’t know which is which. [Read more…]

Is Your Photography Business A Mac or a PC?

Are there differences between Mac’s and PC’s? You bet. And I’m sure if I asked each and every one of you, you probably have a strong opinion one way or the other. Everyone knows the two are distinctly different. And while there are some generalizations everyone would probably agree upon, I’m also willing to bet you have your reasons for staying with one or the other.

A few weeks ago I wrote several posts on our recent adventure – downsizing. As a part of our process, we converted from being a PC based home and  business, to a Mac driven home and business. And now after several weeks of running almost exclusively Mac, I have my opinions on the differences between the two. And also have made quite a few correlations towards running a business.

Dig Deeper: How To Look At Your Money Differently

Dig Deeper: Google Voice – an Amazing Tool For Virtual Photographers

Dig Deeper: 5 Big Ticket Items Photographers Pay For, Then Seldom Use

Price Matters

One of the top reasons people end up with PCs over Macs is cost. If you need to buy several computers and laptops for your small business, plus a variety of software packages, the cost difference can be tremendous. You purchase PCs to save money. And you purchase Macs to own a true work of art. PCs control about 90 percent of the US market share, while Mac’s control about 10 percent. There is a difference.

The same could be said for photographers. Many people want a quick photograph to mark a period of time. They don’t care about the art form; they are looking for representation. They want the smiling faces towards the camera, and artistic expression isn’t in their budget. They shop around for “value” and are happy with more photos for less money.

A smaller portion of people want to create a piece of artwork for their wall.  They want something they could never achieve on their own with a point and shoot. And they want something they won’t see in any of the homes of family and friends. They are willing to pay what its worth in order for the experience. [Read more…]

5 Reasons Your Clients Don’t Do What They Are Supposed To Do

Have you ever noticed that people don’t always do what you expect them to do?

Whether its your prospects not following through to sign the contract, or current clients not ordering in a timely manner, there are a variety of things you can do to fix the situation.

1. She misunderstands what the next step is

What makes sense to you might not make sense to your clients. You assume she knows what the next step, yet in her mind it may be anything but clear. Sit down and write down your sales process, with steps for each thing you expect her to do. Then make sure you explain things along the way. Friendly phone calls, or even a postcard in the mail is a great way to remind her of what step is next in line.

2. She is in a hurry

Your client has a lot on her mind. She’s thinking about dozens of things every day. And because she may not realize the next thing she has to do, its up to you to walk her through the steps. Lay out expectations, and add dates when appropriate. For instance when we met with potential wedding clients, we didn’t push sales. If they needed time, we always gave them time to think things over – and gave them a specific date we would hold their date without booking, which was usually around 48 hours. If we didn’t hear within that time frame, we would place a phone call just to check in and remind them their date will be open to other potential customers. Friendly reminders can lead to more business. [Read more…]