How I Improved My Photography Sales by Learning to Think Like a Client

I worked hard when I first started in photography to become competent both behind the camera and when interfacing with clients, but a subtle error I was making worked against me for a long time until I realized how to fix it. Here is why learning how to think more like a client can improve your work. When It First StartedIt started back when I did a portrait shoot early in my career. The shoot went very well: the client was kind and we worked well together, and he was quite satisfied when we finished the session. I loaded the shots on my computer and began my normal post-shoot process. This meant culling the photos, then loading them into a web collection, giving the client the password, and letting them make their selections. The client emailed me a bit upset because he felt like all of his favorite shots he had seen on the back of my camera were missing from the collection I sent him. Luckily, I still had all of the files, so I put them back in the web collection, he selected them, I edited them, and all was good. The reason I had not put some of those images in the collection was because they were slightly out of focus. He had wanted the very shallow depth of field look, and so, a fair proportion of the shots were the type where the tip of the eyelash was in focus instead of the iris. They were not badly out of focus, but definitely enough for someone with a photographic eye to notice. With a little extra Photoshop work and down-sizing to 2,000 pixels on the long side, I was able to reduce the focus issues enough to produce reasonable results — certainly reasonable enough for my client. He was quite happy, gave me a great review, and brought me lots of referral clients. It was a very valuable lesson for me.What We Look ForSo, what was the lesson? It was that what a photographer looks for in a photo is often vastly different from what a client looks for, and it is important for a photographer to be aware of the difference. We photographers are very technically and creatively oriented. To us, a keeper image consists of lots of things. First, it is in focus — critically in focus. Its composition is sound. There are not any extraneous elements in the frame. The pose and expression are spot-on. We tend to look at photos with a very objective eye based on various rules and preferences we have that dictate an image’s quality and how compelling it is. And for our purposes, that helps to keep our portfolios of a high quality and consistency. However, the people who give us money, our clients, often have different preferences. What the Client Looks ForOn the other hand, what a client looks for is often different. Going back to that client I was talking about earlier, he loved the photos in a series where he had his biggest smile. I personally thought the smile was a bit too much because it pushed his eyes shut on top of it being a little out of focus. However, this particular client was a stage performer known for his effervescent on-stage presence. Of course he wanted the photos with the biggest smile. I am not saying that he had bad taste. I am saying that I failed to understand him as a client.

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