So many of us shoot like puppets for the client – we are “bullied” into shooting in the style that they have in their mind. I agree, your client is your boss and you need to please them, but we mustn’t lose sight of the fact that they have booked us because of the brand image that we have so carefully nurtured and portrayed through our advertising, blogs and websites.
With a little careful thought into your marketing, you can literally choose your client by the brand image you project. I can only speak from my own personal experience, so I will share some of my thoughts behind this concept. Instead of shooting and posting images that you think people want to see in order to book you – shoot for yourself and create images that you yourself are crazy about. Firstly, take an introspective journey and find out what inspires you. Research magazines, films, books, or anything that is visually stimulating. Then at your next shoot, once you have your safe shots (as this client would have booked you for what you have shown them previously and will not be happy to get a completely unexpected result), shoot some images “for yourself”. You will find that there will be clients out there that like exactly what you like. And if you can get them to book you because they have a similar vision, that liberates you to shoot with confidence, knowing that the client will love what you have shot. You will find that you will be given carte blanche to create the images you desire – the trick here is knowing what you like.
We have become so intent on pleasing others, that we forget what pleases ourselves. I have heard so many photographers complain about their clients, but let’s look at the psychology behind this: if you allow your clients to bully and dictate to you, you unfortunately deserve the clients you get. You need to send out clear messages to your client as to what your brand image is and what type of images you enjoy shooting. Attracting the right client is the first step to ensuring an enjoyable and long career. If you don’t like an image that you have shot, then don’t blog or post it, no matter how much your client likes it. By doing this you are only attracting more of the same type of client. The switch from shooting for your client to shooting for yourself may take a while if you have already created some sort of brand identity, but the way to do it is to only post the images that you like. The client will still be happy as they have received what they expected, you just won’t be using all their images in your marketing and promotional material.
We all enjoy being in our comfort zones and this is where choosing the style that suits you counts. If you are not that great with people and don’t feel comfortable posing people, then perhaps a more photojournalistic approach would suit your personality. If you prefer to be more in control and assertive, then a more stylized or traditional style may suit you. Play to your strengths and you will soon find that you develop a unique style that becomes second nature to you and which is eventually identifiable as your own. If you find that it is difficult to experiment with lighting, or poses with existing clients, then go out and choose the location, lighting, poses and model that will enable you to practice shooting the exact images that you would like to shoot in the future.
If you are a wedding photographer and you are currently shooting for the same type of market and feel that you want to elevate yourself into a more affluent market, then you are going to have to shoot images that will appeal to a more affluent client. This would mean using models that have the appearance or air of wealth! Hire or make trade exchanges with other suppliers to create images that look authentic and that you have created under your control and creative process. When you get booked by clients who like these type of images, then you are going to need to manage your time correctly on the day so that you can recreate the similar feel and style that you practiced earlier. Having successfully shot these types of images when you were practicing, you’ll have the confidence to pull it off on the day. The client will see that you are confident and will in turn, feed off that confidence and look more relaxed and comfortable in the images, instead of insecure and awkward.
I shoot a lot of fashion work during the week and feel that I want that to filter through to my wedding photography. My wedding work therefore has a large editorial influence to it. Clients who are fashion conscience are drawn to my work and like images that would not be out of place in high-end fashion magazines such as Vogue, Vanity Fare or Harper’s Bazaar. To find the type of client you are looking for, you need to choose your advertorial material carefully. Think about the magazines and publications you choose to advertise in, look at the demographic of the readers of the publications. If you are exhibiting at a Bridal show then look at the area and target market of the Expo. You may also find that the size and positioning of your ad will affect the type of client you are attracting. By taking out a very small space in a magazine you will find that you are associated with the other photographers with a limited advertising budget. This gives the impression that you don’t have the budget to take larger adverts and hence are not hugely successful. I prefer to save my budget for a full-page ad where I create the impression of success – and that is attractive to clients with money to spend! I prefer to spend big on one publication that I know my target market reads, rather than spreading myself thin by taking out several smaller ads that work out much more expensive relative to their size.
Your price will also affect the type of client you will attract. Even if you are a great photographer, you may deter potential clients by being too cheap. There is a sentiment that you get what you pay for and the more you charge, the better you are. The funny thing is that when you charge more for your work, you will find that you are shooting in much more favourable conditions: great location, great hair and make-up, beautiful wedding gown and a confident Bride. That makes it so much easier to shoot – it is ironic that it is easier to shoot a high-end wedding than a middle market wedding. Everything is then self-perpetuating, you get better images and that makes you more confident, which in turn attracts better clients and so on. The bottom line is, when you shoot “for yourself” you will eventually be at the top of your game.