The Importance of Setting Accurate Expectations for Photography Customers

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Recently, I received a call from my sister-in-law who had a baby in September. To protect the identity of the baby and photographer, I will refer to the baby as “D” and the photographer as “X”.

Her: “I had Baby D’s photo taken but I am not happy with the pictures.”

Me: “What aren’t you happy about?  Who did you hire?”

Her: “We hired X Photography.  In many of the images heads are cropped, including ours when holding baby D.  Most of the sibling shots just have Baby D in focus, with her brother and sister out of focus or cropped in odd places.”

Me: “Send a link to your gallery and to the photographer’s website.  I will take a look.”

(Once I looked, I immediately knew that my sister-in-law should not have hired this photographer.  X Photography’s work was actually quite nice.  But she was definitely a lifestyle photographer who used creative crops and blurs.  It was not what my sister-in-law wanted, and hence she should have hired a different photographer).

Who was “right?”

From the second a potential customer hops on your website, blog, or social network, it is crucial to showcase not only your best work but your specific style. If you do not, you may not meet their expectations.

In the scenario above, I fully sided with X Photography. Her website showed mostly lifestyle images in the newborn section.  There were a few photos of babies by themselves, swaddled, or laying down alone, but most of the images were of a baby with siblings or parents.  Many of the images had creative crops to draw attention inward to the baby and/or used shallow depth of field to focus on the baby while leaving others blurred or cropped from view.  This is a style.  Some will love it, while others won’t. To me, expectations were set accurately.

Lessons photographers can take from this:

  • Make sure that your website, blog, and all social networking sites display an accurate representation of what you will provide your customers.
  • Educate your customer.  As in the scenario above, the photographer did communicate visually what the images would look like.  Still, the customer was surprised.  While there is no surefire way to avoid this, make sure you confirm with your customers that they understand your look and style.  Tell them “your photos will look like the ones on our website.”  And even ask “is that the look and style you want?”
  • If you attend a photography workshop or mentoring class, and take photos there that you cannot accomplish on your own, do not put them on your sites (unless you include a disclaimer). For example, if you are doing a stylized shoot and normally do not do sets with props, you may not want to show those images.  If you use natural light, but take an off-camera flash training, wait till you become proficient before you share work that you cannot easily reproduce.
  • Be upfront when you talk to prospective clients about your time-frame, amount of images they will receive and what they can expect the images to look like.

Misunderstandings

Do you ever have misunderstandings with customers? Do you feel you convey accurately what the end product and images will look like? We’d like to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

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 The Importance of Setting Accurate Expectations for Photography Customers

Jodi Friedman, MCP Actions

Jodi Friedman is the founder of MCP Actions. She designs popular Photoshop actions and Lightroom presets that make editing faster, easier and more fun.

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3 Comments and 0 Replies



  1. 1

    Wow. “Tell them “your photos will look like the ones on our website.” And even ask “is that the look and style you want?”

    I fully agree with educating a client where possible, but having to say this is like ordering a meal in a restaurant and having the waitress then say “Now you know the food you ordered will be what you saw on the menu and ordered? Is that what you want”?

    I have been in business for 20 years and it really does seem that clients used to be smarter. That is not meant to sound nasty, but seems to be true – They were able to connect the dots better.

  2. 2
    L Shaw says:

    I agree with this article. People are busy and with technology being as fast paced and sometimes time consuming (e-mail, social networking, blogging, shopping, bills, etc) people just don’t take the time to completely research items the way that they should.

    I literally spell out to customers everything that will happen at the photo shoot and the resources I do and do not have and I let them know how much time it will approximately take to get the photos processed and back to them (1-4 weeks depending on the session)–and they still ask me questions like “when are the photos going to be done?” a week after the session knowing I already told them in e-mails, in person, and on the phone that it will take 2 weeks (as an example).

    I had someone e-mail me about wanting a photo session for their family and they stated that they wanted the photos done possibly that weekend. I e-mailed her back with a series of questions for her to answer and I stated all the information she needed to know about my sessions, including a link to my website. I ended the e-mail by asking her to give me her number so I could call her to schedule the session and to answer any other questions she may have (I also stated that no sessions would be put on the calendar until I called her and we talked on the phone). How did she respond? She stated “great! I will see you Saturday at 1pm!” I sent her the e-mail again and began the copied e-mail with “I’m sorry but you did not give me your number, like I said no sessions are scheduled until I call you.”

    People are too preoccupied with their lives to be bothered with details, but when they want them they will let you know.

  3. 3
    Caleb says:

    Great advice for professional photographers. Thanks for sharing.



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