THIS IS A GUEST POST COURTESY OF ELA PHOTOGRAPHY BY KAYLYNNE
Being a photographer is tough these days. The market is highly saturated, new photographers are popping up weekly on every corner, and everyone has a mini camera in their pocket. The struggle is real and each and every one of us has to find a way to really connect with our clients. We must create an experience that is so much more than just getting your photos taken because that keeps them coming back to us over and over. The whole experience should start before even the first Hello. A well-designed website, a brand that matches not just in color but in style and personality, can set the tone for all future communication.
My first two years in business I struggled with making positive connections with my clients. My personality type is more introverted. I feel as though I come off awkwardly to strangers. It didn’t matter how great my images were because the only thing clients were remembering was that I seemed shy and uncomfortable. I had a difficult time directing the sessions and was never really 100% happy with my final images because of that. I knew that I needed to create something that would grab the attention of my clients and help them to feel like they were the center of my universe from the first time they clicked on my website. People always fear the unknown, and I didn’t want a session with me to be something of an uncertainty. I needed my clients to feel a connection with me through my words, before meeting me in person.
My first interaction with a potential client is typically through my website. I have a small paragraph written about every type of session, along with starting prices, and of course a sample of my work. I want customers to feel excited and have just enough information to stay interested, but not so much they don’t reach out for more details. I keep a few graphics available to me at all times that explain my package prices for every type of session I offer. So, when that first email rolls in asking about prices, and packages offered, I have a quick reply back that looks professional, engaging and matches my brand completely.
Once the contract is signed, and the retainer is paid, I send out a complete welcome packet. It was important for me that my clients could understand my passion, and drive for creating keepsakes, not just social media files. I wanted not just to streamline my process but give as much information as possible, in a way that felt tailored to each person who read it. We have the power to educate our clients in a way that we desire, to not only help them feel confident arriving for their shoot, but also shifting the overall look and feel of our images because of that guidance we give. Our clients want images that are perfect in every way, and the rely on our expertise to help give them a polished professional look.
The first section of my client guide is all about me because well, frankly I am a HUGE part of every session and it’s so important that our personalities mesh well… and remember that part about me being super awkward? Yeah, we need to get that out of the way…
Part two is a clothing guide. Now not everyone has a natural sense of style. I have had clients who wanted to show up in all white matching shirts for a high sun session, and I’ve had sessions where 6 people tried wearing different styles of plaid. Now I’m not saying these are terrible clothing choices, but that it may not reflect the look they truly wanted. My style guide is simple, in a way that it explains how a color wheel works for complimentary colors. It explains how to coordinate your family’s outfits without matching. It talks about how to choose clothing that fits properly, as though it were tailored for you, and it covers how to do all that on a budget. I also go over what NOT to wear list. How to add layers and texture through accessories. These are all things our clients so desperately want to know, but they don’t actually realize they don’t know it. Way back when I started this photography journey, I was always curious how other photographers ended up with such well-dressed clientele, it wasn’t until I started implementing my style guides did, I realize, that we tell them what to wear. Now instead of worrying about what clients might show up, I am excited to see how they pull it all together.
Next, I have a section about how to choose a location. I constantly have people seeing a location in my previous portfolio work and immediately want the same location, not knowing that even something like the time of day can create a totally different style and overall feel of an image. I don’t go into a ton of detail here but just explain that lighting and seasons can make all the difference. I explain that different locations work better with different styles of clothing and that your location should complement the overall look you want.
One of the things I think is the most important is talking about why you are getting your photos done professionally. The drive behind the images, and while these days so many people want to share on social media, ultimately my clients choose me because they are trying to record natural reactions and emotions, the little details that we so easily forget with time, and truly capture life as it is, right at this moment. I ask about props that could be used to add value to your images, such as a blanket grandma made, or a favorite stuffed animal your child can’t live without. These items may be things not thought about until asked, but can really add important memories. This section of my guide really covers a lot about family prep. Making sure little kids and toddlers are fed, well rested, and how to keep an overall happy demeanor throughout the session. I give a lot of information about how to have a great day with little stress by preparing completely the day, or even the week before, everything from shoes and socks together, haircuts, even meal planning. Because I know as a mother of 4, photo day can be stressful when dad isn’t in it 100% and your son lost his shoes. When there is a toddler meltdown over hair bows, and you start lecturing about perfect smiles. I ask all my clients to let go of that dream of a “picture perfect family portrait,” and to just have fun, relax and enjoy every second of the day. I feel so strongly that because of this guide my clients are able to relax a little and 99.9% of the time, they get that perfect family portrait anyways because everyone has had a great time.
I finish off the last part with a FAQ section. It covers all the things that I get asked about the most, that some people may feel silly for asking. It has been a great way for me to set boundaries as well because everyone understands the whole entire process before we even start. This section goes over the timeline you can expect your images back for viewing, I go over extra fees for additional retouching work that might be requested. It covers all the ordering information, and not just the process but the importance of having prints, and albums made.
Now I know that reading this can seem so overwhelming. I have spent hours upon hours between writing, and creating the PDF files that flowed well with my style, looked professional, and followed the colors and feel of my brand. Like all things in business hard work really does pay off. I rarely get flooded with emails asking a ton of questions anymore. My time is better spent because I have given all the tools needed for a top of the line session. My clients feel confident showing up that they are not only prepared the best as possible but that their photographer has the knowledge and expertise to pull off greatness.
In the year that has passed since I started using my guide, a large majority of my clients comment about how much it helped them prepare for their session. I get feedback frequently about how comfortable clients feel knowing that I have poured so much into making them feel comfortable and confident. The recommendations and reviews I get are amazing, and the best part of all? I don’t feel like I come off as awkward anymore. My clients love me as much as they love their images, and that keeps them coming back time and time again.
Ela photography by Kaylynne is a full-service studio serving the Northwest region of Wyoming. Kaylynne Sims is passionate about children’s photography and has been featured in numerous Children’s Magazines. A small-town gal, in rural Wyoming Kaylynne, likes to spend her free time with her husband and 4 children hiking, camping, and enjoying all the Wyoming has to offer.