Theres a truth we all have to face when we become photographers; theres a lot of us.

It used to be that image making was reserved for a small few who possessed the patience, technical skill, and funds to purchase film, large view cameras, chemicals, and everything else that goes along with making and developing analog film. The advancing of technology has been steadily chipping away at those barriers year after year.

Photos are Everywhere

We now live in a world where photography has never been more accessible not just to photographers, but to the masses. Cell phones can now take some pretty darn amazing shots, even stitching together panoramas in seconds. Point & Shoot cameras are evolving and becoming ever more capable. Additionally, I argue that photography has never experienced more of a duality either; its never been more loved at the same time that its never been more disrespected.

I say this because I look at our culture now, and its all media driven. Social media wouldn’t hold a shred of its power without images. Profile photos, cover photos, albums, thumbnails. They hold all the visual cues we seek. Information is disseminated across cultures & language barriers with photos. Marketing firms toil over creating enticing brochures & advertisements.

Time to Change

Everything is visual, and the parts that aren’t seem to have been reduced to 140 characters or less. At the same time as our reliance on photos to communicate is higher than ever, people are beginning to expect photos to fall into their lap. They are beginning to feel entitled to the imagery that they didn’t create. They see it everywhere and think nothing of the professional and the work that went into creating it. After all, their uncle just got a Canon Rebel and you should see the photos he can take!

The visual education of our clientele has become watered down. The market is oversaturated. Photos aren’t rare anymore. Professional photographers (& faux-tographers) are in abundance, with plenty to choose from in every price range under the sun. It all makes for a seemingly grim prospect of finding ones way in the industry if you let let. I argue that this is the perfect opportunity to go the extra mile. And not just go the extra mile in the conventional ways of being sweet and charming to your clients and packaging their stuff up all pretty so theyre excited to open it. I mean in a meaningful & unique way that would resonate with your clients and make them truly feel valued.

How To Go The Extra Mile:

Ask questions. Not just stuff pertinent to what you need to do for their photo session, but stuff another layer, or two deep. Questions about what make them tick. Their favorite things. Their favorite places, things they like doing. Anyone can chit chat, but if you can turn chit chat into a conversation, your client is going to feel valued and not just a customer.

Listen. This is key in all life, but when you actively listen and can relate back to what your client says, they know you are truly interested in what they have to say and not just chatting them up. Many businesses chat up their clients with fluffy conversations that are seemingly nice, but lack any substance. Were in the business of creating amazing photos that capture our clients personalities & feelings. We can’t expect clients to give that freely without us investing some of ourselves.
Remember. Take notes if you have to. Remember that tiny nugget of information they dropped so you can surprise them later with it. For example, if a couple mentions they love going to a particular vineyard, you can note that so that later when you send them a thank you note (which better be a part of your repertoire already) you can include a bottle of wine from that vineyard with it. Theyll not only be pleased you sent a card, but totally touched that you remembered how much they loved that wine.

Promote. Lets face it. Most people want to feel celebrated and special. As photographers we have a lot of ways to do that (that also happen to be easy ways to promote our businesses at the same time). Feature your favorite image from a session on Facebook or Twitter and tag it (if you can). The client will feel like they did something special & their friends and family will get excited for them (and see all your contact info in the process). If you really like the results of your session, do a blog post on your client. That really knocks their socks off. They feel amazing to be featured on your blog. Even more bonus points can be had when you include some of those special nuggets of information that listened for and remembered. Its also easier than ever to submit your photos to publication. Great services like Two Bright Lights connect photographers with publishers of all kinds of print, e-zines, & blogs in all different genres. Even if your photos go up on a non-exclusive online only blog, its still pretty cool, especially to the average person or family. Being able to give someone a moment of fame will be exciting & memorable, only adding more to your worth in their eyes.

Sure, all this stuff takes time. In a world where were all likely run thin. But I know Id rather go the extra mile and have my business succeed with grateful & appreciative clients, than muddle by with minimal interaction & non meaningful relationships with my customers.

Lisa is a D.C. based wedding & portrait photographer. View her website here.