What does the photography client want?

This maybe a dangerous question to ask, but then they don’t call me Mad Crazy Tim for nothing. Ok, so they don’t call me Mad Crazy Tim, but it’s a dull Wednesday morning and I’m struggling for jokes here…

I ask the question because while some of my articles are aimed at those with a passing interest in photography, some at designers and others at the voices in my head telling me to burn stuff, I’m also aware that existing and potential clients sometimes swing by and read these articles, so this time I’m asking them/you the question – cue close camera shot of my screen as I type, á la Carrie Bradshaw:

What does the photo-buying client want?

Hmm, that’s not as sexy as the stuff Carrie asks.

female with brain activity recording cap on.

If only I could read clients’ minds.

You see it’s all very well me putting up a website, getting it found, showing my work etc, but as with any business there are two sides. There is the quality, service and pricing structure I put out there, and then there is what the client actually wants from a photographer. And unless I ask the question every now and then, how can I possibly match what I offer to what you, the clients need and want?

I know many clients want a fast turnaround. They’re keen to get the ball rolling with their project, and waiting to see the results of a shoot can be frustrating. Especially now we all expect things to happen instantaneously through the web. I know when I order something from Amazon, I’m expecting the courier to be knocking on my door within seconds of me hitting the Confirm Order button. To this end, I aim to have the client gallery up within 24 hours. With afternoon and evening assignments the link is often with the client by the following morning. Even Amazon would struggle to compete with that speed of delivery.

And all this speed of service is fine and dandy, but I want to know what clients, either design or direct clients, want even before the shoot begins. How much involvement do you want from your photographer?

I know I’m always keen to speak to designers and their clients at the earliest possible stage. It means I can have input and also see how everyone else’s minds are working before I start taking pictures. I need to know what pictures the designers and clients have in their heads, because the last-minute brief may not convey this. But sometimes (ok, often) I can see I’ve been called long after the creative discussions have happened. Maybe that is what clients want, or maybe they don’t know it would be better to involve me sooner.

What else might clients and their designers expect? Ok, free photos would be nice but let’s stay in the real world here. What I mean is, is there some service, some input or anything else either before, during or after a shoot that clients wish could be done to help them?

This article is essentially a plea for help and information, because designers and businesses will often raise with me issues they’ve had with other photographers, but I know that unless I directly ask for feedback (which I often do) I might never hear good ideas on improving my service. I also ask because non clients have good ideas too.

Of course if I get no feedback at all, I’ll just have to assume I’m perfect, which is what I thought all along…

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  • Ken September 30, 2010  

    All good food for thought as usual Tim, I personally always make sure the client lets me in on some of the bigger picture first so I can think through what it is I am offering to make sure it is aimed in the same direction as the client. Sounds simple but manys the time I read on forums where Photographers have stuck to a simple brief which mostly ends in tears. The one common thread is they didn’t ask the right questions of the job and of the client.

    So I hope all your clients respond so I can find out for myself 😉

    BTW: Mad Crazy Tim Mad Crazy Tim Mad Crazy Tim Mad Crazy Tim Mad Crazy Tim Mad Crazy Tim Mad Crazy Tim Mad Crazy Tim Mad Crazy Tim Mad Crazy Tim Mad Crazy Tim Mad Crazy Tim Mad Crazy Tim Mad Crazy Tim Mad Crazy Tim Mad Crazy Tim

    Please note the expression “Mad Crazy Tim” was first created by Tim Gander of Tim Ganders blog fame for the use on Tim Ganders Blog, you can read the original here – http://timgander.wordpress.com/2010/09/29/what-does-the-photography-client-want/#respond

    • Glass Eye September 30, 2010  

      Hi Ken, Thanks for your thoughtful comments (and the chuckle at the end).

      I often find myself pitching for work even as the creative process is going on, which is often the wrong way around. But of course clients are busy, and getting every element in the right order can be difficult. It is frustrating though, especially when I find myself pitching creative ideas to the client only to find they’ve subsequently gone with someone cheaper, who has offered no input at all.

      • Ken September 30, 2010  

        That old chestnut of getting your ideas and then finding someone cheaper to do them. I won’t engage in the creative offerings unless I have the gig, of course I speak in general terms and expressions but nothing key specific to them. If the client is really pressing me for ideas I advise them that they are now on the clock.

        This has upset some clients but I have pointed out to them that this is how I make my money.

  • Glass Eye September 30, 2010  

    I know, and I still sometimes make the mistake. I’ll bear your example in mind in future.

    • Ken September 30, 2010  

      I am by no means a smart arse about it, no one likes a smart arse, but I explain to them that it is part of the service when they engage me.

      I have only ever had one client get their nose out of joint and I think it was more to do with me not kowtowing to him in front of his young female staff member I believe he was trying to impress.

      When I got back out to the car I nearly wet myself laughing at the obviousness of his actions. Needless to say I didn’t get that gig.

      Oh well, a free laugh is a good laugh.

      • Glass Eye September 30, 2010  

        Excellent tale, Ken, worth remembering!

        • Peggy August 12, 2014  

          Your cranium must be prionctteg some very valuable brains.