Photographers and Red Flag Syndrome

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Photography is the very definition of a customer service oriented business. If you choose photography as a profession, and questions and inquiries from prospects are a source of anxiety and irritation for you, it might be best to choose another profession.

I’ve noticed a worrisome trend in photographers, particularly those new to the business, or without a lot of prior customer service experience in other jobs.

Simply put, any questions that they don’t like are labeled as “red flags”.

It might come as a surprise, but not all prospective clients are willing to just hand a photographer money and declare, “You’re the expert, whatever you think.” And, no, your portfolio of cherry picked best-of-the-best photos does not tell them everything they need to know about the experience of working with you.

It goes without saying that wedding photographers probably fall under the most scrutiny. A lot of marketing goes the route of “Don’t trust a once in a while photographer with your once in a lifetime event.” There is no substitute for a professional photographer when there is no substitute for the event. We spend a lot of time telling people how important the photography is to their big day. Why, then, are we surprised when they take it just as seriously as we tell them to?

This is the age of social connection. Brides will flock together in digital groups to ask questions and share advice. Sadly, some of that advice is how to save money on your photographer by not using the word “wedding”, or outright lying about the event. Other advice intends to educate people on what questions to ask to separate the apples and oranges of wedding photographers.

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Of course, a lot of these questions mean little or nothing to the bride (“Do you do color corrections, and if so how many?”) but because they seem so ludicrous to the photographer (“Well, duh, of course I do color corrections, all photographers do. How do you think I get my particular style?”), the bridezilla radar starts pinging. Either this bride is going to be a control freak, or she is being led to believe that she is empowered – with just enough information to be a pain to the photographer.

The thing for a photographer to remember is that these questions aren’t personal. How can they be personal when they are cut and pasted from a support group, after all? They are standard shopping questions for people about to plop down a pocket full of dosh for priority services. Keep in mind that not only is this probably the most money they have ever spent for photography in their lives, they don’t understand the process, jargon, or technical and creative aspects that go into the photographer’s job.

Photographers retreat to their own digital support groups to compare notes and radar readings. You could turn these discussion threads into drinking games where “red flag” calls for a gulp. The very thought that someone would ask anything other than “Do you accept checks or do you need a credit card?” is enough to whip up a storm of arrogance.

“Did she even look at your website?” is a common retort.

Sigh.

People don’t hire a website, they hire a photographer. For a period of time – often a year or more – the client and the photographer are in a relationship. There is little in life more emotional than weddings and births, and photographers are hired for both. These are personal, intimate events entrusted to a very important person – a photographer. People just want to know they have entrusted the right person with a very sacred responsibility.

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Photography is the very definition of a customer service oriented business. If you choose photography as a profession, and questions and inquiries from prospects are a source of anxiety and irritation for you, it might be best to choose another profession.

Remember that a prospect that questions is a prospect that considers. They are interested enough to gather information. Questions are opportunities. Opportunities to set someone at ease, build that relationship, and make a living in the process.


Photo credit: Image by Paul Brennan from Pixabay