Business Practices for Photographers

Kenneth C. Hoffman
 


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There must be as many business policies as there are photographers in business. Through the years I have learned by my mistakes and by observing other successful photography business. Here are some policies that have added to the success of my business.

Concerning weddings, require the full payment for the basic package that the bride and groom order. Extras must be paid at the time of the final order. The argument that no goods are in the hands of the buyer must be politely put aside.

If actual proofs are supplied for perusal, one successful photographer I know actually supplies these proofs (over 300 3x5s) to the bride and groom free of charge. The theory is (and it works) that more people over a longer period of time will see the pictures and place more orders. These proofs are too small to use as gifts or for display and their gratitude for the free gift is wonderful for word-of-mouth advertising. I suggest that the proofs be heavily textured to prevent illegal digital scanning.

I believe that a full guarantee of customer satisfaction be a major policy of the professional photographer. The consumer is entitled to be happy with their purchase, even though some criterions are subjective and not the fault of the photographer. No customer should be left with a bad taste in their mouth when they leave the studio. You will reap the rewards in additional referrals and increased orders.

Offer as many free retakes of sessions that have gone wrong for one reason or another. I know that this policy represents additional costs to the studio but the clients have no fault when the two year old won’t sit or grandmother gets sick. Some clients might try to take advantage of this policy by trying to get free sessions for individuals in a group picture, but the rules must be stated clearly and posted in the studio for the customers to see.

Some photographers expand the price list lower and higher, quoting higher and lower levels of quality. I know that the reason is to present more choices in cost to the customer, but the down side is that the cheaper products will not represent your best work and the customer may feel cheated. All your work must be of the finest quality you can produce. Lower prices can only reflect smaller sizes or fewer quantities.

Promise a realistic date for the work to be completed and make sure that the work is ready on time. A variable date for completion only serves to undermine the customer’s faith in your efficiency and good work habits. Reminder calls are a good idea if the work is not picked up within a reasonable time period.

Assuage the customer’s important concerns and fears early on in your relationship. Some clients are reluctant to bring up their fears and end up not booking if those concerns are not addressed.

Never offer any extra pictures you have at no charge to the customer. For some reason, this never works in favor of the photographer. Be meticulous in preparing the exact sizes and amounts of their order. On the other hand, you may include a small (non photographic) gift for their continued support of your services.

Generally, your prices should be commensurate with your major competition, using your expertise and talent as the reason your customers are satisfied and return for more business. Bi-annual reappraisal of your price list should be a regular habit. Everything goes up and you should be no different. Photographers are a dime a dozen but good, successful photographers are rare.

I was a portrait and wedding photographer for 40 years and enjoyed every minute.

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