3 Questions that Will Help You Understand What Your Client Wants

This week's guest post is by Eli Powell, a wedding photographer based in Boulder, Colorado.  Before escaping the corporate box, Eli was a consulting engineer.  The creative juice behind Eli Powell Photography, Eli continually strives to improve his work & business (sometimes to no avail!).

Do you know what your clients want? I mean, what they really want? I've found that in most cases, I don't, so I have to ask. There are lots of photographers out there that can meet your client's needs, but only a handful that can identify and meet their wants. So to book the work and thrill your clients, you have to discover their needs and wants, then deliver the goods!

The client's needs are usually what they ask for, a head shot, family photos, or wedding photography for example. But even this may not be totally clear. How do they expect to use the photos? Do they have a spot on the wall picked out, or are they looking to make their own Christmas card? Ask as many questions as needed to make sure you can fully meet their needs.

The wants are a little trickier. Your client might not even really understand their wants, so it's up to you to help them through the discovery process. This may be the first time they've hired a professional and they might not know what to expect. Ask probing questions to discover their hopes, goals, and expectations for the shoot. Below are some example questions to get you on the right track…
Wedding questions:

  1. Photos aside, what do you want your wedding to be?
  2. What's most important to you about your wedding?
  3. Have you ever been part of a wedding, seen a wedding photographer in action, etc.?

Portrait questions:

  1. Tell me about your [family/job/client/etc.]
  2. Have you ever hired a photographer before?
  3. What's most important about your photographs, is there something special you want to capture?
  4. Who are we making these images for?
  5. How are you planning to use the images?

The idea at this point (and this is the hard part) is to actually listen to your clients, and communicate how you can meet there wants and needs. So if a wedding client says “We just want to have a fun wedding” maybe you can talk to them about how, as a photojournalist, they get to enjoy the day instead of doing a photo-shoot all afternoon. If a clients says “I want a family portrait with all three generations, this is a gift to my mother.” maybe you can talk about how you'll shoot at grandma's home to make the shoot easier and more intimate.

This is also the time when you need to figure out if you actually can thrill the client and help them set realistic expectations. For example, this is the same time many portrait photographers introduce their detailed products costs.

Below are some examples of photography needs and wants.

Need: Headshot. Wants: client will be using the photo on upcoming RFPs (requests for proposals). They were recently promoted, and think having a professional looking image on their RFPs may help them get more business. They're trying to project an image of success.
Need: Wedding photography. Wants: To spend a lot of time with their guests, guests to have a great time, to look their best. etc.
Need: Food and detail photos for magazine spread. Wants: to save money while impressing the boss, to have photos that match the money and time they spend prepping everything.
Need: School yearbook photo. Wants: to feel like a model for a day (daughter), child to never grow up (parent).
Need: After wedding portrait shoot. Want: To not feel disappointed about crummy wedding photos (with another photog, of course).

You get the idea. It should be noted that some wants may be too personal to share, no need to pry. In short, using smart questions to identify what your clients wants and needs will help you (and the client) know if you're a good fit and knowing expectations will help you thrill another client.


If you would like to write for PhotoMint and share your experience with thousands of photographers, email me with your topic ideas!

Simple Wedding Photography

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