Shifting Focus: Is It Time To Quit Photography?
By Kyle Wilson
Booking photography clients who trust your creative process is crucial to a harmonious relationship, resulting in a high-quality shoot that leaves everyone happy. We’ve all been in the uncomfortable position where a client tries to direct the shoot or questions everything you do. There is friction when boundaries are overstepped, and you know afterwards you’ll face excessive revisions and dissatisfaction, creating extra stress you don’t need.
So, how do you book photography clients who trust your process and respect your expertise?
First, let's shift the mindset. Rather than searching for the ‘ideal client,’ what about being the ideal photographer?
It doesn’t mean changing who you are to fit the client. It’s about attracting photography clients who resonate with your style and ethos. It means you won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but for the right client, you are their ideal.
You can attract like-minded clients who already love your work and come with a built-in sense of confidence in you. You get more creative freedom, and they get an amazing experience and photos.
It comes down to being true to who you are, building trust, and taking the lead to guide the experience.
You need to know precisely who you are as a photographer to effectively communicate that to potential clients. Confidence starts with clarity—in your photographic style, communication style, and values.
Style. Find your lane. Whether you like to shoot moody, vintage, or vibrant photos, the more consistently you represent the work you love, the more you’ll attract clients who love what you do. Your portfolio should not be a jack-of-all-trades collection but a curated showcase of your best and most representative work. Clients will choose you because you’re clearly the one they want. Everything that follows is easy because you are their ideal photographer.
Communication. Be crystal clear in your online messaging about who you are and what your brand stands for. Do you represent your brand consistently across your website, socials, price guides, emails, etc? Be your authentic self and let that show in every communication. People sense when someone is being real versus when they’re putting on a show. Being transparent allows people to relate to you on a human level and build trust in you.
Values. Identify and communicate what you care about. The clients who share your values will be drawn to you and trust you more readily because you have something important in common. For instance, photographer Cat Ekkelboom-White works in the Austrian Alps and Dolomites, where there is a particular hotspot for photoshoots, but she feels the environmental impact of shooting there is unacceptable. In an interview with Narrative’s Kyle Wilson, she stressed the importance of clarifying her values upfront and how that has worked to draw clients she wants to work with - she also mentors photographers to help them do the same.
“Every time a couple reaches out and says, ‘Hey we just want you to plan our day and plan our timeline’ it just gives me so much joy compared to, ‘Hey we're gonna have 250 people in this big room and we gotta take photos of all these things on the tables and all this stuff that's supposed to matter.’”
Establishing that you are the expert and communicating professionally will go a long way towards building trust. When your client trusts you, they will be more comfortable letting you do your thing.
Your client will have questions—many of which they might not yet know they have. Answer their questions before they ask them. By providing a comprehensive guide that addresses common concerns and outlines what they can expect from working with you, you set the tone that you are the expert - you’ve done this many times and have confidence that you are the best photographer for them.
Be their resource, answer their questions, and keep them updated. If they can't reach you, they won't trust you—simple as that. Keep the lines of communication open and respond promptly. Efficient communication is key to establishing trust, and automated email responses can be your best friend - if you can’t respond personally immediately, at least communicate that to them. Automation will also relieve the stress of checking your email constantly and help your work-life balance.
Exceed client expectations. For instance, consider offering an initial complimentary engagement session. This will not only enhance your relationship but also give you the chance to work together before the big day. Anything that makes the wedding shoot more successful is worth your time. By creating awesome work, you’ll get more fantastic photography clients.
Blogging is a fantastic way to establish your expertise, but we get it: it can be time-consuming. That's where tools like Narrative Publish come into play. It allows you to create SEO-friendly blog posts featuring your best photography work in about five minutes. This enables you to focus more on your art while providing valuable content that builds trust and credibility with your audience.
Think of it as navigation: you are the experienced pilot who has the knowledge to make everything run as smoothly as possible.
Yes, you should be flexible, but that doesn't mean you should be a pushover. Clearly establish what the client can expect, and be upfront about your limitations. Allow them a little input—perhaps ask them to pick 2 or 3 'must-have' shots—but reassure them that you are capable of creating the best photos even without their input. They can relax and enjoy their day without worrying about you.
Inform your clients beforehand about how you plan to handle the shoot. Tell them about specific recommendations you have and why. They will see that your experience is a better guide than coming up with their own ideas.
It can be a big help to reach out to the wedding planner in advance to discuss how they want the day to run. This allows you to show your expertise and that you are open to collaborating with them - not being managed by them. Also, the client sees a positive, professional relationship that will set them at ease.
Ideally, you will have nailed all of this and your client just lets you do your thing. But sometimes you have to capture images that are important to the client but don’t fit your aesthetic. These shots don’t have to make it to your Instagram, but they could mean the world to your client. So while you might cringe at yet another requisite photo of wedding rings, it isn’t going to ruin your shoot to just do it.
Ultimately, be open to what the client values, even if it doesn’t entirely align with your style. Remember, not every photo has to be a portfolio shot.
Being an ‘ideal photographer’ is not about molding yourself to fit into someone else’s idea of what a photographer should be. It’s about authenticity, clear communication, and confidence. By embodying these traits, you’ll attract clients who trust your creative process and, ultimately, become long-term advocates for your work, growing your network and credibility.