Here’s a quote from the civil rights activist Maya Angelou and it’s a quote that my mentor (Charles Lewis) likes to repeat.
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
I hold this quote very dear when it comes to my photography, or life in general really.
But how does it apply to your photography business?
Well, I had a wedding on Saturday and without tooting my trumpet I got a lot of lovely feedback and even got a mention in the speeches. One of the guests was a wedding planner and said “I love how you join in and have a laugh with everyone – most photographers I see are grumpy or standoffish and don’t speak to anyone.”
I thought that was a bit harsh, but I don’t see many other photographers in action, so who knows.
Perhaps in the heat of the moment some photographers are so desperate to get great images they become a photographerzilla.
Or, perhaps they were referring to documentary wedding photographers who’s style generally requires them to blend in, or stand back.
Personally, my priority on any shoot is to make the client notice how helpful, happy and enthusiastic I am. I want it to be overwhelmingly obvious that I’m delighted to be there and that nothing is too much trouble.
I’d rather miss a shot and be friendly and polite than get a shot and have someone irritated with me.
Yes, clients can do annoying things…
Guests stand in the aisle with their mobiles while the bride and groom walk down.
They’ll take photographs over your shoulder or bring their own cameras to family portrait sessions.
Guests will completely ignore you when you’re asking them to gather together for group shots. Or they’ll try and hide at the back of the group.
Parents will shout at their children during family sessions.
Families will turn up late or stand you up.
Clients will ignore your emails.
They’ll complain about your prices.
Yes, sometimes clients do things that suck.
If you let it, it can make you bitter.
And perhaps it’s those worn out, beaten down photographers that the wedding planner was referring to.
They’ve been irritated again and again and they take each indiscretion personally.
But if you were a client and didn’t know anything about photography, would you…
Want to lean into the aisle to get a shot of your niece in her wedding dress?
Would you try and hide at the back of the group photos?
Have you ever shouted at your children because you want them to behave in front of someone?
Have you ever been late, or forgotten an appointment?
Have you ever ignored an email?
Have you ever thought something was too expensive?
As photographers we’re working with people every day.
Usually people in a heightened state of emotion.
We have to be experts at dealing to people.
We have to roll with the punches and keep coming back for more.
If you don’t like dealing with people this isn’t a great job for you.
It’s like those bus drivers who get angry because there’s traffic in their way, or that there’s not much space to turn. I always think ‘What did you think being a bus driver would involve!? If you prefer the open road then be a bloody lorry driver!’
Dealing with the public we have to have a good sense of humour, even when things go wrong. Even if we keep the joke to ourselves. Even if the joke is on us.
Embrace the chaos.
If people can see you’re honestly giving 100% and doing it with positivity and enthusiasm then they’ll be on your side and they’ll follow your lead.
They’ll also forgive your mistakes more readily.
Often grumpy parents on a family session will chill out once they see how I play and laugh with the children to get the shots. They follow my example.
What’s the expression…? “Be the change you want to see in the world” I think it is.
It’s hard for people to love a photograph by someone they don’t like.
It’s the same with music. We generally like music by people we like.
If you want some practical tips on how to help clients fall in love with you then check out these videos on our membership site:
‘How to rock your weddings and portrait sessions’
‘How I photograph weddings – tips, tricks and camera settings’
‘How to use the power of emotion in your photography business’
Members can also get a free download of our Ebook ‘No more dreading-wedding group photos’ where I explain all the things I say and do to make wedding group photographs bloody great fun…
… and get more referrals and testimonials because of it.
You’ll learn the things I say and do to get natural expressions and to build a strong relationship with my clients.