Not long ago I read an online article where the author was talking about the need for an Internet Bill of Rights: an updated set of regulations and protocols that would help ensure data security in the internet era. Given the number of high-profile data breaches we read about in the news these days, that might not be a bad idea.
On the other hand, it also got me to thinking about what customers should reasonably expect when they hire me to do work for them. I’m not sure a “bill of rights” is necessarily required, but I was able to jot down a few things that anyone should be able to count on before they even call:
- The right to security and confidence
That goes for on-site work too: even in the Age of Selfies, the average person is not comfortable being in front of a camera. Sure, you have a few hams out there, but by and large, it makes people nervous. In order for them to be natural and comfortable with you as you shoot, there has to be a certain level of trust: trust that you’re not going to laugh at them, trust that you’ll tell them if something isn’t working, and perhaps most importantly, trust that their photos are safe—and that includes outtakes. This is important across the board, but especially in the case of boudoir photography.
- The right to have questions answered
Because of the discomfort mentioned above, clients may have a lot of questions going into a photoshoot. Your job: answer them. All of them, to the customer’s satisfaction. And do it politely, no matter how much of a hurry you’re in. Better yet, try to anticipate questions: some subjects will be so uncomfortable with the process, they may not even know what to ask. Do your best to put them at ease: the entire shoot will go better.
- The right to professional, courteous service
Sometimes, there is a fine line between creating an amicable atmosphere so that your clients can relax…and crossing that line into “too close for comfort” territory. Your photography clients expect you to be polite—even friendly—but also professional. They may talk to you, joke with you, even give you a friendly hug; but make no mistake, they still have the right to hold you to professional business standards. That means showing up on time, being prepared, and delivering what you promise.
- They have a right to expertise
Just to be clear: YOU are the professional in this equation. Your clients expect well-lit, well-focused pics, but they also expect you to use your knowledge and expertise to make them look good—in many cases, they’re hoping you can make them look better than they feel they do. To do that, you’ve got to know your gear, inside and out. You have to know what angles to look for to achieve the desired effect. And you need a thorough understanding of lighting, including how to flatter subjects’ features and how to work around tricky areas like lens flares off a pair of glasses.
It also means you’re actually engaged with the client, paying attention when they talk about those parts of themselves that make them most self-conscious about…and then figuring out the best, most natural ways to not emphasize those areas.
- They have a right to expect PASSION
Make no mistake: passion alone is not enough to make it as a successful photographer. As we’ve (repeatedly) said before, photography is a business, and unless you treat it like that, you’re doomed before you start.
At the same time, we all know that when finances become a factor, it can distort the way we think about our craft. Very often, clients are willing to surrender at least some—if not most—creative control; the question is, what do you do with it? Do you use the opportunity to push the envelope, explore, discover, and try to reach outside of your comfort zone? Or do you see it as a chance to do things the way you’ve done them before, and know will satisfy (not stun) the client? It’s easy to become somewhat robotic in your set-ups, but that’s not what clients want, and not what will differentiate you from the pack.
Of course, the truth is you should really never have to worry about losing your passion for photography. If you’ve made it as far as even trying to make a career in the creative industry, chances are it will take a lot before you ever get bored of it. Every shoot is different—and that means every day is a chance to try something new.
Much of it gets down to one’s own personal credo. Sure, you’re committed to your craft, but you also need to be committed to your clientele, to delivering both the best product and the best experience. That is seldom the easiest tack to take, but it will make a difference. Like they say: be the change you want to see in the world.
Or behind the camera, as the case may be.