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If you’re anything like me, you didn’t start taking photographs so you could take photos for other people, you started taking photos because of your creative energy and for the sheer pleasure of it. However, taking images for pleasure doesn’t necessarily pay the bills.
For any photographer taking the step to make a living from their work, it’s important that you’re able to deliver high quality images for a client that meet their expectations. Having ventured into this realm of photography myself, I thought I’d share some thoughts based upon my experiences, having found that it’s an extremely rewarding experience that has expanded my skillset.
Having made contact with the potential client, your first job is to meet them to discuss the images that they require. I find this far easier when face-to-face as opposed to over email or even on the phone. It helps you make that connection and build a level of understanding with each other.
Deciding What Images are Required
It may be that the client has a clear idea of they type of images that they’re after, which is always helpful. However, in some cases, the client may not really have a grasp of what is achievable or they might be overly ambitious. It’s worth spending time with the client to talk through their ideas and offering some of your input so you both have a clear understanding of what the end product will look like.
From the outset, it’s important that you explain what is and isn’t possible, and by gathering as much information as possible at this stage, you’ll be able to manage the expectations of the client, based upon their creative vision, but combined with practicalities, in order for you to deliver images that suit their requirements.
Get a breakdown of the exact images that they require. Do they need wide establishing shots, office based images, employee headshots, client profiles, product images? Not only will this give you a checklist of images to take, it will also enable you to gauge the amount of time it will take and help calculate costs.
Quote a Price
Once you know the entirety of what is involved with the job, you need to quote a price. It’s good to have this established at the start, so there are no surprises at the end. You could quote a flat fee for the whole job, or possibly an hourly rate or if it’s a particularly long piece of work, a monthly retainer.
Don’t be afraid to quote a price that you feel values your work highly and then be prepared to negotiate, but ensure you have a base rate that you don’t go below. Make sure you’re covering all costs such as equipment hire, models, venue hire, travel, etc. And leave room to pay yourself as well!
What Sort of Feel Are They After?
This is where your creative abilities as a photographer come to the fore. When discussing with the client the type of images that they want, you should be able to gauge the overall feel that they want to portray with the images. It may be a very traditional business the requires very clean, precise images that explicitly inform the viewer by including lots of information.
However, if a company requires new imagery, it may be that they’re undergoing a rebrand, and therefore, you need to be sensitive to the new direction of the brand. They may want images with a contemporary feel, for which you could employ shallow depth of field and some creative shooting angles.
Make sure you have a clear understanding of how you’re going to shoot the subject matter before you begin taking pictures. That way, you’ll be able to create a consistent set of images that are in keeping with the direction of the company.
Do You Need to Express What the Business Does?
This may seem like a strange question, but the requirements will vary depending upon the client. Some may well want what the company does to be totally explicit in the images, with detailed photographs portraying employees in context, working on projects and having meetings.
However, others may simply want the images to generate an overall feel for the company, for example, something more warm and personable, that involve employees and their clients looking happy, possibly in a different context to their work environment. It may well be that you need to shoot a variety of shots for the client to then choose between.
What are the Images Going to be Used for?
This will significantly affect the way in which you shoot. For example, you need to consider the sizing of the images. For this set of images I recently shot, I knew that many of the images were to be used as banners across the width of their new website. Each image was going to have text overlaid on either the right or left hand side, so I knew that I needed to get the majority of the subject matter within the central band of the image, leaving some negative space on one side.
Build an Open Relationship with Good Communication
It’s essential that you keep the client updated with progress. Show them images and respond to their requests and questions, even if it is to say that you can’t deal with something right now and informing them when you will be able to respond fully.
By generating a level of open communication, you’ll be able to keep them informed, but it will also allow for questions and thoughts on both sides to be shared without hesitation, which will go a long way in ensuring that the client is happy.
It’s at this stage in particular where you need to pay close attention to the exact requirements of the client. If the images are for web, it is likely they’ll need the images re-sized, if you’re one pixel out, then the image won’t align with the design of the site, so take care to ensure it’s correct.
For this client, as I’ve already mentioned, the banner images required specific sizing, but as text was being overlaid, they also required certain areas of the image to be blurred in order for the text to stand out.
The redesign of their site was incorporating a shade of blue, so they also asked for each image with a blue wash, easily done in Photoshop, but in order to get the tone correct, I used the specific RGB details that had been sent over by the designer.
Delivering the Final Package
Make sure that you deliver the images on time. If you don’t think you’ll be able to have the images ready by the agreed deadline, then be honest and inform them of when you think you’ll have them finished by. However, it may well be that your images are small part of a much larger puzzle that involves designers, web developers, printers, social media and approval from others higher in the company and delaying those needs should to be avoided.
It’s also good to ask the client which format they would like the images delivered in. You could send them online via Dropbox or WeTransfer, send on a DVD disc or flash drive, or even deliver them in person, whichever you feel is most appropriate for that particular client depending upon the relationship that you’ve built up.
Be sure to submit your final invoice upon delivery of the images. It may be that they process invoices at the end of the month, or pass it onto an administrator to handle, but if you don’t get any response, follow up each week until you get paid!
Don’t be afraid to ask for money that you are owed. It’s always a good idea to keep a track of the amount of hours that you’ve worked on each project, so if there is any contention over the fee at the end, you have a record to show how much work you’ve done.
It’s not always a given that you’ll receive feedback on your work, which I’ve found partly due to having to send images off and being removed from the final delivery, but it’s good to check in with the client after a few days to see if they’re happy and whether they require any final edits of adjustments.
Expanding Your Skill Set
Throughout the whole process, you need to keep in mind that you are creating images for the client, not for you. They are employing your services as a photographer and you need to deliver the images that they require.
That doesn’t rule out creativity, but sometimes you need to prioritise their requirements over your creative ideas. This can be a real test of your abilities, as there will undoubtedly be habits and general photographic practices that you usually employ to take your shots that may not be applicable when taking images to meet someone else’s requirements.
With this in mind, be sure not to hide behind your camera, be observant and aware of your surroundings in order to achieve the best possible results. If you do a good job, it may well lead to more work and recommendations to other potential clients, so try and keep the client happy and maintain the relationship after the shoot.