Friday, August 26, 2011

As Professionals..

As I am getting things ready for a wedding tomorrow, I can't help but think of the phone call I received last Saturday while I was capturing an adult flag foot ball league. During a break, between teams, my phone rang. The number was unfamiliar and I didn't hesitate to answer. On the other end was a familiar voice. With a quick opening and inquisitive  joke about what I was doing that day, my friend started to explain that her friend, "the bride" was freaked out because the photographer she had booked had not been in contact with her, yet. It was the day of the wedding, a mere 3-4 hours away from the ceremony and she hadn't spoke with the photographer that day after making numerous calls. She was upset and feared the photographer was not going to show. My friend went on to explain that after numerous attempts to call and email the photographer throughout the week, they received no reply or response to the emails.

I began to ask my friend a few questions about the plans for the day so I could prepare myself for an emergency job. I was trying to build a mental itinerary to rescue the bride from a horrible disaster. After hearing enough details, the talk of money came next. I began with how much was put down, if all was paid up, and what was left. That would make a difference, in my opinion, as to how much I would charge. Even at a last minute booking, after someone taking payment and not showing, it would have been hard to ask someone to pay a second time for a service the first time they didn't even get. But, in saying that, I must also advise, I knew well before I received that call, the bride and groom were on a budget, which also influenced an idea for assisting. Never the less the money talk warranted the bride to complete the call, as my friend passed the phone over to her. I could hear in her voice a soft and sad tone, she wasn't crying, but I could hear the build up of tears ready to break free from the clouds her eyes undoubtedly puffed up. I asked a few detail questions to ease her into the subject of hiring someone last minute, per recommendation of our friend. A question I asked a few times, "are you really concerned that the photographer will not show," was asked in slightly different variations to see if she was in fact that scared and ready to book me. She was in fact scared and after hearing her say it, she answered a few more quick questions. I gave her a quote, a portion off the rate I normally charge and explained why. The bride said it sounded great and jist as I was ready to give full detail as to what she should expect from me, she broke in with a quick statement saying it looks like the photographer just called her back finally.

She said she would call me back in a few minutes and let me know what was going on. A few minutes later the bride called back and told me everything was ok and the photographer would be there for her start time. She was at that point upset and thanked me for my willingness to be there for her.  "I will never recommend her to anyone, referring to the photographer, and I will suggest you to anyone I know who needs a photographer." My friend took over the phone and said nearly the same thing as she too thanked me. I didn't get the last minute wedding, but I was ready to pick up where someone else's lack of professional attitude left off.

If you're a seasoned wedding photographer, you know how every couple is different and no two weddings are ever the same, even in the same venues. You also know how important it is to be there for your clients, to take their calls and listen to their needs and desires. In some instances a photographer can be like a therapist, we listen to their needs and sometimes the needs are part of a larger conversation in which a number of topics could be expressed. It is part of the job. We are their because they are hiring us, have hired us. They are seeking professionals to give them the best. Clients aren't seeking someone with a casual attitude or someone who doesn't know how to be attentive to the needs of the client. In some cases being more flexible than we'd like to, keeps them happy. A happy client will ensure growth and longevity in your business. A mad client will not only prevent your business from future work, it may even taint and tarnish what you've already built.

If you're young in your professional career as a photographer, being there for every call and responding to every email in a timely manner is a must. Sometimes we can't take a call, be it you're with a client, shooting, editing, or busy with something that you can't break free from, but how fast you respond matters. I've received calls at 10pm, I answer no matter what. If I receive an email at 10pm, I make sure that is the first thing on my agenda in the morning. Chances are that email you just got was the last thing a client did before calling it a night. It is priority to answer, but it can wait a few hours, that is unless it is an email asking for an immediate response, then that is a no brainer. I once assisted a photographer who said it very clearly and made complete sense out of this statement:  "You can be a good photographer and a bad business person, not being able to run a business, or you can be a good business person and be bad at making photographs. It's not easy to do both and its rare to find someone who is completely great at both." Having a professional attitude isn't something we are born with, it is learned over time, with practice, trial and error, and much needed development. Treat every client as if they are the most important persons in the world, because, well they are. When you are working for them, you're on their time and they are all that matters. Assuring them that this is how you value them, that they are important before their day, during their day, and after their day will make them happy. If you value your job, your business, then value your clients and show them that. Your clients are the sustenance and livelihood of your business, how you value them is a reflection of yourself.

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