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The object of the first client phone call is to secure an appointment. Never let a client get off the phone that first time without asking more than once to set up an appointment. It’s not likely that you’re going to get a second chance. So ask. “When would you like to get together?” Always assume you’re going to get together: “Would Wednesday afternoon or Thursday afternoon be better for you?”

In the appointment, ask a lot of questions. Find out more about them and their families. Don’t show them your work right away. Once you’ve determined what kind of photography they’re looking for (photojournalism, traditional e.g.), bring out your book and show them what they want by showing them that you’ve done it. Then keep asking questions. And keep showing them you have it if you can, or something very like it. Once you’re satisfied they are a good fit, begin talking about what they want: a website, albums etc. and qualify them as to how much money they want to spend.

Money

Every client has a number in mind. If you ask them how much they want to spend, they will say they don’t know. They know. If you say “six thousand dollars,” they might recoil in horror. If you then say “three thousand dollars” and they don’t, you can then start to zero in on what that number looks like and from there you can explain options to them. Options usually mean albums, an item that will add significantly to the final agreement price.

It’s Not a Contract, It’s an Agreement

Make sure your agreement with your client spells out everything they are going to get and when they are going to get it. Included in the agreement is the total price and it should state very clearly that they are giving you a NON-REFUNDABLE deposit. You are making a commitment to your client and they are making one with you. They should give you a retainer (the deposit), usually a third to one half the total amount, the balance to be paid the week of the wedding. Not on the wedding day or after. Do not do business with your client on the wedding day. You are there on the wedding day as an artist, not a businessman. Also, do not wait to get paid the balance of the agreement until you deliver the albums or any time after the wedding. So get paid in full before the wedding day.

The Engagement Picture 

It helps you and your client greatly by including an engagement photo in the agreement. It serves a purpose: first, you get to know your clients better, which ALWAYS helps. When you get to their wedding day, you won’t be just a photographer; you’ll be something of a friend. Secondly, they are probably going to have a poster-sized photograph of the two of them at their reception for their friends to sign, hopefully, a photograph that you have taken and mounted on foam core for them for a small additional fee.

Photo Courtesy of James Schuck

If your client is on the edge of signing an agreement with you, this is a great item to give them for free to encourage them into signing that agreement and giving you a check. It’s an impressive way to do business and relieves your client of one more item on their “to-do” list. Then it’s a simple matter of setting a date for that shoot. If you haven’t included it in the package, it’s a great way to make a sale: have a sample available for your client to look at, and if you’re shooting in a studio (and hopefully, shooting digitally) have your camera tethered to your computer to allow your clients to see their engagement photos on the spot. Let them pick out the one they want and deliver it in a week. Turning work around fast is a sure way to make friends.

James Schuck

James Schuck is a writer and photographer working in Southern California. He is a graduate of the School of Visual Arts in New York City and has photographed everything from Architecture to Auto Parts to Cookies to Portraits and Weddings.

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