Maybe I point to the past too often sometimes, pulling references from a time that no longer exists. But like Popeye used to say (where has Popeye gone?), “I yam what I yam and that’s all that I yam”.
There was time before ATM machines, email and online ordering. In those days it was necessary to speak to people face to face (or over the phone) in order to get things done, working together to solve problems. That’s a large part of most photography jobs, working with people to solve problems (I don’t really like the word “problems”…let’s start using the word “challenges”). Whether you’re hired by a bride and groom or an in-house corporate marketing department, communication is necessary. If you’re a nature photographer maybe these communication skills aren’t as vital. Unless, of course, you want to sell your images eventually. Okay, so communication does eventually come into the picture, regardless of your chosen photographic path.
We, as photographers, as creatives, might instinctively like to go off on our own flights of fancy during a photo job, pursuing our own ideas of visual nirvana for a given subject. A very few clients let us do this, completely and totally. Very often (okay, here comes the real world) those jobs with total freedom are at one end or the other of the income scale. If you’re getting paid little then clients realize you should be given bunches of freedom. Or, if you’re being paid a whole, whole lot, as in you’re-absolutely-without-doubt-the-only-photographer-for-the-job, then you’re probably going to be given tons of freedom. When you’re making a living as a photographer most jobs fall somewhere in between. You have been hired because you are really good at what you do, no question, but you must remember that you’re being paid by someone who needs a job done to meet certain expectations.
Before any photo shoot begins you have to ask questions. Do you clearly understand your clients needs and expectations? Do they clearly understand what they will receive and what it will cost? Good customer service makes for happy clients. Happy clients tell their friends and keep coming back. That’s how you grow a business.
Okay, so now we’ve touched upon the technical aspects of photography and customer service skills and the role they play in professional photography. At some point in your career you will lose a job to another photographer with lesser technical skills that knows how to relate to the client better. And at some point you may find yourself losing a job to a photographer who can simply “out shoot” you (for the given subject). The best way to guarantee growth in your business is to work on improving both skills. If you’re strong in both areas then new opportunities begin to open up.