Category: Customer Service

My Client Won’t Give Permisison To Use Their Images

I think this has happened to every portrait photographer at one time or another – you have an amazing session, every image is beautiful and you’re so super proud, you want to show the world. Then your clients tell you they don’t want anything sharing on social media.

It’s becoming more and more common for clients to want to keep their images private, especially of their children.
As the photographer, of course, you will always own the copyright of the images you have taken.
But your clients also have the right to privacy – and this wins over your right to publish the images.

It’s disappointing but it doesn’t have to be the end of the world – here are some options you may want to consider if you are finding it difficult to keep your portfolio fresh and interesting due to permission issues.

  1. When chatting to parents in your initial consultation mention how, as a small business, you generate most of your work through word of mouth and when people see your images online. Let them know you publish images on your blog, your website and your social media channels and if they could have a think about where they are happy to have their images posted before they sign the model release form on the day of the session. This lets them know they have options – some people are just unhappy to have images on Facebook but are more than happy to have them on your website where they feel there is more control over sharing.
  2. Your model release form is a document that will need to be signed at your clients’ session if you want to be able to publish their images. Point out the different platforms you might want to use the images on so that your clients can make an informed decision – the chances are they won’t say no to everything. We recommend Harmony & Blue for all of your photography contract requirements – use code BP1524 and get £24 off your purchase!
  3. Let clients know you will be taking some shots where their child won’t be identifiable and these may be chosen for your portfolio. Using the phrase ‘chosen for’ is much more special than ‘please can I USE your images’ – no one wants to feel used! So we are talking detail shots here, little feet, tiny hands etc.
  4. Offer an incentive. Let clients know you are running a reward scheme if you were to choose their image for your portfolio and that if you use it on Facebook (or whichever platform you are struggling with permissions for) then you send the parents a print of that image as a thank you. This small gesture can be enough to persuade parents to allow the use of the image.
  5. Generate awareness. You can go one step further with hint number 4 above and offer a bigger incentive related to how much reach the image gets. You can let parents know that if their image gets 50+ likes or reactions on FB you will send them a mounted print or 100+ reactions, a framed print. It’s down to you to decide what the awareness is worth and how much you are willing to pay for it.

We do hope these hints will help you overcome this common obstacle for portrait photographers and we’d love to hear how they work for you – just comment below.

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GDPR for Photographers

Unless you have been living in a cave for the past few months, you have probably heard about GDPR – the General Data Protection Regulation, which comes into force for all UK businesses on 25th May 2018.

The regulation covers how and why data is collected and stored and gives individuals more rights over what companies can actually use their data for, if at all.  The new regulations will replace the current Data Protection Act 1998 and shares some common principles so if you currently comply, then you will definitely have less work to do to meet the new regulations.  However, as photographers we have the added headache that your portrait IMAGES are classed as being data for the purposes of GDPR.

If a person can be identified from your image then you are classed as holding data on that person.  Even if you have a portrait of the back of someone’s head – if it’s distinctive or contains elements that would identify that person (such as a tattoo) then it is classed as data.

So How Will This Affect You?

Firstly, there is no point in viewing the changes as a negative.  Embrace the opportunity to review your procedures and feel confident that you will be able to promise clients their data is safe.  From a personal point of view GDPR is also protecting your own data.

What Will You Need To Change In Your Business?

Depending on how well you collect and store data now, you may only have minimal changes to make.  Consider the following which are the key principles of GDPR:

  • What personal data do you collect and store? Consider images, client details, supplier details (if you have named contacts), prospect details.
  • Did you obtain that data fairly? Are you using the data for the reason you were given permission?  Did you tell your data subjects they can withdraw their permission for you to hold their data and give them a clear and simple way to do this?
  • Do you keep data up to date and keep it only for a reasonable length of time? Consider how long you keep images for or details of prospects who have made an enquiry.
  • Do you keep the data safe and secure – are your hard drives and image storage encrypted or password protected? How do you ensure the data is used only for the purpose it was given to you?
  • Do you transfer any data outside of the EU and are they GDPR compliant? If other companies within the EU access or process your data, are they GDPR compliant?  Remember to include anywhere you send or store images and any CRM software that stores client information.

As well as the above principles you will be required to hold a data protection policy and will likely need to update your model release forms – particularly for children under 16.  You will also probably need to make some changes to your website including updating your privacy policy and ensuring any opt ins or contact forms comply with the regulations.

You are probably already registered as a data controller with the ICO (some businesses are exempt) and you will still be required to register under GDPR but the fees are changing – find out more here HERE

Find out if you are exempt HERE 

If you would like to dispel the myths, rumours and misunderstandings about what GDPR means for you and your business we have an online class available for purchase.  Lasting 40 minutes it addresses what you need to know as well as giving you access to downloadable worksheets and our community forum, and even our ever-growing list of suppliers who have confirmed they will be GDPR compliant before the deadline.

There will be no expiry date, you will have lifetime access to the course whether you are a BANPAS  member or not.

Click HERE to purchase

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Are You A Seagull or A Swan?

You may think this is a strange topic for a blog for photographers, but bear with me, it will all make sense, I promise.

You might like to think that it doesn’t really matter what people think about you – that if your intentions are good then what they think is their problem, not yours. Unfortunately, if you run a business, it matters hugely what other people think about you.  Ultimately, it affects your bottom line , your profit, your income.

So what has this got to do with swans and seagulls I hear you ask?

When you see a swan gliding across a lake you might notice how graceful they are.  They look regal and commanding, people stop to watch, perhaps making a special trip to see or feed them.  If you had to be a bird, a swan would surely appear high on your shortlist.  Swans rub shoulders with royalty, they appear in ballets, paintings and crests and you likely would come off worse if you got into a fight with a swan.   However, beneath all the grace and beauty, there’s a great ugly mess going on beneath the water.  Winged feet are flapping, short thick legs are kicking and pushing, there’s nothing graceful about it.  The swan doesn’t let anyone else see her mess or her struggles.

 

Are you a swan or a seagull?

The seagull, on the other hand, is a whole different kettle of fish.  Seagulls are brash and loud, they publicly spat over scraps of discarded food – they might even swoop down and steal the chips right from the carton in your hand. Everybody knows about it when a seagull has an issue, there’s nothing discreet or calm about a seagull. People call them vermin with wings and actively avoid areas where they might be.  If you had to be a bird, the seagull would come very low on your list.

 

Act professionally at all times

Just take a few minutes to think about your business.  How do you react when things go wrong – as they inevitably will?  Do you immediately take to social media to rant – or even worse post one of those enigmatic statuses that cry out for attention.  Clients don’t need to hear or see your struggles, issues or problems.  They don’t want to know how hard or stressful your job is, or how late you were up editing, or even how hard it was to get your last newborn to sleep so you could pose them.  They don’t need to hear you have competitors copying you or undercutting you.  They want to deal with swans, not seagulls.

There are exceptions to every rule.  There are people who make a living out of being seagulls.  People who court controversy and drama. Think Katie Hopkins and Donald Trump.  There are a handful of these in the photography industry and if that’s your chosen path, good luck to you because you will need very thick skin and a high capacity for stress!

Our advice is to always be a swan.  Being a swan will help you to attract and keep customers.  You will be recommended more and people will trust you more.  If you are seen to be making a drama in public, people will wonder what you say behind closed doors! And of course, like attracts like (your vibe attracts your tribe) so if you want more of the swan like clients, then you know what you need to do.

We’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic, feel free to comment below

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How to Cut Down Ordering Times with Online Galleries

Are you using online galleries to sell your images to clients and struggling to get your orders in on time?  Galleries can be an effective way to sell but it’s definitely not the easy option.  Generally, your sales will be lower than if you sell face to face and you might find you have clients who struggle to make a decision at all.

These are my top tips to increase the chances of your orders being placed in a timely fashion.

Don’t Show Sneak Peeks

I would always urge you to only show images after the parents have placed their order – whether you are selling face to face or online, but it’s maybe even more important for online galleries.  Sneak peeks serve no purpose that I can see.  I have people telling me that it ‘keeps your page looking busy’ and ‘it’s nice for the parents – they get excited and share your page’.  Both of these can be achieved after the order has been placed but you stand to lose far more by showing the images.  Firstly you surely only want to show your best images from a session on your social media.  This means if you show a sneak peek you are taking the best image from the session and showing it to a client BEFORE they are able to buy it.  Do you think they want it more the first time they see it or the 100th time?  If you decide to show the second or third best images from a session you are really defeating the object of showing them – surely you only want your best work to advertise you?  The best time for you to have a parent see their images is when they are ready to purchase them.

Offer A Telephone Or Skype Consultation

If you can’t justify time for face to face sales, you might be able to squeeze in telephone or skype consultations instead.  Instead of having an online gallery you could screen share with your client whilst having a telephone or skype conversation with them.  Your card merchant may allow you to accept payment over the telephone or you could ask for a bank transfer for the order.  This negates the need for a gallery and allows you to collect orders according to your required timescale

Reduce The Time You Have Them Open

If you are set on galleries then consider how long you leave them open. In my opinion, a week is too long to leave a gallery open for.  My preference is 24 hours but you might want to settle somewhere in between – try 3 days to start with?  Reducing the time gives the client some urgency to place the order.  You might want to explain your reasons to your client.

“I purchase software to upload your gallery but as I pay for the amount of storage I use, I only have your gallery open for 3 days for you to place your order.  Is there a good time over the next couple of weeks that I can open the gallery for you – you’ll need to choose a time when you know you’ll have enough time to sit and choose your images?”

Once you have set the date they want the gallery to be opened, you might want to tell them what happens if the gallery closes without them placing an order.

for example:

“ok, I’ll open your gallery on the 10th, and will send you an email with the login details.  So you will need to place your order by the 12th.  If your order isn’t placed you will get an email asking if you want me to place your images in storage, which has a small annual charge.  If you ever want them uploading to another gallery there is a £25 gallery fee – is that ok?”

Obviously, you need to replace the above with what happens in your business if they don’t order by the deadline.  If currently, the answer is nothing happens, you extend the gallery – then you have probably hit the nail on the head as to why your clients are dragging their heels in ordering.

Prepare Parents

Let parents know what is expected next.  It is your responsibility to lay out clearly how they can purchase their images and what happens if they don’t.  If you don’t make this clear, then it’s fair for them to think they can have all of the time in the world to choose their products.  If you set a rule, you need to have good reasons for that rule and you need to be able to stick to the rule.  If you need help with rule setting read this!

I’d love to hear your comments and feedback on wat works weel for you when selling from galleries.  please comment below.

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3 Simple Ways to Over Deliver

You’ve probably heard the phrase ‘under promise and over deliver’.  I don’t necessarily agree with the under promising part, but the over delivering part is definitely worth considering. The most common way is to tell clients products will take 6 weeks to arrive, and you deliver them in four, but there are some creative ways to over deliver that you might also want to consider.

Never underestimate how important this is to your clients and it can be the quickest way to increase loyalty and generate great referrals. Clients won’t be able to stop themselves from sharing how wonderful you are.  Here are 3 simple ways to introduce over delivering to your portrait business.

#1 Hold Something Back

If your client only knows about 70% of the service they are going to receive you will project yourself as the business that keeps on giving.  For example, you might let clients know that you will serve cold drinks during their newborn session.  Imagine their delight when you serve up a fresh fruit platter, a selection of luxury chocolates and a choice of bucks fizz or non-alcoholic fizz.  This might cost you around £10 but consider this as a marketing cost as clients will definitely remember special touches and talk about you favourably to their friends.  If clients are expecting fresh fruit and chocolates when they arrive, it’s no longer a marketing tool – it’s now a cost of sale expense!

ACTION POINT:  Imagine you offered a ‘deluxe version’ of your standard session.  What would you do differently?  Implement one or two of these things, but don’t tell clients beforehand!

 #2 Strike When They Least Expect It

To gain the maximum benefit from this strategy you need to surprise and delight your client when they least expect it.  There are maybe a couple of points during your sales process with the client where there are opportunities, but I favour before they even get to you and a couple of weeks after they have last visited you.  The reason for this is I want them telling their friends about me before they even get to me and I definitely want to remind them about me when they finally have their products.  Ideas for surprises prior to the session include:

– posting them a ‘congratulations on the birth of your baby’ card

– sending a branded ‘labour survival kit’ upon booking their newborn session.  You can easily make these up for a few pounds.  Package up a bundle of goodies like small snacks or toiletries and include a must have list of all of the photographs they can take themselves in hospital.  Or pop a small bottle of essential oil and a cotton flannel in a branded bag with instructions for use.

And surprises for afterwards might be:

– sending them a ‘thank you for your order’ card along with flowers or chocolates.  leave this a week or so after you have delivered their order and write in the card that you hope they are enjoying their beautiful wall art.

– add a small gift to their order, perhaps something you don’t sell but reserve for gifts – like a keyring each for mum and dad.

ACTION POINT: Think about the things your ideal client enjoys and make a list of the ways you could surprise and delight her when she least expects it.  Implement just one of these ideas.

#3 The Gift of Video

It’s really simple to switch your camera into video mode and your client won’t even necessarily notice.  You can create a short 2 or 3 minute video made up of short 20 or 30 second clips taken during the session to make a beautiful keepsake you can gift to your client.  There are a few free editing programmes you can use including Windows Movie Maker to give you basic editing features and allow you to add some branding.  I would give this to clients after their order has been placed and you will find them absolutely delighted and sure to share it!

ACTION POINT: Research video editing software and have a practice run.  Remember, over delivering works much better when your client isn’t expecting anything.

I’d love to hear about how you implement these in your own business!

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Mate’s Rates

It’s the words most of us dread to hear from friends, associates and acquaintances….’can I book a session with you?’

I love nothing more than photographing my close family and friends, don’t get me wrong, but I really don’t like doing working for more distant friends and here is why.

Sometimes they haven’t really bought into having a portrait – it’s just something they fancy and they know you do it, so they ask you.  This is the worst type of enquiry as they haven’t really had a good look at the market and the variety of styles and pricing on offer – so quite often they don’t want you whatever the cost, like a really perfect client would.  They want you because they know you and sometimes because they hope they will get a discount.  This teamed with the fact that it can be hard to turn on your professional persona with someone you know, can spell disaster.  You are more likely to cave into demands you wouldn’t normally entertain and might be more likely to offer discounts you really don’t want to give.

So how can we counter this?  I’ve been self-employed since I left university at 23 – now, almost 20 years later, I have collected an arsenal of defences to use in this situation.  These are just my ways of coping but I would love to hear yours too.

I’m strict with discount.

I shoot for my close family for free.  By close family I mean my parents, siblings and inlaws.  I shoot my best friend and her family for free.  And that’s it.  I give these people all my edited images to use for free but I don’t do free for anyone else.  Ever.

I have a family and friends discount of 20% for the next tier of people I know.  I judge this by asking myself, ‘If I was getting married, would I invite them?’  And I don’t mean the evening reception – I mean the ceremony and wedding breakfast!  I have actually told people that this is my criteria too.  A friend of a friend once asked me ‘So do I get mates rates?’ my reply was, ‘If you were getting married, would you invite me to your wedding ceremony?’  It soon dawned on them that we weren’t real ‘mates’!

The next tier of people are really friends of friends, acquaintances, associates, people I know through business but don’t actually spend time with.  I find these the most awkward as I’m never sure if they want me because they love my work and are happy to pay for it, or if they instead view my business as my ‘little hobby’ that I love to do so much I would surely do it for free – or at least discounted.  Whenever I get an enquiry from anyone in this category, this is how I deal with it.

I should add in here if it’s an enquiry for a genre of photography that I don’t offer, then I simply tell them that.  “Thank you so much for asking me but I don’t offer wedding photography – I can recommend x, y or z though and if you mention I sent you they will take great care of you”

If the enquiry is something I do offer, I want to weed out people who are asking me because they want to give me a little project for my ‘hobby’. so I would chat to them about how busy I am and I have clients booking a few months in advance.  I’d let them know I could fit them in but would ask if they had seen my website or if they know anyone who had used me and seen their images.  Sometimes during this qualifying chat, the topic will move to price and I will treat them exactly the same as any other enquiry and take their details to send them all of my pricing and booking information.  At this point, I find there are a few common phrases.

“I chose you as I thought you might be able to do me a good deal”

“I was hoping you would have an offer”

“And is there any discount”

It’s a great idea to actually write down all of the common things ‘friends’ might ask you at this point so that you can prepare a response.

My best tip is to play it straight, right back at them…..

“And here was me thinking you chose me because you loved my work!?  But seriously, I don;t have any deals on at the moment but can add you to my mailing list so that you get first notice of any mini sessions or product promotions?”  I’m giving them an easy out here and I know that if they still want to book me it’s because they do love my work and are ready to invest in it.

“I don’t really run any offers, though occasionally I do get promotional prices from suppliers on certain products and I always pass those onto clients.  If you want to wait until one of those pops up I can add you to my mailing list so that you get first notice of any mini sessions or product promotions?”  Again, I’m giving them the option to back out.

“To be honest, I’m so busy at the moment, I don’t need to discount – I’m struggling to fit full paying clients in so I’d be crazy to give myself a pay cut!”  Yes be this honest.

For me, this covers all I might encounter, but I would love to hear how you deal with ‘mates rates’ too!

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The Customer Isn’t Always Right

Today something enraged me.  This is a rare occurrence.  I’m known for keeping my cool when everyone around me is on the boil – renowned for my patience, sometimes envied for my laid back, positive attitude and ability to see the good in most things and most people.  It takes  A LOT to make me angry.  And yet today I was furious.  The reason for this fury is a photographer friend of mine received what is possibly the rudest, most ignorant email I have ever seen:

“I was very interested in a cake smash session for my daughters first birthday after seeing a friend’s that had been done with you recently, that is until I saw you charge £350 to provide a USB stick and drag and drop digital files onto it. This takes no more than a few minutes and a USB stick costs around £10
To charge for canvas and prints I can understand but for digital files this is robbery.
Furthermore essentially without paying for one of the after session options of canvas or print there is nothing to take away from the £50 session. Even if as a gesture your favourite three images were free I could consider it but I was gobsmacked when I saw the price.
Sorry if this seems like a pointless rant but by charging a ludicrous amount for the easiest cheapest and least time consuming part of the process you’ve lost yourself a customer and left myself and my partner disappointed as we simply cannot afford anywhere near that amount but would have loved to have the shoot”

I perhaps should have advised you to pour yourself a stiff drink or grab a stick to bite on before I threw that in here.  Perhaps you’ll feel better if we discuss it, because I hope I will!

I almost don’t know where to start so I’ll start with the obvious.  Quite how someone thinks it’s perfectly ok to email a business to berate their pricing, is frankly beyond me.  I must make a note in my diary tomorrow to email Rolls Royce for a little rant – I mean how dare they charge an over-inflated price for a chunk of metal with rubber at the corners.  They might not realise that they’ve lost me as a customer because I can’t afford one.  They’ll be devastated when they realise I’ve flounced off to the Citroen garage to bag myself a bargain that’s so cheap to run it doesn’t even require road tax.  And get this – it’s almost EXACTLY the same – a chunk of metal with rubber at the corners.

I mean I could understand it if I was getting a chauffeur or something thrown into the deal!?

What has happened to us a society when some of us think it is ok to do this?  My friend isn’t a faceless corporation – she’s a very hard-working self-employed business owner.  If you can’t afford something, move on or save up – don’t be rude about it.

Secondly, the level of ignorance displayed here about what actually goes into creating a gallery of images that you are able to ‘drag and drop onto a £10 USB stick’ is frankly, incredible.  It seems there is a need to spell this out so here goes.

A photographer at this level does not pick up a magic camera that is programmed to capture amazing images at the press of a button.  No more than Marco Pierre White’s culinary skills can be credited to his oven.  There are years of training and thousands of pounds investment in both training and equipment to consider for starters, before you get anywhere near that shutter button.  What about all of the costs incurred in  running a business – rent, rates, insurances, software for editing, telephone & internet.  You could argue that money spent on marketing and advertising is a waste if it attracts lunatics like this one, but nevertheless, it is a necessary business expense.  What about maintaining a website, a social media presence, blogging, packing up and posting orders, replying to emails, answering queries, attending fayres, the list is endless – are we as photographers supposed to carry out all of these tasks in our free time – therefore making them free of charge?

I’m baffled, I’m disappointed and I’m angry.  Angry that our highly skilled industry is be-littled and devalued.  Even if it is by a small sector of the population.

As for the ‘client’ that sent the email,  I hope they buy a few cheap cupcakes, dust off their point and shoot, glue it to a selfie stick and enjoy their portrait session.  Their £350 would be much better spent on purchasing a reality check.

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Should You Let Parents Take Photos During Their Session?

If only you could bottle and sell the feeling that new parents have.  They survive on adrenaline as a substitute for sleep and they are experiencing a love unlike any other.  They can’t take their eyes off their newborn, drinking in every tiny detail.  And they take pictures – lots of pictures!  As a photographer, it can often be awkward when a parent starts taking photos on their phones during a session.  It can cause you anguish because you don’t want to appear rude, but you also don’t want them photographing low res, poor images of your setup.  They inevitably share those images and someone could be forgiven for thinking they’re the finished article – not a great advert for you.

However, if you stop thinking like an artist for a moment and see it as a business opportunity, you might find yourself encouraging them to get their phones out!

The majority of your newborn clients will be first time parents and finding everything so very new and exciting.  They have known they were coming to see you since their 20 week scan in some cases and will have been looking forward to coming to your studio.

For some mums, this will be their first time leaving the house since being discharged from hospital. This is a big deal for them!

They will be taking photos and sharing events to social media for the next 2 to 3 years of this child’s life – the first time she sleeps through the night, the first time she lifts her head, the first time she rolls over – so of course they’re going to want share their first photoshoot with you.

So how can you as a photographer make this work for you and your business?

When you have the first setup and pose in place, say to mum (or dad) “if you want to take a picture with your phone, now would be the time to do it, because I’m going to have to ask you to switch them off for the rest of the session so that none of us are distracted from keeping our attention on baby, would you like me to take it on your phone for you?”.  This allows you to step back from the scene and take the picture including some of the background – clearly showing that there is a photoshoot in progress.  Its a great time to make a comment like “oh I’m really pleased with how those colours work” or “oh she’s going to look so beautiful in the edited images we produce today”.  Then let them know if they want to upload it to facebook now, that they can tag your business page by using @yourfacebook.

This way, you’ve given them the opportunity to take some snaps, you’ve been able to let them know that the phones will then need to be switched off AND they’ve let all their friends know that they are having a photoshoot at your studio!  All their friends will see their upload and will no doubt comment things like “Can’t wait to see the images” and probably like your page to ensure they get to see any that you upload.  This also gives parents a positive feeling – they have been encouraged to take a photograph, rather than forbidden.  Subconsciously they are linking positive feelings to the experience already.  This is vitally important during the sales process.If you run In Person Selling sessions, you already know the importance of not posting sneak peeks until the images have been purchased, but if you do post sneak peeks make sure you upload your edited version of the exact same photo the parents uploaded from their phone.  That way, not only are you not letting the parents see anything “new”, but you are also showing how much better professional images look.

We’d love to hear your experience of handling parents who take images during the session – please comment below!

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