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Thursday, December 16, 2010

How to tell your client what they need to know

How to tell your client what they need to know and who should know better

Over the years I've learned again and again that clients, don't always know exactly what they like or need from the photographs they plan on creating in a photo session (clients that by a stock image usually do know because are not the actual clients but the agencies working for then thank God :) for that) and it's up to the people in the industry (advertising agencies, photographers, stylist etc) to make sure of what is important and what's not on their behalf. How to do that and how to tell your client about that it can be an important part of this job of creating the needed images.

When talking about the photo sessions ahead with a client is very important to have great instincts to see what they actually need or even what they like and that can be achieved best with "talking" over images and asking details to be specified about what part of the images they like when they point to a certain image done by you or someone else.

Even so if they, for example, decide along the way (before the shooting) that something is to much trouble (or as cost, props or what ever the reason) to go for, most of the times even when you recommended that to be done because you knew (and they knew if were thinking more about it) it's what they really needed in the end they'll ask for it one way or another and in some countries would expect it any way and even in the same price. In some situations you might be able to do that with editing but mostly not.

The same thing happens with the type of photographs they want/need.
At a business profile type of session you theoretically don't need to ask what type of images are you looking for right? Wrong.

If it's a woman especially, she might like the fashion or stock alike type of images and make suggestions along the way (at the photo session) regarding that even thou you know exactly what she will actually need for the media. The smart casual type or even the stock alike would work as well but the fashion would be inappropriate. How to prevent this confusions to happen or how to delicately point this "minor" differences it's up to photographers.

That is why is very important before hand to talk details and know what your clients want, what they like and what they need eventually for the main purpose of the session(s) and what other "hidden" purposes might be there too.

If you know all this, the smart way is to be very clear about what they (really) need especially if there is a case like in the example above where it's kind of standard and you just can't send out to the media images done in an artistic or fashion type of lighting. Images where your female client is in an elegant dress with a sweet or flirting kind of expression for example when the image purpose is a PR article or a business profile in a magazine. If you would do that guess who would eventually be blamed for it? Not the agency, not the art director but the photographer. Go figure.

Fortunately I always insisted on making my clients state clearly (in writing preferably) what is needed and pointed out to the bits that I suspected to be just part of what the client might like for fun or something. It's also (or I make it) a matter of prices and this way I discourage the all included type of thing. I give you an example:

At a corporate session the head managers came with a funny idea besides the concept images and the business profile pictures that we needed to do and that wasn't for any other purpose then the fun of it. Obviously I like the elements of fun at a session and I encourage the ways that spices things up but usually this could be an opened door to a disaster. Accepting an idea that can not be done properly (best results) would be held against the photographer for not telling how things are.

I accepted the idea only because wasn't that hard to integrate in the schedule (in that particular case) but I remind focused to the main point of the sessions and pointed out the possible outcome.

Any way, the idea is that the photographers are responsible not only for the quality of the images but very often are indirectly (or by contract) responsible for what images are done. Making sure of the needs by helping the client to "figure it out" and clarify things that look similar to an untrained eye but are very different in fact. The instincts to see what the client might ask at some point are also very good to have when negotiating and scheduling everything.

Talk about pricing your services and negotiating prices... In some countries (UK for instance) what you talk directly it's already like a contract when in other countries only what is written it counts and not even that so be very careful what you sign. That it might be (very) different then what was talked up to that point. Also don't hesitate but don't rush things and don't miss any of the situations that might be a sensitive case. Sleep over things if important sums and multiple tusks ahead.

Where I was born (and in other countries too) it is more then certain (as in more no. of images for instance) its expected to be delivered in the same price and also things can be changed quickly. If the contract is not clear on any type of changes and what how the price will change as a result to that you might be forced to do it in the same price even if you'd have to work more. But because we never can think of every single situation out there that is why it is best to ask a 20-30% higher price in certain countries or for certain clients for the situations that might be out of the contract stipulations so things can be fine even if ...

A very typical misunderstanding (no matter the country) is when time is discussed. Business people have very limited time on their hands so 4-6 hours of photo session for just a few final images sounds more then they would expected or would agree just like that. Also makeup for man which are not politicians or presidents (they very soon find out that makeup makes huge difference in appearance and that man needed too) it can be difficult to be included in the needs for a session. So, like I said, it's best if we know what they need more then they do (and I guess is the way it should be) but we point to them every little detail in advance so we are not responsible after words if things are not done a certain way or we just say NO when things are different then the professional way.

Most of the times standing firm on your ground would not only create the respect needed on your photo sessions but would make them trust you as someone who knows best and dose thing the right way.

I hope I made some points you might need in your business.
If you have any questions don't hesitate to ask.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Stock Xpert vs Think Stock

I know how things work in this world but still I can't find (and it's been a while since) the reason why someone (with knowledge) would turn into dust a very good source of income for the agency especially like StockXpert was.Why would Getty buy it and then destroy it?!

I know that, from the outside, things might not be the same as from the point of view of then new owner (Getty Images). Still, I can't believe they did this, only to start a bran new project with lower traffic and lower prices like the ThinkStock site.
I am curious what could it be. Really !

Although the Thinkstock earnings have been rather pathetic since the transition, the other day's record sales (or should I say glitch) would almost have made up for it.

Until further data/news (explanations) I have to say it's to bad Stock Xpert was put down.