am Cady Boughtin, a full-time photographer based out of Northern California. I have a home studio where I do my newborn sessions, cake smashes, and indoor photo sessions. This has been my career since 2017 and I love it. I pivoted from wedding photography to primarily family last year, and it was the best thing I've ever done for my business. I do over 500 sessions a year with the majority of them being for repeat clients. Client retention is my main priority, so let's talk about using word of mouth to get photography clients!
Turn Your Clients into Repeat Clients
Word of mouth is everything when it comes to business. Repeat clients make up the majority of my clientele and most have been with me for years and years. Recently, someone shared with me that while they will use other photographers for seasonal photo shoots (Christmas, etc) but when they want to frame photos that will go on their wall, they will always come to me. When they need an ego boost and know they will look and feel beautiful in their photos, they will come to me. I always struggled with seeing my clients go to other photographers until I heard this, and that’s when I realized it’s truly the greatest compliment! They are not with me because I’m offering the cheapest mini-session or have the coolest setup... they are with me because they know their money is well-invested when they work with me, and that is the biggest compliment anyone could give me.
As a photographer, our income depends on booking sessions, and it’s not always about finding new clients. It’s about retaining the ones who love us and trust you, and keep them coming back year after year (if not a couple times a year). You want people to be so impressed with your work that they don’t just want family photos each year, they also want to do milestone birthdays with you and book your mini-sessions. You want them to love the process of taking photos, and maybe even convince the husbands that they don’t actually hate taking photos!
Repeat clients are my bread-and-butter and the reason I am fully booked year-round. They trust me, they are interested in the things I’m doing and learning to do. They book my mini-sessions as soon as they’re announced and they know they will feel beautiful when they get their photos back. They have faith in my process and know their shoot will be handled with love and care, I will have their gallery to them on time or early, and I will be where I say I’ll be when I’m supposed to be there. And those things are just as important as your photos, if not more important!
You can turn your clients into repeat clients by offering packages for maternity, newborn sessions, cake smashes, or other events that you know they will want to capture. Having reasons to bring your clients back for more photography and giving them a great client experience will keep your bookings full.
Great Client Experience Fuels Word of Mouth Referrals
But what is it that makes their experience with me different? Is it the way I run my business? Is it my personality during our sessions? Is it the final product itself; the edited photos?
I think it’s a healthy combination of all of those things. When you put a lot of time and care into every session that you do and don’t pick and choose who you pay more attention to, clients notice. Invest the same amount of communication and time with every client, stay in touch with them during the whole lead-up to our session, and have clear communication with them during the photo shoot itself not only about photos but about when to expect their photos afterward. Once promises are made, never break that promised turnaround time.
Yes, some sessions are easier to edit than others, but overall, provide your client with the same amount of attention to each gallery and each detail. You want your clients to know that they are well taken care of before, during, and after the shoot. That consistency will help fuel your pricing and offerings as it has mine.
Keep Your Client Communication Open
One thing that I find many photographers really struggle with is clear communication. I have many clients have used me after working with other photographers, and their feedback is that they didn’t know the location of the session until the day before, they had to choose the location, they didn’t have any help with outfits, aren’t told what to do during the actual photo shoot itself, and the list goes on. Those things make clients feel nervous and uneasy, which affects their overall experience and the things they remember when looking back on their photos.
It is always our goal for the clients to love their photos and there’s so much that goes into that. Someone might love the final product but hate the process. You don’t want a client who found the process to be chaotic, because that’s the feeling they will remember when they look at their photos. With every photo session comes the memory of the day you took them, and very often, if people don’t have a great experience leading up to the process, they will remember feeling stressed out, insecure, and confused.
Making a client feel good is part of our job, and that isn’t just about appearance. Often it’s about reassuring them that the money they’re spending is worth it. They might be at the brink of their budget and taking a leap of faith in working with you. They might have never had professional photos taken and you are their first experience. They might have hired five other photographers in the past and had unmemorable experiences with all of them. They may have had great experiences with photographers in the past, and now you have the opportunity to show them why they should work with you going forward.
A memorable experience is always the thing that will set you apart. Don't forget to send your clients their session photos in a beautiful gallery. I choose to send mine with CloudSpot.