Work with clients: 6 rules of Bill Brady
49 years oldBill Brady
A food photographer who is based in New York City (USA). Has worked with Moёt Hennessy, Walmart, Nestle Boar’s, Head Dreyer’s, Sara Lee, Godiva, Ronzoni, OTG, Absolut Vodka, Weis, National Honey Board, among many other brands.
Maintain connections with the former clients
Communication with my clients is essential. From my experience success is not only contingent on being able to make extraordinary images but how a photographer interacts with their clients. In today’s business climate the extra detail of maintaining great communication with a customer can be the difference in losing or keeping a client. I reach out to my clients regularly, schedule lunches, drinks and keep them informed on cool projects I work on.
Often times reaching out to clients to say hello can lead to a quick job because you popped up on their radar again.
Commercial photography is in essence being a shooter for hire. At times my vision aligns with the clients vision. Often it does not. Photographers need to understand their role in the process. My job is to execute a clients vision. More often than not there is a lot of strategic branding and positioning that goes into a photograph that the photographer is not privy to. Having said that I will of course interject my opinion if I feel it’s not working and gently try to sway the client towards my position. Often I will shoot a version the client asks for then present my vision as an alternate.
In the end the client makes the final decision so I try not to attach myself emotionally to decisions not in my control. My philosophy is that if I am shooting for myself then my opinion is the only opinion If I am shooting for a client I must respectfully follow their direction. If they are making poor decisions I will go on record that I think it should be done another way.
“alt”: “Билл Брэди 1”
“alt”: “Билл Брэди 2”
Your professional experience is your strongest argument
The client is not always right but if you play the I am right your wrong game you always loose. It creates tension and animosity. For example if your opinion of what is tasteful or good is radically different from the client then you may have a huge disconnect. The client usually hires me for my style so it does not happen often but sometimes we don’t see eye to eye.
I try never to argue, instead I point out that they are hiring me for my experience and my experience has taught me that certain thing work and certain things don’t work. I have had shoots where the client is forcing me in a direction that I would not go and the shoot it is not working. Usually they waste a lot of hours and get frustrated. When they finally come around to trusting me, sometimes it is uncomfortable for the client to admit they were wrong. This creates animosity and usually results in the client not hiring me again. It’s part of the business, most reasonable people will not feel threatened in changing direction. Some relationships are not meant to be.
Depart from those who don’t respect you
You can always fire a client. There have been a few cases in my career where the client is abusive to my self or my staff. I won’t tolerate that. Life is too short to have to deal with clients who are not respectful. I won’t generally take this step over creative differences unless the client is making such poor choices that it makes my work look bad. Most often firing a client comes from an abusive incident or incidents. I try not to judge people off of 1 bad experience but if it becomes a pattern then it time to part ways.
I believe that most art directors, clients, or people making the decisions are fair people. I generally try to collaborate with people I respect and who respect my opinion.
My rules for dealing with clients are simple: under promise, over deliver, be respectful of their time and their money, treat them with respect, get back to them immediately and make them look good. I like to develop personal relationships and friendships with clients. People hire and work with photographers they like.
I guess the only taboos are not to openly disrespect a client’s opinion. Do not come across as being superior, do not talk down to them and never get angry in front of them. There is a lot of money at stake at my level of photography, tensions can be very high not because of any other reason than there is a lot a stake. I always try to manage my crew and myself. Even when a situation becomes strained I always have the power to dial it back and diffuse.
There is no better time in the history of the business to be able to communicate with clients. You can get to anyone now. In the past the gate keepers kept the people who hired photographers and photographers apart. They appointed themselves as the judge of who was a good and bad photographer.
Now clients can find you, you can find them through social media, email, web search, calls, promo material the list goes on. All of these tools are available to anyone willing to invest the time to discover and use them.
In the end it comes down to respect for peoples time. If you spam the universe then expect poor results but if you do some research, find out what a prospect likes, match your work to their taste then you have something. People who hire photographers are human being with lives, kids, jobs pressures and time constraints. If you can break through the clutter by being a great photographer, a respectful person and an effective communicator then you can succeed.