How to answer client questions about files (Video)
Are you being asked about RAW files, or where other poses are in their gallery? Here is MY plan on how to handle this – includes a script for your use!
Clients are wanting everything for nothing. They want to demand extra proofs, they want the raw files, they’re wanting it nice and quick. How do I combat this with my clients? The answer is communication, but it matters on how you do it and what you say. So let’s dig into the tips and tricks to make sure that you have a happy transaction with your clients, and so that everyone gets what they want, and you also set the boundaries for your business.
So your clients are asking, “How many files do I get? Well, I want to see more files. What about this pose?” Or the dreaded, “I want the raw so I can do my own processing.” Or, “How long is it going to be until I get these?” All of this can be preempted by the communications and the tools that you’re going to use, but there’s one thing that I want to say up front before we dig into any of this. Do not blame your clients for asking unless they ask repeatedly and incessantly and are rude about it after you’ve already informed them. You have to consider we are the photographer, we do this every day, they don’t. Especially if they haven’t done custom portraiture before, they have no clue what to expect. Or, even like myself, I do a family session every year, I have to ask these questions if it’s not communicated to me, and it’s not because I want the farm for nothing, it’s because I simply want to know what’s going on.
All of this is going to help the client feel better and instill buyer confidence in them and make it easier for them to sign that check at the end. It’s going to make them feel better about you, about the entire investment, and the transaction, and it’s also going to set it up so that they can refer you, which is even better. So you see, this isn’t the client’s fault, but again, like I said, if they’re trying to take advantage of you and they’re incessantly going on and on, maybe you need to a) reevaluate your communication method; or b) just chalk it up to some people are like that; the majority of clients out there are not. They love small businesses. They promote and encourage, and obviously, because they’re coming to you, they want small business. So just keep that in mind as we roll through this.
One of the biggest questions that I always hear from clients and photographers with complaints is that clients want to know how many files that they’re going to receive for proofing in their gallery. This is super easy for you to set this up front; stick it in the client guide or say it in your consultation, as well as in your contract. You can tell them you’re going to receive between “x” amount and “x” amount of proofs in your gallery. That always led into the next question of, “Well, I want to see everything.” Or, “Where was this pose? Where was that pose?”
We can combat the amount of files after telling them the amount, and we can combat this incessant asking for additional poses by simply telling them something like this; just let them know in their contract, in the consultation, and I even wrap up a session saying this, “All right, so it’s going to take about 3 to 4 weeks for me to get the gallery done. There will be about 20 to 25 images for you to choose from. Now, that’s probably going to be the max amount that we can go through. You’re going to be able to pick the ones that you love, don’t love, or semi-love, and we’re going to be able to narrow down what you want to get onto your walls or into an album. I’m already going to go through the editing process, and I’m going to do my processing, as you’ve seen on my website and social media, and I’m going to choose the best images from this session because there’s no sense on us wasting our time on images where you’re like, because come on y’all, let’s be real, it happens.” That’s exactly how I explain it to my clients.
Once I do that funny, “You don’t want any pictures of you looking like this,” they don’t ask. They don’t know if it was a good image or not, so maybe you missed your focus on an image, on a pose, or they blinked or they’ve got that face. You don’t have to sit there and say, “Hey, well, this is what happened.” If they incessantly push, sure, pull up the image and show them. But if you let them know from the very front that you’re going to guide them through the process, and the benefits of how many files that they’re going to get. If you heard what I said, it’s going to help us to be able to narrow down, to pick what’s going to get onto their wall or into an album.
And all of this that I’m telling you right here, I’ve also tipped off in that one sentence what kind of products that I’m wanting to focus them on. Instead of prints, I push them towards an album or wall gallery, and I can watch their response as well, but it’s put in there, this little tidbit in this educational sentence or paragraph that I just gave them. I set the expectation of how many files they’re going to get. That was kind of already done with the contract and the client guide and the consultation previously, but I’m also able to wrap up the end of the session by leading into this. Instead of just jumping up at the end of our hour, or whatever our time length is and saying, “Oh, we’re done,” I can say, “All right, y’all, I think we got what we wanted,” and then that paragraph that I just told you. It lets them know the next step of the process, it instills buyer confidence, it takes away the potential for extra questions of how many files they’re going to get, how long it’s going to take, and also, the artistic discretion right off the top, and I also touched on the processing as well. It’s letting them know again, it’s going to be similar to what’s on my website. All of this is common sense to us, but it’s not common sense to clients. So, again, let’s go through that.
I went through the amount of files they’re going to receive, the expectation of how long it’s going to be. I tipped them off towards the products that I’m interested in moving them towards, and also, the artistic discretion of the standard processing and the poses; that’s how many things right there that we just told them?
So I hope that really gives you a little script that you can use with your clients. Again, it’s easier to wrap up a session with that, lead them, answer all these questions before they even ask, and leads them into the next step of the process, which is only going to end up being their ordering after you do the processing.
Now one question that kind of goes on this is people asking for the raw files. I have it in my artistic discretion clause in my contract all the stuff that we just said, as well as letting them know that they are processed files. Since we did just touch on the processing, obviously, it’s not a raw file anymore, but I can also reserve the right to not sell or provide them the raw files. The reason I bring this up is only if people ask about it, that’s why I separated it out from that paragraph a second ago.
The typical client has no clue what a raw file is, however, there are articles out there, particularly on some wedding websites, encouraging brides and clients to request raw files. I don’t want to release that. I wouldn’t just shoot your session with film and then hand you the film and let you go to town with it. My opinion is that we don’t want to release the raw files. There are exceptions for commercial and all other types of situations, but in the mainstream portrait photographer relationship, we don’t need to, so the reason I separated it out is that you don’t need to let them know that there’s a possibility of raw files. Most have no clue, but if you tell them there’s something more, they’re going to want more, right? Kind of like if you said, “Oh, I’m going to pick 20 to 25 of the best images,” they may think, “Oh, there’s some more best images.” But by giving them the example of, “Oh, your face was like that,” it eliminates the potential for the questions.
So I want you to look at using this nice little checklist of how to remedy and to preempt the questions of how many files, how long till the proofs are going to be in, the artistic discretion, the standard processing of the files, and the fact that you’re providing the JPEG files. Don’t give them the differentiation that there’s raw and JPEG. Don’t even mention that they’re JPEG, just say that you’re going to provide them the processed files in the end.
You are the business owner, with all of this, you can choose your business policies, but in order for them to work, you have to let clients know about them. It’s always best to have it all available in the initial consultation and/or your pricing guide online, as well as mentioning it through the entire process and your communications.
Here’s another little tidbit. Whenever you’re having a communication with a client, and this goes in what we just talked about, you want to try to have your niceties responding, “Hi, Ms. Smith. I was so excited to see you at the session,” blah, blah, blah; talk about the meat in the middle and then tie it up with niceties. So you have a nice little sandwich in telling them the last step, that last piece of bread, it’s also telling them the next step. Similar to what we just did at the end of the session where we answer like these 5 questions in one paragraph, it was also informing the clients of the next step. We never want our clients to be playing 500 questions with us; it starts to lower the buyer confidence, it makes it harder for them to sign that check in the end.
So I know I went way over than what I completely planned on doing, but I wanted to give you guys a well-rounded view at how you could answer 5 questions and it preempts all these potential issues or questions that clients may have, one paragraph, and it has many benefits for you to use in the course of your business.
So go ahead, get the checklist, take it with you, and try to practice this and put it into your client workflow to rock out to success and have good and happy clients.