©Carol DeAnda

Experience is Everything

The photography friends of Carol DeAnda, M.Wed.Photog., CPP, always want to know how she gets so many clients and keeps them coming back year after year. Based near Chicago, DeAnda keeps her schedule full of family portrait sessions, running a fairly high volume studio while also delighting clients with exemplary service. The 15-year veteran of family portrait photography—who’s also an Imaging USA 2024 presenter—shares her tips for crafting a superlative client experience while managing a packed shooting schedule.

©Carol DeAnda

Remain visible. DeAnda’s client interactions start out as a visible social media presence and regular email reminders. She follows clients on social media, comments and interacts with their posts, and makes herself present in relevant conversations. When it comes time to ramp up her bookings, she gives little nudges through social media, email, or text messages to let clients and prospective clients know she’s scheduling seasonal portraits.

Share location visuals. Prior to meeting with clients, DeAnda sends a link to a video showing the locations where she typically shoots. She includes photos of all different ages of kids so parents can get a sense of the options available to them and start envisioning their family in the portraits.

Discuss details. DeAnda does a phone consultation to gather the pertinent information and start building rapport. She asks about the kids and their personalities as well as if there are any circumstances she should be aware of when setting up the session (such as processing disorders or particular sensitivities).

©Carol DeAnda

Understand the purpose. It’s important to know why the family is seeking the session, says DeAnda. Is it a special occasion? A major milestone? An annual update of the family photos? With that knowledge, she can cater the session to clients’ needs.

Talk attire. DeAnda talks to clients about their outfits. She has a Pinterest board that she sends with an array of outfit samples. “And I often tell Mom to dress herself first,” she says. “A lot of times, the moms have certain outfits they feel confident in, and if they base the rest of the family’s outfits around theirs, then they’ll be much happier.”

Review products and pricing. During the phone consultation, DeAnda asks about product preferences and goes over pricing. She’s matter-of-fact in pricing explanations, bringing up the cost of different items so clients understand the investment before the first shutter click. “At this time, I stress the importance of albums and how much I love them,” she says. “Since a lot of these photo sessions are on location, I will bring album samples with me to the session so they can see and touch an example of the finished product.”   

Confirm the location. Once a session is booked, DeAnda checks in with the client a few days before the shoot. She sends an email and a text with maps showing exactly where to meet her so there’s no confusion on photo day.

©Carol DeAnda

Identify special requests. At the beginning of the session, DeAnda gives clients another opportunity to express special requests and then makes customizations based on what they want to achieve.

Get Dad on board. During sessions with traditional families, DeAnda often makes a special effort to engage the dads, who may not have had as much involvement in the planning. She may ask him if there are any special games or activities he does with his kids. “When I pay special attention to the dad and make sure to figure out if there are any shots that are more important to him, he feels more involved.”

Review the checklist. As she’s photographing, DeAnda verbally confirms her shot list with the family. She’ll mention the images she’s captured and inquire about the ones she hasn’t gotten yet. “I always want to talk through the checklist because there are some times where you don’t capture that one important photo, whatever that may be, but if you don’t tell them at the shoot, they sometimes think you magically got it,” she says. “It’s important to talk about it during the shoot so it’s brought to their mind when there’s still time to get those shots.”

©Carol DeAnda

Downplay expectations. DeAnda likes to manage client expectations so they’ll be pleasantly surprised when they see the final images. For this reason, she doesn’t show them the best images on the back of her camera during the session. Instead, she lets them see a few good ones and holds off on the ones that will really wow them until they get their completed gallery.

End on a happy note. Conclude portrait sessions on a happy note, with everyone excited and in a good mood, says DeAnda. She often does this by playing a game with the kids and then offering parting gifts such as candy for the kids and branded lip balm for the parents.

Outline next steps. Before the clients leave, DeAnda explains what will happen next so they aren’t left wondering. She lays out the process and promises an image gallery with customized product options within a couple weeks.

©Carol DeAnda

Over deliver. While she promises to have an image gallery to clients in a couple of weeks, DeAnda delivers it much quicker, usually within two or three days. “One of the things I do to keep my clients happy is have a really fast turnaround time,” she says. “Parents love seeing the images quickly. It’s a rush, an instant gratification feeling that continues the enthusiasm from the photo shoot. And I think they’re actually happier with their photos as a result.”

Visualize the album. If clients have expressed interest in an album, DeAnda shares a mockup at this time. She uses SmartAlbums from Pixellu to create an album design within minutes. The time investment is well worth it, as clients are more likely to purchase an album when they can see it versus trying to conceptualize it in the abstract. “Helping my clients visualize their albums has increased my sales on albums tenfold,” says DeAnda.

©Carol DeAnda

Be a guide. DeAnda doesn’t just share an image gallery and hope clients will make a purchase. She gets on the phone with them and walks through their order, making sure they get everything they want and are happy with the final purchase.

Make it all hassle-free. Above all else, DeAnda makes the entire process from first contact to final sale as easy as possible. She’s transparent about every step of the process and makes sure there are no unpleasant surprises. “I don’t want there to be any hang ups or to make anyone wait on me for anything,” she says. “I really focus on making the process seamless from start to finish. That way, there are no frustrations, and the overwhelming majority of clients walk away happy.” 

Jeff Kent is editor-at-large.