Terri Baskin didn’t originally see herself as a wedding photographer … or a professional photographer at all. For 15 years, she worked in pharmaceutical sales, learning the intricacies of consumer behavior and client service. But photography kept creeping into her life. The daughter of a wedding photographer, Baskin had photography in her blood, and when she bought herself a good DSLR about 10 years ago and started photographing friends and family, the path to opening her own photography business emerged quicker than she imagined.
A friend asked her to photograph her wedding, and the journey from shutterbug to pro accelerated. Baskin’s dad mentored her at that event and a few more, helping her learn to anticipate moments and manage the flow of the day. Then she was off and running. While she advanced her photography technique, she also drew from the consumer behavior and client service lessons she’d learned in her pharma sales career.
The combination of great photography and superlative service worked. Before long, Baskin had built a reputation as one of the Washington, D.C., area’s most sought-after wedding photographers. Today, she enjoys a reputation as both a photographer and an educator. Her work has appeared in publications that include Martha Stewart Weddings, Essence, The Knot, Washingtonian Weddings, Black Bride Magazine, Inside Weddings, and The New York Times, among others. She also speaks at photography events around the country.
Baskin’s method centers on a positive client experience, which starts at the moment of first contact. She likes to get to know clients before taking any photos, emphasizing in-person meetings (subject to pandemic protocols) and plenty of back-and-forth about their upcoming event. These interactions provide a way for her to understand clients and for them to get to know her. On occasion, that has meant a particular client relationship doesn’t work out, and Baskin wants to make sure she discovers those cases as early as possible.
“For our success, it’s important to work with the right people,” she says. “That means some clients, while they may mean well, may not be my ideal client. For example, I need people to trust my expertise. If I get the sense that they do not trust me or my expertise, then they may not be a client I want to take on.”
Baskin uses the time between the booking and the wedding to educate. She informs clients about hair, makeup, attire, the flow of the day, and how to schedule the day to maximize both photo opportunities and the couple’s time with loved ones. By giving them what they need to be successful on the wedding day, Baskin builds trust and helps smooth the course for a sound working relationship.
This prep work flows directly into the wedding day, when Baskin considers herself not just a photographer but a wedding day guide for clients and their guests, as well. “My clients see how I interact with people at their wedding, and that helps create goodwill, which only makes the job easier and leads to better photos,” says Baskin.
Client relations continue after the event, when Baskin keeps the excitement going by sending a small set of sneak peek images within 48 hours along with instructions for the best ways to share those pics with friends and families. She also asks for a client review after every wedding, almost like an exit interview to determine what they enjoyed about their day, what they would change from a photography perspective, and how everything matched up with their expectations. She shares all client reviews and feedback on social media and other platforms so prospective clients can see the commentary and understand that client impressions are a priority.
Baskin begins every wedding by reminding herself that this will be the first time most of her couples will have gone through this process. With that in mind, she guides clients, especially when it comes to the timeline. “I’ve found that mishaps happen most often when we’re running late,” says Baskin. “I also understand that if we’re short on time, the first thing that gets cut is the photography time. So, it’s important to try to keep things on track and find ways to adapt because things happen that are out of our control.”
If she can help keep things on track, it goes a long way toward avoiding mishaps. Inevitably, though, issues crop up. For that, Baskin has built-in workarounds to deal with the most common issues, including:
Not enough time is allocated for family photos. Baskin prioritizes family photos and lets everything else revolve around it. That means laying claim to the precious time between the ceremony and reception and making sure that, above all else, the couple’s family is the focus.
Hair and makeup take too long. This is such a common but avoidable issue, says Baskin. To sidestep prep time delays, she offers a preferred vendor list to clients and recommends working with people who have a proven record of sticking to the schedule.
Bridal couple portraits aren’t prioritized. Baskin dodges this by suggesting they schedule a first look session prior to the ceremony. This allows her precious time with the couple before the events of the day are in full motion.
The couple isn’t prepared for photos. Keeping in mind that most people are not accustomed to being at the center of a wedding photography universe, Baskin educates as much as possible before the event. She provides a checklist of things the couple should have ready prior to her arrival on the wedding day. As insurance, she sends clients a wedding day emergency kit with necessary but oft-forgotten items like a mirror and touch-up kit.
For Baskin, good wedding photography is the result of good workflow. As soon as she’s hired, she embarks on her workflow, which includes introductory communications and various touchpoints to keep the couple apprised of every stage in the process. Her goal is to provide enough communication to keep them up to date so they don’t have to wonder about the next step but not so much information that they become overwhelmed.
Her workflow includes a framework about what she needs to do from a photography standpoint, complete with explanations and visual examples. She also sets expectations, including when the couple will hear from her and when she will be available to them. She manages her work through a client management system that provides calendar reminders and follow-up messages. Baskin’s goal is to communicate every key point three times: an initial mention, a reminder, and a follow-up to let them know what to expect. In addition to emails, she schedules multiple meetings or video conferences to make sure she has clients’ attention and can communicate important points while everyone is present.
“The goal is to make all clients fully aware of the process and never feel like they’re in the dark,” she says. “If a client has to ask me, ‘Now what?’ then I’ve failed in my communication.”
For Baskin, the process originates from a positive, enthusiastic attitude. “I want to be just as excited as my clients are,” she says. “I never walk into a meeting or an engagement session or wedding thinking this is just another day, no matter how many times I’ve done it. Because this is new for them, and I need to share that excitement.”
Sharing the excitement means being understanding when there are questions, and more questions, and maybe still more questions. It means showing heaps and heaps of images when clients want to see them. It means diving in and being a teacher and a guide.
It also means treating people with respect and sensitivity. For example, Baskin runs a business that has its policies, but the way she communicates those policies is important. If clients have a question, she takes time to explain the reasoning behind her policies and address any concerns. “It’s about how we explain things,” she says. “Yes, it’s a business, but I want to be personable in how I run my business, which means being sensitive and patient with others.”
Keep everything in perspective, she advises. The questions, the concerns, the need for guidance—clients aren’t expressing these things to be difficult; they’re expressing them because that’s part of their process. How you respond and the time you take to build a healthy relationship pays enormous dividends in terms of the clients’ excitement and their ultimate happiness with their photography decision.
Jeff Kent is editor-at-large.