Managing your photography client’s expectations is just as important as taking spectacular photos. It’s extremely important HOW you deliver on client expectations. You want to set expectations from the first interaction. Here are some tips to make sure they walk away feeling excited, fulfilled, and already wanting to book next year’s session.

Communicate CLEARLY (and Quickly)

Communication is probably 80% of your client’s experience with you. From your website or social media, to your first email exchange, to your post-session communication…TALKING is important. You want to make it clear, simple and fast. Don’t wait 72 hours to answer an email (unless it’s a known holiday, in which case you should have an auto-reply set up).

Story time, friends!

Once upon a time, I didn’t exactly make it clear that my clients would only be receiving digital images. I just assumed that everyone on earth knew they’d be getting digitals unless otherwise specified. Well, that minor assumption led to a very awkward situation when a client thanked me for the photos in their gorgeous ShootProof gallery and then asked when they’d be getting their physical prints.


After some back and forth emails, and a lot of sweating, I ended up printing out their 20 photos because I thought it was the right thing to do (read: I’m a people pleaser), which cost me almost half of the session fee.

Better believe from that moment on, I made it VERY clear what my clients will be receiving after their session.

Ask Your Clients What THEY Want

It’s always good to anticipate your client’s needs. We know that we may need to come up with a list of locations or help out with outfit choices. But we can’t forget to ASK them about their expectations.

This can easily be done by sending a questionnaire to your client BEFORE a session. Using a client management software like Tave can really help with this process. Your onboarding process is essential.


You can ask them questions like:

  • Do you need help picking out clothing for your session?
  • Do you prefer posed photos or natural photos?
  • What is the ONE shot you want to make sure we capture?
  • Is there anything I should know about your kids?
  • What do your kids love to talk about?
  • What is your ideal location?
  • What can I do as your photographer to make you feel more comfortable during your session?

We want to get to know our clients as much as we can before a session. REALLY get to know them and set goals together as a team.

Clearly Show Your Photography Style

It’s really important that your client knows your photography style entails. Do you edit “dark and moody” but your client clearly wants a “light and airy” look? That may be a problem.

Make sure that it’s clear from the beginning what you can achieve as a photographer. There’s nothing worse than a client having unrealistic expectations based on what they’ve seen on Pinterest.

Maintain Professionalism

This sort of goes without saying, but make sure to stay professional. Maintain boundaries, have a contract, and communicate. Basically, ask yourself what YOU would expect if the tables were turned and you were the client.

Actually, why don’t we do a little exercise (don’t worry, no running is involved).

Write down 10 characteristics YOU would want in a photographer. Then ask yourself if you are those 10 things, and if not, it’s time to work on pushing yourself to be better. Here are a few examples:

I want MY photographer to be:

  • Fun and personable
  • I want them to communicate clearly and understand my needs
  • Patient (I have two crazy kids)
  • Intuitive (I want them to see when something isn’t working and shift gears)
  • Genuine
  • Understanding
  • Kind
  • Good with my kids
  • Knowledgeable

Make your own list! This is a great way to establish long term, lasting client relationships.

mother and child

Take the Time to Be Personable

Take the time to get to know your clients! They are inviting you into their lives and we need to honor that privilege! I mean, they have to be comfortable with us enough to potentially let us witness the weird dynamic with their crazy aunt, or photograph the birth of a child! This is a big deal!

Meeting a client in person before a session is great, although during pandemics it can be a bit uncomfortable (ask me how I know). But if you can’t, look at their social media and send the aforementioned questionnaire. That way, when you show up to a session, it’s like you’ve been friends forever.

Don’t EVER BS Your Clients

I don’t know anyone who likes to be lied to. (Well, maybe my mother-in-law when it comes to her famous soup.) Anyway, if you cut corners or don’t tell the whole truth, you’re setting yourself up for a really awkward future interaction. Tell people upfront what you do, what they get and how much it will cost them.

Friendly tip, don’t surprise them by trying to upsell a gallery after they thought they’d be getting all their images for the price they paid. Shockingly, it doesn’t go over well.

Be Yourself

The more awkward, funny, quirky you are, the better. You can actually view those things as strengths! Those “different” things about you actually make you more real, relatable and trust worthy.

Managing client expectations from the beginning is the best way to ensure you and your clients have the best experience from start to finish!

For more on cultivating amazing client relationships, check out our friends at ShootProof who are the experts on connection and creating beautiful client experiences!

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