As an experienced editor, art director and commissioner of photographers, I thought it might be useful to consider some of the fundamental attributes I believe a successful photographer needs in order to build strong client relationships and so be more likely to be re-hired and recommended to others.
Now it goes without saying that everyone is different and this difference can be a powerful means of separating yourself from your competitors. These days it’s true to say more than ever that a photographer’s ‘personality/persona’ has currency and sway in terms of getting hired.
That said, there are a number of underlying characteristics that I think are essential for any photographer to possess if you want to be successful and get re-hired aside from possessing a stand-out body of inspiring work.
I won’t attempt to write a psychological piece here nor be exhaustive in my suggestions… rather I want to draw your attention to some strong top-level qualities that through my experience I believe to be important to cultivate and perhaps in some instances develop further in order that you feel secure in your practice as a professional photographer.
If you feel confident in these arenas there is every reason to have a loyal customer base and indeed find referrals coming to you via happy clients.
How to be (or become) a successful photographer
Show your professionalism
You are judged by much more than the quality of the work you produce, and demonstrating that you are a true professional is essential.
You want to be trusted: be dependable, efficient, timely, on budget.
Be someone people want to work with: organised, polite, an expert in your field, committed, collaborative, flexible and not a clock-watcher.
Keep your emails and invoices professional, as well as the way you deliver your work - small things matter.
Be a good communicator
Present yourself and your work as a photographer effectively to clearly define your vision and services, so that clients know what they can expect.
Be a nice guy/girl: pleasant and polite demeanour in all handlings with your client and your clients’ clients. If you work with a crew (producer, stylists, models, etc), people will also notice how you handle and get the best out of them.
Be responsive – pick up the phone and be a good listener!
Clients hire professionals to solve problems, and things don’t always go according to the plan.
So always be a creative thinker and practical problem-solver. Show your willingness to go the extra mile to work through challenges, and freely offer up ideas and solutions at the trickiest of times.
Be patient & tenacious
A successful photographer has a strong work ethic and certainly doesn’t give up easily. Many things are out of your direct control, so you have to adapt to make the best of the situation - and sometimes wait.
Money can’t be your first motivator!
Have a thick skin
There will be plenty of knocks and rejections on your journey as a photographer.
An artist exposes their soul through their work, but a successful photographer is able to stay objective and distance themselves just enough from it.
You need to feel able to embrace (and even welcome) criticism and be willing and able to learn from it.
Demonstrate enthusiasm and drive
Infusing what you do with positive energy can be wonderfully infectious and can help you to stand out in what is an incredibly competitive industry.