Looking to up your game at your wedding and portrait consultations? After years of honing my consultation process, I now book over 98% of the couples I have video consultations with. While this took me years to do, we’re going over the basics steps to get you there even faster – and book the clients of your dreams. Here’s the seven steps to nail a photography consultation.
1. Create a roadmap to success
The more consultations you do, it’s a guarantee you’re going to get better. But don’t just reflect on how it went by whether booked or not booked. Also take note of parts of the conversations that clients look more at ease. Where they begin to look sold. How do they react to different things you say, explain, share? Truly begin to take note of these items, and then create a written roadmap to your consultations. A step by step piece of paper or word document that will walk you through how your consultations should go, questions you need to ask, things you have to explain. Once you implement this roadmap, you’ll have more consistency in your conversations, and likely convert more couples.
This doesn’t mean that every single consultation will be the same – you’ll still have the back and forth banter of conversation. But this roadmap will guide you along the journey. It’ll fill the gaps on space where your couple might not know what to say or ask next. It will help ease any stumbles from one talking point to the next. And legitimately write it down, too. Even after years of consultations, I still have my outline paper next to me along with a pen to take notes of their answers.
2. Take notes, and circle back to their answers
People feel the most heard and seen when you can respond and recall information they’ve given you about themselves. As you head into the consultation, take any notes they gave you on your inquiry form, and from the beginning of the consultation take notes on things they share with you and say to you.
It doesn’t have to be every detail – take notes on things they desire that you can provide, or details they give that align with your company’s core values. Reach back to these points as you’re explaining what you do and why it fits them.
They have a problem (they need a photographer) and you have a solution (you’re a photographer). So even if they’ve already agreed to a consultation and likely love what you do, don’t let that get in the way of reminding them why you’re a great fit. But only do this if you truly are a good fit. If you’re bending what you do to fit the will of what they want, it’s going to come back to get you further in the process. They’ll likely leave feeling only partially taken care of or slightly disappointed.
3. Maintain control of the conversation
Your role as a professional is to make this process the most simple, easy, straightforward thing possible for them. This includes being in charge of the conversation, and filling the spaces where the couple may not know what to do next. If you’re having a consultation for wedding photography, it’s common for the couple to have no prior experience with hiring this type of vendor – they’re looking to you for professionalism, experience, and knowledge of how to make this experience exactly what they want, using only the few words they have to describe that experience.
Using your roadmap, guide the conversation along in a way that flows from getting to know them, to getting to know what they want, to how what you provide meets that desire, and then finalize the details. Maintaining control of the conversation gives you that professional, experienced edge and ensures that you get to share all the information you want, the way you want.
Now, obviously some couples are super extroverted and excited and will lead you along on their own journey – that’s okay too. If you have a couple like this, follow them along, answer anything they have, but find spaces in the conversation to include your own information and ask your roadmap questions. Even if it’s not specifically in order or exactly the best way to provide the information, creating a flexible dynamic will make sure they get to express their ideas and enthusiasm, and you still provide the information and the guidance when necessary.
4. Answer every question preemptively – and answer every question you’re asked with honesty.
The key to your consultation is creating the feeling in your potential client that you are knowledgeable in your field, and trustworthy. Having the ability to answer all the questions they have prior to them asking shows you’ve put thought into a lot of the things they’re about to experience, and you’re well versed in what it takes to perform this job for them. But you can’t know every question before they ask, right?
Take notes on what questions are commonly asked at consultations, and work them into your description of what you do. Preemptively answering these questions helps solidify your knowledge and shows them you’ll be a trustworthy fit.
Also include a portion of your roadmap where they can free-reign and ask you anything on their minds. For me, this comes at the end of the consultation, so that many of their questions are answered ahead of time. But they’ll still have the opportunity to talk about whatever is on their mind. Be a complete and honest open book when it comes to answering these for them – any question you may consider to be trivial or meaningless, could hold a huge important space in their heart.
5. Look how they expect you to look
Have you ever walked into a store or met a person and they looked nothing at all like you expected? There’s a bit of a jarring feeling involved in that, and it can put you in a weird space mentally. Imagine if you saw somebody on their website wearing professional clothing with curled hair and a full face of makeup, and then you met them on Zoom and they were wearing a sweatshirt and a messy bun. There’s a disconnect between expectation and reality, and while neither of these approaches are bad or incorrect, the key is connecting them together.
All of my headshots on my website and social media are in black or grey, with my hair down. When I have consultations, I wear black and keep my hair down, to make sure I match this idea of what I should look like.
Having this connection between the person they’ve seen online and the person they see in front of them creates a level of trust and makes them feel more comfortable about the stranger in front of them.
So whatever you hope to wear and look like at consultations, represent that with headshots on your website and social media. Your appearance ties into your overall brand, and that should be represented during this conversation with them.
6. Ask clarifying questions along the way
Something I constantly am asking whenever I respond to a question or explain a concept that may be new, is “does that make sense?” or “Did I explain that well?”. It can be nerve-wracking to ask for clarification or a new description or any sort of further detail, so create space for them to come back and say that they didn’t understand something, or they’d like it explained another way.
7. BONUS: Send them away with the task of talking over the details, and follow up with an email recap
Once you’ve gone through the conversation, don’t expect a response at the end of the conversation. While you can certainly ask how they’re feeling or if they’re leaning a certain way, remember that there are discussions they need to have with each other privately before they can give you an honest answer – and putting them on the spot to give an answer during the consultation can be extremely uncomfortable.
Rather, send them away with the notion that you expect them to talk it over, encourage them to send you any more question they have, and inform them that you’ll send a recap email of some of the points you discussed along with answers to the questions they asked (don’t forget to take notes!). Even if they’re taking notes during the discussion, this shows you were paying attention to the questions they asked and things they needed clarification on. It’s also your last place to sell yourself as knowledgeable and valuable to work with them.
While pressure and scarcity tactics are often commended as effective, remember that your clients should feel confident in their decision. Never pressure them into a decision, and always give them space to sleep on it. They’ll feel even more comfortable coming back to you.
Are you ready to nail your photography consultation?
I can’t wait for you to improve your consultation process, and to start feeling confident in your procedures. Have questions or advice to give? Start the conversation in the comments!
Hey! I'm Makayla, a wedding photojournalist based in Duluth, MN and Saint Paul, MN.
I believe that stories are best told untouched, undirected, and with intentionality and meaning.
This blog is a space to share advice for couples about weddings, advice for photographers about witnessing events with intention, and steps to create decisions based on your values and what matters most to you.
Grab your favorite beverage, pull up a chair, and let's get to know each other.
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