How to Build a Strong Foundation with Your Client

Ginny Au

Working with a client can be a richly rewarding process. Every decision you make together holds meaning.

To build a strong working relationship, you must start with a solid foundation. Your first consultation with a client (after they’ve booked you) is your opportunity to establish this foundation. It is the first step (of many) in creating a unique wedding experience together.

Client relationships are at the core of the creative process. The small, conscious choices made each step of the way become an integral part of their experience and shape so many memories they will forever associate with their wedding day.

Beyond their personal experience, strong client relationships simply make for a better final product. Whether you’re a photographer, designer, florist, etc., engaging in meaningful, healthy relationships with your clients will result in more beautiful, purposeful work.

When consulting with a client for the first time, these are my top 5 priorities:

1. Be Prepared

Prior to the first consultation, it’s important to have established some basic information from your client, such as the season of their wedding, potential locations, and guest count. This information is easy to gather via email. Ask to see a Pinterest board or any imagery they’ve found inspirational so far. I also like to give my clients a list of adjectives in advance, and ask them to select the words they’d use to describe themselves, their relationship, and the mood they want their wedding to have. We will discuss this during the consult. The words they choose become central to my process as I work to bring their wedding vision to life.)

2. Observe

If you’re unable to meet your clients in person, endeavour to use a platform that allows you to see them over the web, be it Skype, Google Hangouts, Facetime etc. Seeing your clients enables you to better understand them as a couple by watching their subtle inflections and body language. Take note of touch: are they affectionate? Who initiates touch? Do they snuggle close or sit further apart? Take note of glances: do they look to each other for answers? Do they smile or laugh together often? These clues will especially tell you how to go about their wedding day photography.

3. Guide with Confidence and Understanding

This consultation should be focused on understanding your clients beyond the world of their wedding. Ask questions which are both broad and specific. Understand their relationship, home, family, friends, and lifestyle. How do they celebrate? What are some of their most treasured memories? What do they like to do in their free time?  The back-story is an important and interesting part of getting to know your client. This is helpful in building a relationship, and it empowers you to create designs, images and experiences that reflect their personalities. If you jump right into asking them about their wedding, you can miss so many beautiful, personal details that are essential to shaping their celebration.

4. De-clutter

Among the myriad of ideas shared during an initial consultation, look to focus in on a client’s top priorities. It is key that you understand the most important elements of their wedding vision. Is a particular style of imagery important to them? Do they want a short, lively dinner followed by a dance floor and a band that rocks well into the night? Or is a relaxing, intimate meal filled with conversation and fine food more their style? Capturing and executing the vision of your client is much easier if you have clear direction from the outset.

5. Educate

Round out your meeting by educating the client about what is to come. What are the next steps? How will they be involved in them? When will they hear from you? What do they need to do? Managing expectations sets both yourself and the client up for a rewarding experience. Remember, you are leading your clients through a process, and you can make every step of the way personal and beautiful.

Among the many questions you can ask during a client consult, these are the 3 QUESTIONS YOU SHOULD NOT OVERLOOK:

1. How do you describe your relationship and how would you describe each other?

Have both the bride and groom answer this, the bride providing three adjectives about the groom, and vice versa. When asking this question, I’m looking for what the other person finds as the strength and beauty in their partner. If they were to say “warmth”, for example, I’d be picturing them as wanting to be more embracing in their wedding imagery. I then ask them for three adjectives to describe their relationship. I’m using these answers as a trigger to see how they would describe the mood of their wedding. You’ll usually find there is crossover between the two. If intimacy is an important aspect of their relationship, they will often use a similar word to describe how they want their wedding to feel. Through this you're showing the client how inspiration for their wedding is being drawn from both their personalities and their relationship. This enables you to illustrate how meaningful a design can be.

2. When outdoors, do you like to feel enclosed or open?

This may sound like an obscure question, but it’s really important to listen to your clients to find where they feel most comfortable. Is it in wide, open spaces, or do they prefer to feel enclosed and more protected by the natural environment? Often it's tempting to put a client in a particular setting because it may be a spectacular landscape, for example. But if that’s not where a client feels most comfortable, it's not going to be conducive to capturing the best imagery. Instead, you might be able to make the most of an outlook but in a slightly different setting where the client feels more protected and sheltered; less exposed. If you can enable your clients to have a positive reaction to the environment they are in, especially the men, it's going to make them more comfortable and allow them to be authentic in their response to their partner.

We want our clients to look back at their wedding imagery and see not just how they looked, but how they love.

3. Are there any traditions that need to be included in your celebration?

This is a good question that isn’t asked very often. When I ask about traditions, I'm not just talking about religious or wedding day traditions - though there is that. I'm using this question to explore the idea of heritage, memories, sentimental moments or objects, family traditions and ways of celebrating personal moments. You can draw on all of these ideas and tie them into the design and wedding day execution.

Photography by Ryan Ray // Creative Direction and Styling by Ginny Au
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