the blog

Keeping Photography Clients vs. Finding New Ones

July 7, 2020

“How to Find New Clients…” this topic is always a popular one for photographers. We search google, pin articles on Pinterest, and watch numerous YouTube and IGTV videos on this topic alone. And yet, there’s something we’re missing. Finding new clients IS important but what’s even MORE important is keeping photography clients we already have.

Finding and Keeping Photography Clients

Keeping Photography Clients

Studies show that it costs 5 times more to attract a new customer than it does to keep an existing one. And EVEN if you don’t spend a lot of money on marketing, you’re still spending your time trying to find them. Research also shows that if you could increase customer retention rates by even 5%, then you would increase your profit 25% to 95%. So, today, I want to shift your focus from finding NEW clients and instead hone in on what efforts you are making to nurture your relationship with existing clients. 

Trust me when I say that retaining your customers is a KEY aspect of running your photography business. Without a doubt, converting leads/inquiries into new clients is exciting, but it’s also strategic and can be difficult. But if you focus on the ultimate goal, keeping photography clients, then all of your efforts WILL pay off! 

Step 1: Easy Street

The first thing I did was freshen up my experience. I followed the exact format that I teach in my More than Marketing Course. But when it comes to experience SPECIFICALLY, what they experience after the agree to book, I always ask myself this question, “How I can make this experience easier?” This question has helped me discover some of my truly transformational moments in my career. Things that TRULY separated me from other photographers. 

We want the booking process, preparation process, session experience, post-session experience, and photo delivery experience to do two things for our clients: 

1.) Make their lives easier- 

Can we be totally honest… the last thing we want to do is stand outside in the heat in uncomfortable clothes that we stressed for DAYS trying to find and didn’t even end up liking just so our kids can give fake smiles or throw fits while our husband throws an adult sized temper tantrum in the corner JUST so we can have family pictures. Nobody has the time to email back and forth trying to find a date that works for both parties. Nobody wants to walk into a photo session WONDERING if you are going to deliver on your promises but also be aware of their insecurities, know how to motivate their kids and make them laugh as well as get their husband to let their guard down. 

Implementing things like online booking and even my client management system, Honeybook, didn’t just make MY life easier but also theirs! 

Which leads me to my second point, 

2.) Above and Beyond

As photographers, we want to make sure that we are offering more than just pictures. We are offering more than just “memories,” proof of “a moment in time otherwise forgotten,” or any of the other cheesy things photographers say. We want to make sure that not just the photos but our entire experience from first encounter (social media, google, etc.) all the way to the months after the photos have already been delivered serves them and actually adds quality to their lives. 

The best way to do this is through finding your why, acknowledging the unique strengths that you bring to the table in regards to business and personality, as well as learning everything we can about those we are trying to serve so that they feel understood! Practically, you can sit down and write out all the steps it takes for your CLIENT to do a photo session.

Everything from reaching out until photo delivery and figure out how you can up level each stage of the game. Maybe it’s a questionnaire taking the time to get to know their story, their fears, their dreams, their kids, etc. Or perhaps it’s sending prep emails prior to their session. And I’m talking more than a style guide… we’ve all done that for years now. I want you to really think through the struggles your client has during the photo session process and then solve them! Ex: Grumpy Guys! 

Do what it takes to make sure that your customers left saying, “Wow! I want more of her/him in my life!” People don’t talk about good experiences, they talk about GREAT experiences. 

Step 2: Feedback

Feedback forms can be invaluable as long as you aren’t wasting their time. Only ask questions you REALLY want to know and be careful how you word them. If you want people to actually fill them out, your questions need to be brief but specific. Generic questions get generic answers, so those are off limits. Reviews like, “Ariel was so good. I loved working with her. Pictures were beautiful. Highly recommend.” Aren’t changing anyone’s minds about whether or not they should hire us. But reviews like: 

“When I look back on our experience and the photos I feel so much joy. Before we found Ariel, family photo sessions were stressful and no one cooperated. We’d get the photos back and you could see the misery through the fake smiles and I felt like the worst mom ever! But after our experience with Ariel, I am in awe! I have fallen back in love with my family and their each of personalities. You gave me a new perspective on my boys and motherhood andI am forever grateful.” 

-Sarah Buescher, “Photos by Ariel” client

That’s a real review from a real client. How did I get it? Make sure you read THIS blog post to find out all the juicy deets. 

Step 3: Keep Freaking Going

Once those photos are delivered, your job is far from over. This is your chance to make sure you stay on the top of these peoples minds until they need pictures again next year. How are you going to do this? Through your marketing. 

Yep! Marketing isn’t just about finding clients. It’s about keeping the ones you already have too! It’s about continuing to the build this relationship that you started with these people through regular communication. And since only 3-5% of our followers on social media even SEE our posts… another amazing way is to show up in their inbox. Don’t just send them blog posts of recent sessions. Nobody wants to read those except the person who is in the photos. Focus on writing things that:

  • Educate,
  • Inspire,
  • Establish Connecting Points,
  • Show Your Personality,
  • Establish YOU as the Expert and
  • Build that relationship (through storytelling, vulnerability, authenticity, sharing struggles and lessons learned, etc.) 

By regularly touching base with them you are adding free value to their lives, creating a deeper level of trust, establishing yourself as the expert in their eyes, and ultimately you are giving them the feeling that they are part of your business. That because of them, this is how they helped change the world. People want to feel like their purchases matter and are making a difference in the world! 

Step 4: Client Gifts

A lot of photographers like to send a client gift when booking and that is totally fine. I don’t really think there is a wrong time to receive a thoughtful gift. However, what I’ve always done is send a handwritten note and a thoughtful gift at Christmas time. Which is anywhere from 9-12 months OR a few months after their session with me. People have always enjoyed receiving a TOTALLY unexpected gift from me at this time of the year AND it gives them a little shove to go ahead and inquire about the coming year’s session and getting on the calendar.  

Maybe its a handwritten note on their birthday, anniversary, or at Christmas. Maybe it’s a booking gift or a voucher for a free 30 minute massage. Either way, make sure you are taking the time to show your current clients how much you value them.

If you are looking for something that will wow your clients with minimal effort on your end, check out one of my favorites, Box Fox.

Step 5: Be Available! 

Nothing is more frustrating than needing an answer and not being able to get one… or not being able to get one ON TIME. I do this by letting them know when I regularly check emails and messages. For example, if a client messages me what they bought for outfits on Facebook and wants my opinion, they will immediately receive an automated response (that’s personalized with their name) letting them know when to expect a response from me. That increases their patience and overall feeling of the experience dramatically! 

I know that it’s tempting to “go-with-the-flow” once they’ve booked. But the LAST thing you want to do is sit back and relax! Now is the time to saddle up and GET GOING. Responding to those who’ve already booked you isn’t something to defer or postpone. Answer their questions in a variety of ways (IG, Facebook, Email, Phone Calls, etc.) and answer them fast! 


Whether you’re just starting out or have been in business for 10+ years, I know these customer retention strategies will get you the results you’re looking for. Be patient as you implement them and realize that long-term successful businesses aren’t built on strategies that have quick results. 

Website and Branding by South & Palm

Ariel Dilworth © 2019