The key to any successful business is getting and keeping clients. And the key to getting and keeping clients is, and always has been, relationships. You need to fall in love with your clients. The most important asset you will ever have is your real, human network. People whom you actually know and worked with, people with whom you connected and built a strong relationships. At the heart of life lie the relationships we have with other people. It comes down not only to the business side of things, but to the life side of things.
Kristen Marie Parker is a big promoter of finding out what is unique and matchless about each one of her clients. Her main intention is not letting what you’ve been given go to waste. It’s all about the heart and raw emotions behind the shots that you are able to sense and connect with. A real connection between you as a photographer and your clients will fully change the style and feel of your photography. Kristen agreed to share her wisdom with us, she’s an expert in this. Just keep reading and you will understand why.
1. Kristen, tell us, what is your favorite thing about your work?
The best things about this job have definitely been the exciting elements that came on slowly. Being able to travel, getting to meet people of all backgrounds, being able to be so enriched in the lives of others and their stories. Over time, these elements have folded into jobs at different points of this career and looking back, hold a really beautiful picture of just how lucky I am to do what I do.
2. Who is your typical client?
I view my client through a lens of personality and community.. They tend to be very trusting and open to new ideas and almost always more focused on the marriage than just the wedding itself. They celebrate the fact that their marriage and relationship looks different than others, and pull away from the norms of weddings and what's expected by the industry.
3. Is it important to connect and try to understand your client’s personality? Why?
Absolutely, because the connection between you and the client completely alters what is being represented in the images themselves.
4. How do you usually do that? (try connecting)
Vulnerability breeds more vulnerability and communication leads to vulnerability. My time is very valuable because I tend to have so little of it, but I want to make sure that time is spent getting to know my clients over the phone or in person.
5. Did you have cases when you refused a client because you knew it would be difficult to connect and work with them? How did that go?
No, I think refusing a client because you don't connect is super unjust. I don't believe in a red-flag client, it is about how much you are willing to accommodate someone else's needs. Everyone is very different and you either only have to work a little bit to connect with someone or a lot to connect with someone.
6. What type of advice would you give a starting photographer who is not sure how to help clients relax and be comfortable in front of a camera?
Connection has everything to do with listening, and making the client feel respected, valued and understood. Are you inviting a healthy and open conversation? Have you provided the service that would allow them to trust you? The biggest thing I've started offering for shoots is inviting couples out for a quick meal or drink right before their shoot to allow for some down time and make sure they've got full bellies before the shoot. This 30-45 minutes is so crucial because they've likely been running around trying to get things taken care of before their shoot and allowing for pause will allow for calmed nerves, comfort and deep breathes before you actually start shooting.
7. Kristen, you mentioned that you enjoy diverse and delicious food – if you could have dinner with anyone, living or dead, who would it be and why?
I really struggle with this question because meeting people I admire is incredibly intimidating and I tend to be too quiet or disengaged because I don't know what I could say that would be interesting to someone! With that said, I lost my grandpa when I was quite young (6) and even at that young of an age, knew just what a great man he was. I would have loved to hear more about his thoughts on life and family, especially now that I'm older and could have an honest conversation with him. As a young child, he and his family moved to the US from Sweden, then he joined the military in his 20's and ultimately ended up working on space missions with Nasa in Houston. He seemed incredibly logical, left brained and reasoned through life and I would have loved to discover those characteristics a bit more.
8. A website reflects a lot about the photographer’s style. What kind of impression are you after when potential clients land on your website for the first time?
Two parts: that they would connect with the imagery and also the heart behind the words, and that nothing else distracts from those two things. SquareMuse has totally made this possible.
9. Who are the photographers you most admire?
10. What gets you emotional?
I cry whenever I see someone else cry. I also tend to cry anytime I want to give anyone affirmation in person. As an introvert, I tend to have a lot of feelings and thoughts that never quite verbally surface and instead churn under my skin and in my mind. Whenever I do bring light to those thoughts and feelings, especially in relation to how I feel about others, I tend to get emotional when I hear myself say the things I've been thinking and feeling for so long.
11. What is so awesome about Mariah Carey? :)
She is a diva and can do and say anything she wants. The DayDream album came out when I was quite young but it was the first CD I received on the Christmas that I got my first personal CD player, so technically it felt like the first time I could control the music I could listen to. I remember it being quite freeing.
Chocolate or vanilla? Chocolate.
Jazz or classical? Jazz.
Mountains or beach? Both, that's why I live in the good ole' PNW.
Cats or dogs? Dogs.
Film or digital? Digital.
Early bird or night owl? Night Owl.
Investing time and honest emotions in each of your relationships is just like watching flowers and grass grow. You can't quite witness it happening, but one day you wake up to a stunning garden. Building strong connections and a successful business is just the same. Name it a leap of faith or a slowed down recompense if you wish. All we know is, it works and it will not change any time soon, if ever.