6 Tips to Improve Client Education: Guest Blog from Rachel Florman Creative

Rachel Florman, with her horse Herbie.   photo by Abigail Boatwright

Rachel Florman, with her horse Herbie.
photo by Abigail Boatwright

Rachel Florman is an associate editor for the American Paint Horse Association by day, but she’s also the founder of Rachel Florman Creative and an award-winning writer and photographer. Today she’s sharing some secrets to elevating the client-photographer relationship. We both took notes!

Six Tips to Improve your Client Experience through Education

What if I told you there was one simple element you could add to your photography session—portrait, editorial or otherwise—that could simultaneously elevate your authority, improve your client’s experience and help you create better images?

Better yet, it can all happen before you ever set foot on site.

 Oh, and it’s free!

Client education is one of the most powerful, value-adding tools I use for both portrait and editorial photography sessions. By providing clients with positive, actionable guidance to help them plan and prepare for their sessions, I am able to influence how a session will look and run in advance. Additionally, my clients feel more confident—both in their outfit/preparation choices and in my professional abilities—which leads to them enjoying a better experience overall.  

I currently educate my clients through a style guide and scheduled emails. My near-future business plans involve expanding and improving my education to include a magazine, blogs and videos. 

While your own client education can be as minimal or robust as you choose, try these simple tips to get started.

Determine your ideal outcome, then be specific. 
When I’m photographing for an editorial instructional for the American Paint Horse Association, my ideal session involves a non-distracting setting, a clean (registered) horse and a professionally dressed rider. I don’t necessarily care if said rider is the most fashionable on the planet, but I do care that their Paint’s white markings aren’t dingy and green.  

Over time, I’ve learned that vague instructions like “professional dress” and “tidy setting” aren’t quite enough to help the people who need such guidance.

So, in my final check-in email with an editorial subject, I make a point to suggest very specific things that help create that ideal session, such as clearing the arena of unnecessary obstacles and parking any distracting equipment elsewhere temporarily. I also recommend a neatly pressed polo or button-down bearing their logo for attire. I do so in clear, can’t-miss bullet points that are sure to stand out to a busy horse professional.

On the other hand, my ideal outcome for my equine portrait sessions includes a stylish, confident rider and a well turned-out horse. For these sessions, my lengthy style guide walks clients through selecting an outfit that flatters (and, though gentle suggestion, better fits my brand), planning their horses’ appearance and encourages them to take extra steps to reduce stress for their actual sessions.

Not sure what points matter most? A good place to start might be your frustrations from past shoots, or those common-sense details you assumed someone would know (like removing stains from white markings or untangling manes) that don’t always happen.

Encourage the Dos. Reword the Don’ts
I know that the emotions of an experience can either enhance or detract from the actual images I deliver, so I want my clients to feel as good about their session as possible before it even happens. I help make this happen by being very conscious of my phrasing. Whether I’m talking about a portrait client’s attire or an editorial subject’s barn and arena, I aim to write my instructions as positive suggestions.

For example, I wouldn’t say: “Big graphics on tees look unprofessional and neon colors turn your face green.”

Instead, I’d write: “When choosing attire, you can’t go wrong with a classic button-down or polo. To keep the readers’ focus on you and your instructions, choose muted or neutral colors and solid/minimal patterns over neon shades or distracting design elements.”

Other examples of positive instruction:

●      Clean, clutter-free barn aisles and arenas help our shoot go smoother and ensure I can capture even more great images. This also helps keep the reader’s focus on you and your instructions

●      Be sure to budget at least an hour of preparation time ahead of your shoot to ensure both you and your horse have time to get ready without having to rush.

●      Preparing for your session in the days prior can cut down on your day-of stress. Dirty tack, for example, can get a deep clean at least a week in advance. Come shoot day, a quick wipe will be all you need to let that leather shine.

Tell ‘em Again
In a perfect world, clients would dig back through our correspondence, open up the email containing my preparation guide and commit the entire document to memory in the weeks prior to their session.

But I know my clients and subjects are busy—and my style guide can be overwhelmingly massive—so I aim to include some of those crucial last-minute details in my week-of-session check-in email.  

Here, I try to set them up to have a low-stress preparation time while also priming the horse to be as well behaved as possible. Topics I cover in this final email include budgeting time for grooming (so both horse and person ready on time), managing the horse’s energy via turnout or exercise, feeding suggestions and other tips that I feel will help the session go better even if the client completely ignores anything else I’ve ever said.

Give them the next steps before they even ask
I like to keep the education going after the session, too. While I mention things at the close of the session, I also send a quick thank-you either as soon as I get home or the next morning. For portrait clients, I include a timeline of when they’ll see more of their session. For editorial shoots, I’ll discuss what’s next to finish the story, any lingering questions about the photo/interview and when they can expect to hear from me again.

Work smarter, not harder
You’re busy. The last thing you need is yet another big, long email to write before every session, am I right? Automation is crucial to injecting education into your workflow with as little effort as possible!

You don’t need to rewrite these educational emails for every single client. Instead, spend some time writing ONE thorough, organized email that you can send to every client. If you’re like me and still prefer some personalization, add a section up at the top that leaves room for a quick personal note. I even include a small prompt for myself so I’m not wondering what to write.

For my portrait clients, I save these emails as templates on my CRM platform that appear as my workflow progresses. For editorial photo sessions for the Paint Horse Journal or Chrome, I have key, repeatable emails (such as pre-session info) saved as email signatures via Outlook—no more digging through old files or previously sent emails to find what I need!

Educating your clients truly has the power to drastically improve your images and your client experience; it helps you shape the end result of your session, and it gives your clients an extra boost in confidence that they spent their money wisely and that they chose wisely when investing in you...and that’s all before they’ve ever even seen an image from their session!

I’d love to hear your thoughts: what do you wish your clients or photo subjects would to make your sessions go better? What things have gone wrong before that you’d hate to repeat? Comment below!

Check out Rachel’s work on Facebook, Instagram and her website, rachelfcreative.com.

A style guide with suggestions for fun outfit elements (such as layers or trendy accessories) can help encourage your client to dress up a little bit more than they might have on their own.

A style guide with suggestions for fun outfit elements (such as layers or trendy accessories) can help encourage your client to dress up a little bit more than they might have on their own.

Reminding professionals to dress up slightly and de-clutter their arenas (before you arrive) can help you deliver better, more usable images to editorial clients.

Reminding professionals to dress up slightly and de-clutter their arenas (before you arrive) can help you deliver better, more usable images to editorial clients.

Abigail Boatwright