To win new photography clients, it’s important to be able to distinguish yourself from the competition. Obviously, you hope to achieve this with the quality of your work. But sometimes, credentials that illustrate your professionalism can be just as persuasive.
Here are six photography credentials that can make the difference in securing a new client:
1. Your experience. Many clients are interested in your accomplishments and work history. It carries weight to tell the client, “I was a staff photographer at a major metropolitan daily for 10 years.” Or you can speak specifically to the client’s needs: “As you can see from my online portfolio, I have significant experience shooting the kind of photos you’re seeking, for a variety of companies in your industry.”
2. Your knowledge. If you know a client is considering several photographers for a shoot at, say, a downtown hotel, you can establish your credentials by sharing your knowledge of the venue. You might tell the client, “Oh, we’ve worked in that ballroom several times, and are very familiar with it. The location is tricky for a variety of reasons, so be sure that any other photographer you talk with has worked there before.”
3. Your gear. Rightly or wrongly, sometimes your credentials are your gear. For example, I spent my formative years as a photographer switching seamlessly between my Hasselblad and my 35mm film cameras. For weddings, I actually preferred the 35mm autofocus because it made it easier for me to catch fleeting moments than the manual focus Hasselblad. But more than a few wedding couples insisted on a medium-format camera — and wanted to be sure that I had one. They associated this with a higher level of professionalism.
4. Professional certifications. In 20 years as a photographer, I have never had any client ask if I have a college degree, let alone a degree in photography. But clients often do pay attention to professional designations. You feel better when you see that CPA designation after your tax accountant’s name, for example. For photographers, the Professional Photographers of America has a Certified Photographer program that enables you to earn designations like CPP, which stands for Certified Professional Photographer. The key is not just to collect these credentials — but to market them to prospective clients.
5. Association memberships. Tell your prospect that you are a member of the American Society of Media Photographers, or the National Press Photographers Association, or the Advertising Photographers of America. Each of these memberships distinguishes you as a professional, to one degree or another, and demonstrates your commitment to being a full-time professional photographer.
6. A certificate of insurance. When I talk to a prospective client for an advertising shoot, I might say, “Of course, we’ll have a certificate of insurance for this shoot in case there is an issue. I encourage you, as you’re talking to other photographers, to be sure they have one, too.” My experience is that about half of the photographers I compete with have no idea what a certificate of insurance is — or how to get one.