The main issue that sparked these questions was a few years ago when I was
doing a job for Acura. I misinterpreted what the client wanted and the client got a little
heated over it. In the end the image turned out great and everything was fine. What I
realized was that I had not asked the right questions from the get go and I was continually
interpreting what the client was SAYING to me instead of what they really wanted. This
happens all the time and it is OUR job not the clients to interpret what they want. For that
reason I have created a list of questions that I ask my actual clients that make everybody
sit calm and understand each other. No more headaches and confusion trying to guess
what the client really wants. Ok here are the questions...
1. What is the emotion, feeling or vibe you want to portray in these images? Is it fun, playful, mysterious, cute, serious etc...?
-This is probably the most important question you will ask. Sometimes clients have given me a visual of what they want and then the emotion behind it and they conflict. It is your job to take the emotion and interpret it.
2. What is the main purpose for choosing me as a photographer? What do you like about my images?
-You need to know why they chose you. Is it because of your lighting, the feel of the images, the models you use, your photoshop work, your concepts, colors, energy?? I ask this so that I know what to focus on while creating an image for them. Maybe they just picked you because they like the bright orange color you use. What if you create a dark image for them?? It's all about getting into the mind of the client and making sure they are completely happy with the end result.
3. What do you want to stay away from? Are there any cliches in your industry or things you are sick of seeing?
-In most cases you are not going to be super familiar with the industry you are shooting for. Once I shot a campaign using only white males in the image without thinking. After the image was created the company asked why I didn't add in a more diverse group of people. Where are all the women, africans, muslims, asians etc... oops. I was so involved in the concept that I wasn't paying attention. I could have resolved that by just asking the right questions at the beginning. Luckily I had shot a diverse group so I just replaced some of the people.
4. What is your current demographic? What type of demographic are you trying to attract?
-Maybe they have been attracting a 50+ demographic for the past 100 years and now are trying to get to millennials. Did you know that before you started shooting??
5. What do you like about the reference images you sent me?
-Once again it's about interpreting what they ACTUALLY mean. Let's say they send you a reference image of a girl dressed in red with red lipstick, snow in the background and a horse by her side. (BTW this actually happened to me the other day). Before I got on a phone call with the client to ask all the questions I decided to do some concepting on my own. I assumed the client wanted an animal in the image because the horse was so prevalent in the one they sent. I concepted 5 or so images with animals in them. When I got on the call with the client the first question I asked was "I assumed you wanted an animal in the image. Is that correct?" I was talking to the management team and they said..."NO...our artist hates animals in pictures! Don't put any animals in there anywhere."
Haha wow my bad. Did the client send the reference shot because they liked the red dress, red lipstick, background, snow or horse?? That's why you need to ask.
P.S If you want to know more about the business of photography click here
6. What are the things you HAVE to have in the images?
-This goes along with the last question (#5)
7. How much TOTAL time will the client have for makeup, hair and photo shoot?
-ASK please. Don't assume. I was shooting a high end client in Vegas and hadn't asked how much time they had. I knew it was short but when he arrived him and his team seemed to be in a mad rush and I had only 14 minutes to shoot for two composites.
8. How many people will be on set from your team?
-Just so you don't crap yourself when they bring 30 people and you get stage fright.
9.How many images do you need? Can you explain each image that you want?
-Another important one which might sound obvious but I somehow have skipped this a bunch in the past. The client thought I could pop out 10 composites in a few hours and me assuming they knew how hard compositing was thought they meant 2. Also by getting specific about each image it will set good expectations for final delivery. I bring this up multiple times in emails, estimates, contracts and invoices.
10. When is the soft deadline and when is the hard deadline?
-They always tell you the soft deadline and make it sound like the hard deadline. Get the actual dates.