How to gather and leverage client reviews for your photography business.November 9th, 2023
The value of a photographer’s skills extends well beyond their technical ability. Often, the thing that keeps clients coming back for more isn’t just the quality of the photos, but also the experience of working with a photographer.
That’s why getting reviews from your clients is such an important component of running your business: they help to communicate the value you bring beyond your image-making capabilities, which can go a long way in convincing prospective customers to convert.
In this article, we’ll go over exactly how photographers can make the most of customer reviews, from soliciting and managing them to harnessing their full potential for marketing.
The value of client reviews.
In a perfect world, clients would fall into your lap effortlessly, so you could focus your efforts on honing your craft. But in reality, creating a system for generating new business is a non-negotiable part of being a working photographer, and reviews are a powerful tool in your arsenal. Let’s take a look at how client reviews can bring serious value to your business.
Establish trust and credibility.
Chances are, your clients have a long list of photographers they can potentially work with. Many of them may be able to compete with you on a technical level, so how can you differentiate yourself and win more business?
Trust (combined with a preference for your photographic voice and style) is often the secret sauce that makes a client choose one photographer over another. If a photographer has clearly delivered an excellent experience to other clients, their prospects are far more likely to trust them enough to book them. Client reviews are digital testaments to your professionalism, reliability, and artistic prowess. When prospective clients encounter a trail of positive reviews from satisfied customers, they are more likely to entrust their special moments to your lens.
Land new clients.
When people are shopping around for photography services, they’re likely to turn to online platforms, review websites, and social media to assess the experiences of others. By showcasing a history of delighted clients on your platforms, you’re likely to see an uptick in your bookings.
Reviews have become a huge part of how buyers of all kinds of products and services make decisions, and photography is no different. This is true across the board, but if your client base skews younger, it’s even more important: 90% of 18-34-year-olds trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations from friends and family.
Mastering the art of soliciting reviews.
We’ve established the benefits that reviews can bring to your business, but how do you go about collecting them effectively?
Let’s dig into some strategies you can use to encourage clients to share their positive experiences.
- Get the timing right: The timing of your review request can meaningfully impact its success. Ideally, you’ll want to reach out to your clients shortly after their photography session when their memories and enthusiasm are still fresh. This ensures that their experience is at the forefront of their minds, so they’ll be in a better position to write a descriptive review. If they miss this window of time, you can also include a link requesting a review when delivering their gallery.
- Choose the right channel to request your reviews: Consider the preferences and expectations of your clients when choosing the communication channel for your review request. If your client is a professional organization, email might be the most appropriate channel. If you did family portraits for a client you’ve been corresponding with on Instagram, that platform may be better suited. Most of the time, email will be the best choice, but social media channels can also work well depending on your client.
- Remove any friction: Everyone is busy, so the easier you make the review process for your clients, the more likely they are to follow through. Provide direct links to review platforms or create a simple step-by-step guide on how to leave a review. Eliminate any potential barriers that might deter clients from sharing their thoughts right when they receive the request.
- Request honest feedback, not just reviews: When soliciting reviews, frame your request in a way that encourages detailed feedback rather than a simple star rating or quick one-liner. Ask clients to share their thoughts on specific aspects of their experience, such as the quality of your work, the ease of communication, or any unique elements that stood out to them. This not only helps you gather valuable insights for improvement but also leads to more substantial, meaningful reviews.
- Express gratitude: Show appreciation for your clients’ time and effort in leaving a review. A simple thank-you message shows that you don’t take their time or feedback for granted.
- Follow up once or twice if needed: If a client hasn’t responded to your initial review request, sending a follow-up is completely acceptable, but avoid overdoing it.
Your job doesn’t end once you’ve requested a review from your clients; it’s a good idea to have a system in place to manage and monitor your reviews to make sure they’re projecting a positive impression of your business. Review management for professional photographers should include the following best practices:
Keep an eye on multiple platforms.
Given the number of review websites out there, reviews for your photography business can appear on a variety of platforms, including social media, Yelp, and of course, your portfolio website. It’s important to monitor all of these platforms regularly to stay on top of new reviews. A review management tool can be helpful but isn’t really necessary unless you’re dealing with a very large volume of reviews, which is unlikely for a photography business.
Respond in a timely manner.
Whether your new review is positive or negative, a timely response demonstrates your commitment to customer satisfaction and respect for your client. For positive reviews, a simple thank-you message is appropriate. In the case of negative reviews, it can be tempting to leave them as is or to write a defensive response, but it reflects much more positively on you if you respond promptly and professionally, addressing the concern or issue raised and offering some kind of resolution if it’s appropriate. You should also thank those who leave negative reviews for taking the time to share their experience. For prospective customers, this kind of response will make you look like you take your client’s concerns very seriously.
Leverage positive feedback.
Positive reviews are, of course, valuable assets for your business. Don’t hesitate to showcase them beyond where they originally appeared. You can repurpose these on your website, social media profiles, and in other digital and physical marketing materials. We’ll cover some ways to do this in just a moment.
Use negative reviews as a chance for improvement.
While negative reviews can be disheartening, they also present an opportunity for growth in your profession as a photographer. Use constructive criticism from negative reviews as a guide for how you can enhance your services. Take the time to address any recurring issues or concerns mentioned in reviews; by demonstrating your commitment to continuous improvement, those negative reviews will likely turn into positive ones.
Keep things authentic and transparent.
Tempting though it may be, never fabricate reviews. Building trust with your audience is important for the long-term success of your photography business, and if they have a reason to doubt your authenticity, they’ll likely turn to other photographers for their needs.
Leveraging reviews for marketing.
We mentioned earlier that repurposing your positive reviews can help you get more proverbial bang for your book, so let’s take a look at actionable strategies you can use to leverage positive reviews and put them to work for your photography business.
Share reviews across platforms.
A good way to boost the reach of feedback is to integrate positive client reviews into your marketing materials and platforms beyond where they were first shared. Feature them prominently on your website, especially on your homepage or a dedicated testimonials page. Incorporate snippets of glowing reviews in your social media posts and email newsletters. These endorsements serve as high-quality social proof, so foster credibility by sharing them widely.
Tap into the power of storytelling.
Share success stories that highlight how your photography made a difference for your clients, whether you helped them convey their product more effectively, perfectly captured a special occasion, or otherwise brought value through your photography skills. By weaving a story around positive reviews, you can engage your audience on a deeper, emotional level, making your services more relatable and appealing.
Don’t forget social media.
The average person spends about 2.5 hours on social media daily, so getting in front of prospects on these platforms is a must. Share your positive reviews as images, infographics, videos, stories, or another format that works for you. Encourage clients to share their reviews on their own social media, since this can help you get in front of other similar like-minded prospects.
Use feedback to improve your services.
As a photographer, continuous improvement is part of the job description. Reviews from your clients can be a useful way to gauge which areas of your craft or business can be improved, so it’s a good idea to be humble and take reviews—even the not-so-stellar ones—seriously.
Negative reviews, although difficult to receive, can offer valuable insights into areas that you can improve. Instead of taking them personally, view them as opportunities to grow in your profession and show up as a better photographer the next time. This kind of feedback may also be submitted to you privately rather than in a public review, but this shouldn’t be a reason to take it less seriously.
Positive feedback can also help you hone in on what clients love about working with you for their photography needs. Look through these to identify your strengths and unique selling points, and incorporate those into your pitch when talking to new prospective clients.
Client preferences can change over time, so even if you’ve been working as a professional photographer for a while, it’s always a good idea to keep your finger on the pulse of what clients today respond well to. Paying attention to reviews is a reliable way to do this.
Tips for dealing with negative reviews.
Negative reviews are an unavoidable part of running a photography business (or any enterprise, for that matter). Since photography is a creative pursuit, they can feel especially personal, but how you respond to them can make all the difference in preserving your reputation and maintaining client trust.
When faced with a negative review, your initial reaction may be emotional. But instead of blowing it off or responding rudely, try to step back read the review carefully, analyze the specific issues raised, and look at the situation from the client’s perspective.
- Respond thoughtfully: Acknowledge the client’s concerns with empathy and understanding. Even if you disagree with their viewpoint, validating their feelings and experience shows respect and primes both of you for a better relationship moving forward. Your goal isn’t just to appease the reviewer but also to demonstrate to potential clients who may read the review that you take feedback seriously and are willing to address issues.
- Offer a solution: Whenever possible, offer a resolution to the problem raised in the negative review. It might be a partial refund or a reshoot if possible, extra editing services, or credit toward their next shoot–offer a resolution that works for you and suits the critique given.
- Take the conversation private if needed: It’s also worth considering taking the conversation offline. If you need to discuss the situation in more detail, a thread under a public review may not be the most appropriate place to do so. In your reply, keep your acknowledgement simple and invite your client to send you a private message to continue the conversation, or let them know you will write them a separate private message yourself. Be sure to send the private follow up in a timely manner.
However you choose to communicate with the reviewer, maintaining professionalism throughout your response is the key to defusing the situation.
Ethical Considerations and Privacy.
Without a positive reputation, you’ll have a hard time booking more clients and growing your business. That’s why it’s so important to be mindful of ethical, legal, and privacy considerations whenever dealing with client reviews. Here’s what you should keep in mind when soliciting and managing your reviews:
Respect client privacy.
In all your business dealings, it’s essential to respect your client’s privacy. Before using their reviews or testimonials publicly, be sure to obtain their consent. You can also do this at the point of requesting the review, by clearly communicating how their feedback will be used, where it may be shared, and whether their full name or any identifying information could be displayed.
Only share authentic reviews.
Fabricating or altering reviews is not just unethical but can also lead to serious consequences, including damage to your reputation, suspension of your online business listings like your Google Business Profile, and potential legal issues. Reviews should accurately represent the experiences of real clients.
Avoid coercing reviews.
Technically, review platforms generally don’t allow businesses to offer incentives in exchange for reviews. Reviews should be voluntary expressions of client experiences. The attempt to manipulate reviews through rewards or discounts may violate the policies of some review platforms, so be mindful of this when requesting reviews. Of course, when it comes to your own website, there’s a bit more wiggle room.
Take responsibility for content shared on your profiles.
If the public can leave reviews on your social media profiles and other platforms, make sure that you adhere to the platform’s terms of service and community guidelines. You should have a plan for how to moderate reviews so that you can remove any inappropriate or offensive content promptly if needed.
No matter what photography niche you specialize in, client reviews are indispensable assets for your business. They establish trust and credibility with your audience and can significantly influence the buying decisions of potential clients.
From their role in attracting new clients to their use in refining services based on feedback, reviews are an important north star in your photography enterprise. Paying attention to them can help set you apart from other photographers who may neglect the business side of their profession. Whether you’re new to gathering online reviews or you already have a solid collection under your belt, the strategies for soliciting, managing, and effectively leveraging reviews that we’ve discussed can help you take your business to new heights.
Client feedback, whether positive or negative, provides meaningful opportunities for growth and connection with past and future clients. Ultimately, they’re a testament to your dedication, professionalism, and the quality of your work. By mastering the art of review generation and management, you can build a reputation you’re proud of. As creative professionals, our reputation always precedes us, so investing in yours is worth your while.