How many times have you received a new photography inquiry, quickly responded and got no response? Or maybe you’re new to this whole photography business and you’re not sure at all how to respond. The first email you send back to a new lead is important – so important that you risk losing them completely or booking them for photography. In this blog post, I break down seven key ingredients to a successful inquiry response that will result in more potential clients eager to book you. Here is my tried and true method for how to respond to a new inquiry.
Imagine you are a bride looking for a wedding photographer. You have probably Googled #allthethings and have looked through a handful or more of wedding photographer’s websites. You narrow it down to five photographers that you want to reach out to and send an initial inquiry to each of them.
That bride will receive FIVE emails back from photographers who all want to photograph her wedding. You get one chance to connect with her. You get one opportunity to help her out. You get one time for her to think “that is my photographer”. THAT is the importance of responding to a photography inquiry.
Now, I don’t think I have the perfect formula to respond to a photography inquiry. I have tried adding and subtracting sentences. I have tried including my pricing and excluding it. I have tested out a ton of methods for responding to new inquiries so I want to share what has worked the best for me.
First off, let’s start with how you shouldn’t respond. You need to stand out from the crowd of other photographers this person may also be receiving an email from. In order to do that, you need to respond in a way that goes above and beyond serving them at a very basic level.
Please do not start out your email with “Thank you so much for reaching out!”. Do you want to know how many other photographers start off that way? A lot!
Also, do not be short or scarce with your response. This person is asking you for information about being their photographer. The more information you can provide them with from the get-go, the more you can prove how you will help them throughout the entire process. Do not just say thank you for inquiring, give them your prices and say let me know if you want to book.
The best way to start your response to a new lead is by acknowledging them first. Hopefully your inquiry form asks questions that give you a little more information about them. One of the questions on my inquiry form is “What’s the biggest adventure you’ve been on together?”. You can also ask “Tell me more about yourself?”. Or, “What are you most excited about right now?”. These are all questions that elicit responses with some information about who this person is.
Start off by acknowledging the information they shared with you. If they mentioned their greatest adventure in life was backpacking the Grand Canyon, then tell them how freekin’ awesome that is. If they mention they just adopted their first puppy, then ask what its name is and tell them how you adopted your first dog three years ago.
If they shared their engagement story with you, acknowledge a specific part of their story you loved. Ask additional questions. Be excited for them!
Before I even tell them more about my photography, I want to show them that I can provide value to them beyond just taking pictures. This is a key factor in creating an outstanding customer service model that I mention in this blog post. Maybe you can link to a guide on what to wear? Or how to prepare for your session? Or your favorite locations in the area? There are so many easy ways to serve new leads first and prove you can help them out throughout the process.
When responding to elopement inquiries, I like to say it like this…
“You have this dream of planning a Colorado elopement. A photographer is one key piece in that planning process that I will 100% deliver on, but I also want to help with finding you the perfect location, creating a timeline for your day that allows you to enjoy every second of it, and provide you with recommended vendors for any other needs you have (flowers, a place to stay, etc).”
If they didn’t specify a specific location on their inquiry form, then I also provide them with a link to my blog post about the best places to elope in Colorado.
Almost all the photographers they reach out to are good at taking pictures. In general, most people can not tell minute differences between the quality of photos and “how good a picture is”. So, when a person is receiving multiple emails back from several different photographers, you need to stand out by providing value to them beyond just photographs.
This is the point where you can start introducing them to your photography approach. Are you more traditional? Or do you like more candid photography? This is how I explain my photography philosophy when I respond to a photography inquiry:
“If you want pretty posed photos and cutesie Pinterest-esque images, I may not be your gal (and that’s ok!). But if you are a fun-loving, adventurous couple who doesn’t mind getting your feet dirty or climbing the side of a mountain, and you want photos that capture your real and raw love for each other, then I have a feeling I’m your photographer (insert high five!).”
The rate that I was able to close deals and book new inquiries skyrocketed after I started implementing phone calls with everyone who inquired. I did this when I first started out photographing families and I still do it with every single one of my clients today. I believe that when you can get on a phone call with someone and show that you are just a real person trying to help them out, it is POWERFUL.
This is the point in the email where I say I’d love to hear more about their vision for their session and ask them to get on a phone call. Before I could afford a scheduling system, I would list out specific times over the next three days I had available to talk. Then I’d ask them which time works best? DO NOT just ask “what time works for you to get on the phone?”. You are leaving it in their hands to give you specific times and hope they fit into your schedule. You have a much higher chance of getting them on the phone if you give them specific times to choose from.
Today, I use Dubsado to schedule all my appointments with new inquiries. In my email, I say “So we don’t have to go back-and-forth on what times work best for each of us, you can click on the button below to pick a time to chat!”. Then I provide a link to my scheduler. (If you want to try out Dubsado for a scheduler and full customer management system, you can get 20% off your first month or year with code “wethelight”). If you don’t need a full CRM like Dubsado, other scheduler options out there are Acuity and Calendly.
Being upfront with your pricing is one way to weed out people who just are not willing to spend above a certain amount of money on a photographer. You also don’t waste as much time talking to people on the phone who can’t afford you in the first place.
There are many theories out there on whether you should give pricing upfront or not when you respond to a photography inquiry. I have tested out both and encourage you to do the same. It’s helpful to have said you tried and failed, then to have never tried out both options.
If you are providing pricing upfront in your email as I do, this is the place to either mention you attached a PDF of your pricing guide to the email or provide a link to it on your website. I have heard that if you have attachments in your email, it is more likely to get flagged as spam. I don’t know the truth regarding that, but I link to a hidden page on my website that serves as my pricing guide.
The last key piece of responding to a new lead is providing them with examples of how you can capture their session, wedding day, etc. I suggest providing three of your best examples. Ideally these are links to blog posts on your website that highlight your favorite images from a session. But, when I am behind on blogging (it happens to all of us), I also have linked to full client galleries.
Make sure that the samples you provide relate as best they can to what the person is inquiring about. For example, if someone inquires about an elopement in March, I am going to send them snowy elopements because that’s what they should expect to see here in Colorado in March. If a family is inquiring about a September session, I’m going to send them samples of fall family sessions.
When you are closing out your email you need to tell the person what you want them to do next. If you just end the email with a thanks and your name, you risk losing them as a lead. Do not just end the email without giving them further direction with what to do next. Since I want them to schedule a phone call with me, in my closing sentence, I ask them again to schedule a time to chat with the link to my calendar.
There you have it! My recipe for a successful response email to a photography inquiry. Whether you have been in business for ten years or two weeks, if you respond using this outline and remember to serve them well, I promise you will get responses back. Now, there are always those people who’ll ghost you. Yes, even I get ghosted quite frequently. But, the people who do respond back are typically eager to get on the phone and talk more. That is what I hope for you, friend!
Hey, it’s me, Larissa! I started my photography business three years ago with a one-day photography class, a craigslist camera and zero experience photographing people. I’m not a hot shot in the industry, but a real person who built a business that replaced my previous job’s income and a fire in my soul to share how I got my business off the ground with other newbie photographers. If you want more advice, how-tos, and tips on getting your portrait photography business off the ground, head over to my photographer’s page!