What’s Your Name Again?

hold handsDo I Know You?

My wife Karen and I were sitting at home on a typical Friday night off. Our eleven year old daughter was half-watching a cable television show called “Ancient Space Alien Visitors to Earth”, while she also had her iPod earbuds in, listening to music. The TV was playing at low volume. I was in my favorite chair, an overstuffed leather chair that is so soft that it almost feels as if I am floating in it! It’s part of a three piece set living room set, and my wife was on the leather sofa, that also is comfortable enough to sleep on. This was a quiet, peaceful scene. A little too quiet.

The Sounds Of Silence


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My wife was on her phone, scrolling through Facebook, “tsk-tsking” at some of her single friends’ ribald and personal posts about their love lives (or lack thereof…).  I was on Amazon, looking at new camera lenses, and Les Paul guitars (photography and guitar playing, my extreme interests!) Other than the voice of a commentator on the television show who was speculating that the Great Pyramids of Egypt might be beacons to aliens, the room was silent. My daughter was downloading more music from I-tunes. All eyes glued to screens, not a word being spoken nor heard. Our pug dog Lucy, bored, fell asleep at my feet.  At one point, a little irritated, I looked up, and said to my wife “and what’s your name again – do I know you?”

What Did We Ever Do Before The ‘Net?

I met my wife Karen in 1999. The internet was still growing in popularity and usefulness. It required a computer. There was no Facebook, and very little content compared to now. Email was just getting going in it’s effort to replace snail mail. My wife and I were home on a Friday night. We were talking, and playing cards, and laughing.  How did we do it?

I honestly think that if the current electronic devices and lifestyle were in place in 1999, I might not have met nor married my wife, and thus not have a daughter either!  We might have been too busy, with our faces buried in our devices as we passed on the sidewalk, or been at a movie, texting friends about the film. I might never have asked her, a stranger, which type of cake mix to buy at the grocery store, instead of just Googling it myself on my phone. I might have not seen my daughter being born, instead had my face hidden behind some screen, watching what the camera saw, instead of witnessing it myself!

If we  had the internet and online capabilities back then, I might have tried to show my portraits in some online gallery back then, and most likely been out of business by now! 

Reach Out and Touch Someone.

Let’s face it – many of our portrait and wedding prospects try to do as much business as they can online – emails, texts, Facebook messages- and so many photographers are more than happy to respond! It seems so easy – they write to us, we write back, they book, they look at their images online, they enter a credit card and the online gallery lab prints their portraits, ships them to the client – we practically have nothing to do but take the portraits (and some photographers probably wish they could skip that step too and just collect the check!) Why not?

Imagine my wife on the sofa, and I am ten feet away, and she texts me “hi honey, I love you” and I laugh and write back “Love you too!”. Well, that has happened.  Recently, as we sat there and stared at our devices, I jokingly sent a picture of two people holding hands and said “here we are”. It’s not a substitute for the real thing!  So we made a rule - let’s have more human, in-person contact – or we’re in trouble!

Your prospects and clients are the same! They need to hear you, see you, respond so that your see and hear them – body language, vocal inflection, facial expressions – all undetectable in an online encounter!

You Mean We Have To Talk On The Phone?

Yup. Sorry. You need to talk LIVE to your prospects. Now, I can hear you –  (because I talk to a LOT of photographers of all experience levels about this): “But Tom, come on, that’s so old fashioned! I know that I certainly wouldn’t go to a photographer who makes me talk on the phone, or even meet them before we took any pictures!” See, that’s where we need to realize – not every client is right for us, and we are not right for every client.

We need clients willing to play by our rules and policies, because in the end -THEY WIN!  Yes, we get qualified clients who love what we do and are willing able to invest in portraits But they receive beautiful wall portraits of the ones they love, and it lasts for so many years!

Your prospects can hear your personality. You get to ask all of the vital questions, to find out what they are looking for, and then help them to get it – maybe with you! You build rapport as you share stories, hear about the prospect’s family, and their hopes and dreams for their portrait photography. They hear your passion, enthusiasm – and you can hear if they are “getting it!”.

The Bottom Line.

 My booking rate when someone sends me an instant message or text is about 12% if I just respond back in the same way – not good. However, with my automated email answering system, as well as using my Telecharts on the telephone, I book over 75% of my calls with qualified clients. Which would YOU choose? I simply cannot afford to ignore my clients by communicating solely by email or Instant messaging or texting. I’d have to close my doors. (Plus, to be honest, it’s simply FUN to get to know people, laugh or cry on the phone with them, meet them in person, as they become friends and clients for the long term.) It’s good for your business AND your psyche!facebook.webinar.small

As far as how you present your images for the first time to you client – we know for a fact that people invest in portraits for emotional reasons – and we know that the first time they see their images is the time of highest emotion! I want to be there, by their side, as they get teary-eyed, and make decisions on their portrait investment. It only makes sense as a portrait artist and business person!

I Wanna Hold Your Hand (again).

Develop your system, for automating emails, replying to Instant messages and texts, and handling phone calls with your telephone script. Take your client by the hand, and gently, and professionally guide them through the process of selecting the perfect photographer. Your relationship will grow, and so will your business! And only show your images in person, by projecting them into a frame over a sofa. No online galleries. You’ll be holding your client’s hand from start to finish and they will thank you!

Oh, and how are my wife and I doing? Great! We have set up “no phone zones” around our home, and when family is gathered (or just the two of us) we insist on a certain period of time where we chat, catch up on things and share, without any devices on hand. And speaking of hands – instead of sending photos of other people holding hands, often we hold hands as we’re sitting there talking. It sure beats holding a phone!

Thomas Morelli







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4 Responses to What’s Your Name Again?

  1. April 24, 2016 at 1:28 pm

    Hi Tom
    Awesome points driven home. Well done my lighting & exposure memory making friend!!!!
    Call me :^)) (just kidding)
    Anne-Marie May, CPP
    Welcome Aboard Photography

    • May 4, 2016 at 8:01 pm

      Thank you much, Anne-Marie!

  2. Mark Lemon
    April 24, 2016 at 4:02 pm

    So if I’m understanding you correctly, I need to develop a semi-standardized reply to IMs and text messages. How about “I have many questions before I can answer yours. Please me at 555-1212 at your convenience.”? Or do I assume they are further up the funnel and I should say “please send me your best email” instead?

    • May 4, 2016 at 8:01 pm


      That’s a great question, and the general way we respond to IMs and text messages is to say something along the lines of “I’m so glad you asked that question. If you don’t mind, can we take this off of text and correspond by email? That’s much easier for me, as I’m not great at typing on small mobile-device keyboards. Plus, I have a few questions for you as well, so I can find out more about exactly what you’re looking for. How do you feel about that?” Then, we simply ask for their email address. Hope that helps, Mark!

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