Master Your Bookings: Effective Communication

by Photo Mastery
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Desire Is Not Negotiable

Imagine a guy going into a bar, trying to flirt with women by using a list of facts. 

“Good evening. Can we talk? I have something I think is important that I would like to discuss with you. Here is the thing: I feel lonely. And I like how you look. If you come home with me I can promise that you will receive some distinctive benefits that many other men would not be able to supply you with. Here is a short list…”

It sounds like a Monty Python sketch, but most photographers try to book clients with the same strategy.

It doesn’t matter how reasonable your list of facts are, they won’t create desire, because desire is a feeling and must be elicited through feelings.

(Of course, facts can make you feel something, but only when they’re already connected with an established emotion).

Here’s another example. What’s more effective, a list of logical reasons why you should get up and dance, or hearing catchy beats that make you feel like you can’t sit still?

Just like you can’t expect great results by telling someone why they should feel like dancing, you won’t get great results by telling someone why they should book you. You’ll get great results by making them feel like they want to book you.

Stories Create Feelings

Before my parents went on vacation overseas, dad asked mum to research the latest camera models and get back to him with a suggestion. She spent two weeks poring through reviews before telling him the best camera to buy. 

Dad ignored her advice and bought the camera he already wanted. Both of them felt annoyed with each other. 

Aside from the family dynamics, there are two lessons here. The first is obvious, but we can still miss it. 

  1. People dislike feeling like they’re being told what to do. They like to feel they’ve made their own decisions. 
  2. Emotions change minds, not facts. 

Brain scans show we are very good at rationalizing decisions after we’ve already subconsciously made them based on emotions. It’s a human trait and we don’t even know we do it. 

The secret is to make your facts into stories. 

Here’s what my mother should have told my father, rather than just telling him, “Buy this camera, not that one”:

“I was reading reviews and there was this particular one where a man bought [the camera dad wanted to buy] for a vacation overseas and he was really disappointed. He said that he missed so many moments, because the autofocus just wouldn’t catch the subject in time. He would see a great scene on the street, but by the time the camera decided to focus, the scene had changed and was no longer interesting. He said he came back with thousands of out of focus photos. He sat at his computer for hours, going through them all and feeling like his trip was a complete waste of money—not to mention the camera! Now he has to decide whether it’s worth replacing the camera and going on a new trip, or just living with the loss of those memories. 

I also read reviews on this other camera where a couple just got back from a trip to India. The guy actually went back into the store he bought the camera from to rave about how much he loved it! He said that although his bus hardly ever slowed down, he caught so many great moments as they zoomed past. He would lift the camera to his eye and—boom!— it was always ready and captured so many great memories. He said he had his whole family visiting to look at his photos. His only problem was choosing which ones to get printed to give away and hang on his walls!”

The example is deliberately obvious to illustrate my point. The story contains key phrases designed to trigger an emotional response:

  1. The subjects were people my father could relate to—men going on vacation tours overseas.  
  2. The first anecdote hits two big fears: fear of missing out and fear of wasting money. 
  3. The second anecdote makes the character into a kind of hero of the story. 

It’s super important that the characters in your stories are people your clients can relate to. They can be stories about whomever, but it works best when it’s either you or former clients.

You don’t even need a true story in order to persuade people. This was first studied in detail about fifty years ago. Peruvian soap opera Simplemente María (recently revamped in a new series) starred a struggling single mother who learns to sew, puts herself through college, and becomes a famous fashion designer. While it aired sales of Singer sewing machines shot through the roof—along with college enrolments.

Of course, don’t pretend your fictional story is true. Just introduce the story as something imaginative, rather than historical. For instance, “Imagine such-and-such situation…” And off you go.

For the best results, put yourself and your clients into a story together. This is super easy and doesn’t have to sound forced. For example, say something about their upcoming wedding:

“You know that field near your venue? I have some great ideas for next time I’m there. We’ll go there for your portraits. After your ceremony, at that time of day, the light is going to be awesome—soft, golden and warm. Oh, man, I can just picture it! This is going to be amazing!” 

This puts images in your client’s minds. They imagine what you’re describing and feel positive emotions associated with their wedding. You’ve also created a mental movie with you in it as their photographer, which solidifies the idea that you’re going to be their photographer. They’re picturing you taking their photos.

The Fifth Agreement

You know that news “ticker tape” info that scrolls along at the bottom of news screens, telling you a bunch of other news items? You know why they do that? It’s because information presented while your focus is on something else—in this case the verbal broadcast—bypasses cognitive filters and leads to subconscious acceptance. In other words, if you give people something to focus on while you talk to them they’re more likely to accept what you say without thinking about it. 

You might have had similar experiences in your relationships. Your spouse comes in while you’re busy and asks you a question. Later you find out you agreed to something you have no memory of discussing. 

So, while your clients are leafing through a sample album, talk to them a bit. Not enough to grab their attention. Just add things to what you’d already mention. For example:

“I love that shot. We were about to leave when the light changed to this amazing show with the rainbow and storm clouds. When I’m photographing your wedding we’ll go to the same place.”

The first part about the light is something you’d say anyway. It’s an obvious statement they can accept as true. The next part about you taking this couple there on their wedding day—implying you’re going to be their photographer—is the added bit that gets through their filters into their subconscious acceptance. 


The idea here is not to be sneaky or manipulative. It’s that people have walls up when it comes to sales and when you get past these walls it opens up an opportunity to communicate with them more effectively. You’re not going to influence their subconscious to make them do something they don’t want to do—like you’re hypnotizing them into quacking around your studio like a duck—but you can create a space for real, open communication, which can take a bit of subtlety to begin with.

If you do hypnotize someone into quacking around your studio, I want to see that video.

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