by Norman Phillips Published 01/08/2010
One of the most rewarding aspects of my photography career is the lifetime connection with so many clients. You will note I refer to them as clients, not customers. Customers come and go and any relationship with them is casual. A client is someone we develop a long-time relationship with and it goes well beyond money.
Of course the main philosophy or business model was retaining the loyalty of as many clients as possible and this has been very effective. Those we did not keep were mostly those who relocated.
In our market area, though very wide and often across states and oceans, relocation averages four to five years. When family offspring went to college, got married, parents also tended to relocate and mostly to warmer climates than those we suffer here in the Chicago area where winters can be brutally cold. Many clients have second homes in places such as Florida and Arizona.
I have never counted the number of weddings we covered where babies we photographed grew up and got married or when we photographed a bar mitzvah or confirmation and 10 to 15 years later we were photographing their wedding. Families came every year for an updated portrait while the children were growing up and later they would come every four to five years for another session.
Often these family groups were much larger as the younger members married and had children of their own, and they often were residing in locations far and wide across the USA.
Watching a family expand was one of the most exciting aspects of the tradition of family portraiture. Just as exciting was when they would all come together for yet another portrait, often for a holiday occasion or a birthday or anniversary.
Numerous families came for a new portrait as long as 15 years after the last portrait we made for them and the group was almost too large to squeeze into our camera room. If we knew this ahead of time we would arrange to shoot it on location or the family would arrange the session at a restaurant where the celebration was taking place.
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