How to Get Better Quality Inquiries for Documentary Photo Sessions

If you’re in the business of family photojournalism or documentary photo sessions (helping clients preserve a real memory), at some point you’ve probably had inquiries that weren’t digging the session you’re offering. They resisted moving forward. So what do you do?

They reached out, because they do love your photos. Then, as soon as they learned more, they said it was too expensive or some other reason. You go through a whole potential client conversation with them, only to find they want something you’re not offering. Bummer, right? It can feel like a waste of time and and the rejection can feel discouraging. You may go into convince-mode – where you try to explain what a documentary photography session is and how they will LOVE the meaningful photos they’ll provide. Some people may say, “ok, that sounds awesome!” However, most of the time, if the client wasn’t ready for a documentary session when they inquired, the reasons NOT to book will be comin’ in hot at this point! “I need to speak with my husband.” “I’m not sure what we’d photograph.” So how do you get better quality inquiries for documentary photo sessions? Let’s talk!

What does ‘better quality inquiries’ even mean?

This isn’t the end all, be all, but it’s pretty darn accurate in my years of doing photo sessions. Even outside of documentary photography or family photojournalism, I found this to be true when I was doing portrait and lifestyle photography. There are 2 types of inquiries:

  1. Type 1: “Hey! I love your work/I love the work you did for my friend So & So. What are your rates? Are you available next month for engagement photos/family photos?”
  2. Type 2: “Hey! I love your work/I love the work you did for my friend So & So. My kids are growing so fast and we were thinking it’s time to get some family photos. I love how real and memorable the photos you create are. I think the idea of photographing a day together would be a wonderful way to remember this time. (or we spend a lot of our time _________ and want to have this photographed). Are you available next month? Can I find out more about your packages?”

Do you see the difference?

Type 1 inquiries know they want photos, but often you’re just someone they know with a camera or they aren’t very clear on what they want. Type 2 inquiries a bit more heartfelt and on point with a request that pairs well with your service. They come to you already educated, somewhat, on how you can actually benefit them. I’ve found that my best clients – the ones easiest to get to the next step – are already super warmed up and familiar with what I can do for them.

You want more of those inquiries to land in your inbox, right?!


How do you get more of the heartfelt, serious inquiries?

Create a Pre-Client Transformation.

Give potential clients a real learning experience through your marketing that allows them to experience transformation BEFORE you start selling to them. (Seriously, read that sentence again and take a second to digest that one)

Think about it.

Clients begin their photography journey long before they come into contact with you – before they even know you exist. The journey begins before the thought of needing photos comes to mind. Unfortunately, a lot of photographers rely on getting bookings from people already wanting a photo session – is this you? The photographer’s work is displayed all the right places and the potential client is left to decipher:

  1. if they want a photo session and
  2. what kind of photos they want.

This makes for a TON of missed opportunity here – both leaving money on the table AND in creating a far richer client experience. Have you ever been in a situation where you were totally unaware about something, but then someone opened up a whole new world for you? A couple of examples from my life:

  1. Essential oils. I knew nothing about these until one of my girlfriends had a free class at her house. Now, I’m a customer.
  2. Full time travel life. A couple of years ago, I was highly invested in finishing making our “forever home” a home. Buying a home, putting the kids in school, working until retirement, then travel – this is the order of life (or so I thought!). Then, I started seeing other families with travel blogs and got into Facebook Groups with families living the lifestyle I really want. Today, we’re working to travel full-time in 2017 upon finishing our 1970 Airstream and will homeschool or unschool (I just learned about this even in the last 12 months!) our kiddos. We can have the freedom life that our hearts want before retirement.

So do you see how something happened to create an awareness or change within me?

To kick ass in marketing, take into consideration the steps potential clients go through BEFORE actually becoming potential clients. Don’t write off all the rest of the people that aren’t currently shopping for photography services. Why? Because not now does NOT mean not ever.

So let’s talk about a powerful way to create a Pre-Potential Client transformation.

Specifically, let’s talk about taking people totally unfamiliar with documentary photography or family photojournalism on a journey to becoming your next client that’s all-in with this shooting experience.

There are several ways you can do this, but workshops are an extraordinary (and super fun for both you and your students!) way to provide the kind of learning experience I’m talking about. Beginner Level Photography Workshops can be your ultimate place to spark their transformation. Most people have a reason that makes them want to learn how to use their camera off auto-mode. Whether to rock their camera while traveling or to have better portraits of their kids, many want to maximize their investment in their camera or even their iPhone. By helping them, you can literally create your own clients.

Not every student is going to sign up to book you for a photo session, obviously. However, when you focus on filling your workshop seats with your ideal client, you move students deeper into this love for _________(fill in the blank with your marketing message/service you provide). It’s these people that you’re going to send off mind-blown with new knowledge and some will boomerang into your most heartfelt, serious inquiries.

Pretty good stuff, right? Bookmark this post by pinning it now: 

family documentary photography inquiries


It’s not all about doing a workshop and hoping some will turn into bookings later. There’s more to it than that but before we get into the event details, let’s talk about WHY workshops just plain work.

5 reasons workshops work to create transformation:

  1. You can place yourself in a room full of your potential clients, making you relatable and well-connected to them
  2. Students leave inspired + motivated (wanting more)
  3. You are giving them what they came to learn and mind-blowing them with deeper content they never thought to look for
  4. You give them a “quick win” when you give them ah-ha moments over the photos they can take that will pull on their heartstrings
  5. You can over-deliver and continue to be there in their journey AFTER the workshop, which is where you can earn them as a client


Ready to take control of your business and bring in more heartfelt inquiries into your business?

Plan your workshop in a way that sets you up to grow your email list, potential client & student roster + provides a high value experience for your students.


Learn the must-have, no exception elements of a workshop that will make workshops your best platform to create a transformational learning experience for pre-potential clients.

Tip: I’ve used the same workshop structure for the past 10 years. In Jerry Maguire fashion, although I’ve actually never seen this movie, let me help you… to help people in your community fall in love with documentary photography (and become your next clients).

Author: MarieMasse
I help client documentary photographers fine-tune their workflow + marketing game, so their work is filled with sessions that represent their voice + client values while earning a living. I shoot undirected, off-beat stories that aren’t preserved often enough (like the story of couples before starting a fam or becoming empty-nesters – a dream project of mine), so my clients’ old box of photos is a meaningful, visual diary of their life + legacy to leave behind.

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