The 3 simple reasons people will (or won't) refer you

Many photographers think it’s all about the photography. But it’s not. I’m not saying photography itself isn’t important, but that it’s only a small piece of the bigger picture. Your success as a photographer has more to do with you and your personality than anything else.

I’ve been a wedding photographer for ten years. My brand is simple – relaxed, genuine and natural. Not only does my photographic style reflect this, but the way I interact with people reflects this. Take a wedding day, for example. I am casual, but not sloppy. Professional, but not uptight. Fun, but not goofy. Personable, but not intrusive.


I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been at a wedding reception when a bridesmaid, groomsmen, family member or another guest would come up to me and say “you did a great job today”, and then inquire about booking me themselves.

You know the funny thing about it? They complemented me on how great of a job I did, yet they hadn’t even seen any of the photos yet. How can they say I did a great job? Isn’t that like complementing a chef before trying the food?

Many photographers think it’s all about the photography, and if it were, then the chef argument would hold up. But it’s not. I’m not saying photography itself isn’t important (more on that in a bit), but it’s only a small piece of the bigger picture. Your success as a photographer has more to do with you and your personality than anything else.

In continuing our conversation about how to get guaranteed referrals as a wedding photographer, in this article, I want to explore the question “why do people refer”. I believe there are three contributing factors to the why people refer. Below, I’ve tried to give them each a “weight” as to how important they are in affecting whether or not a client will refer you.

  • 50% because of you
  • 35% because of the experience you provide
  • 15% because of your photography

The greatest emphasis is on you, the person. If people enjoy spending time with you, connect with you as a person and can relate to you, have a great experience and feel comfortable with the atmosphere you create, then they’re more likely to love their photos. It’s called cognitive bias – we see what we want to see, and when we have a great experience, we’re more likely to enjoy the results.

If people enjoy spending time with you, connect with you and can relate to you, they’re more likely to refer you

Photography has a transformative effect. Like an old song from your younger years, an image can take you back to the moment it was taken. If a client remembers having fun, enjoying themselves, laughing and being relaxed, they’ll love the image that much more. If they remember being stressed, overwhelmed, bored or upset, they’ll love the photo less, even if it is a technically perfect image.

If you want to increase referrals, you have to simply optimize the motivations to refer – you, the experience you provide, and your photography.

Be the best version of yourself

Much has been written on the topic of personal development, and it’s a field that every photographer should study. The best book you can read that has nothing to do with photography is Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People.

Since you and your personality have such a huge impact on the likelihood that a client will refer you, it’s clear to see the benefit in being the best version of yourself. Here are ten quick tips to quickly “level up” your personality so you can be the best version of yourself:

  1. Be trustworthy, likable, valuable and dependable
  2. Do what you’ll say you’ll do
  3. Be genuine
  4. Smile often
  5. Use people’s names
  6. Have a positive attitude
  7. Always be helpful
  8. Care about the relationship
  9. Become interested in other people
  10. Be a good listener

Create a remarkable experience

Maya Angelou is famous for saying “People will forget what you said. People will forget what you did. But people will never forget how you made them feel.”

The experience you provide for your clients will greatly affect their likelihood of referring you.

The customer experience doesn’t happen by accident, and I believe that the most successful photographers design their customer experience with intent. In the next few days, we’ll be diving into this topic very specifically, and I’ll even show you a sample ideal customer experience for a wedding.

Be a great photographer

The last part of the equation – the product – again, cannot be avoided. I assume that you are a great photographer. You must master your craft, always give your best, never stop learning and invest in the best products.

Now that we understand why people refer, we can fine-tune all the moving parts to optimize for referrals. In the next article, I’ll be going deeper into the customer experience – what it is and how you can set and exceed expectations.

The “Guaranteed Referrals” Series

This article is the 2nd article in the “Guaranteed Referrals” series. To read the first article, check out this article. We’re also doing a Facebook Live video over on the Sprouting Photographer Facebook Page every morning this week at 11:00am EST. Come join us there to join in on the conversation! Here’s the video from yesterday’s Facebook Live chat:

Sprout Studio v1.5

As you may know, we’re currently gearing up for a huge update to Sprout Studio – we’re calling it Sprout Studio v1.5. It’s an update all about your clients. It encourages repeat clients, enables you to provide an amazing customer experience, helps you organize your clients better and has built-in, easy-to-use, advanced automation so you can spend less time in the nitty-gritty, and more time doing what you love.

Maybe you’re already a Sprout Studio user, maybe you tried it and found that it wasn’t a good fit at the time, or maybe you haven’t even given it a try yet. Sprout Studio v1.5 will be revolutionary. If you’re not using Sprout Studio, now is the time. This update marks a huge milestone in the software and how you can relate to your clients.

In making your clients the hub of your business, the way you interact with and see your clients in Sprout Studio had to change. Now, with Sprout Studio v1.5, when you are looking at one of your contacts, you can see everything to do with them in one place.

Not only can you quickly see (and get access to) all of the Leads, Shoots and Orders they’re associated with, but you can organize exactly how they’re associated with each Lead, Shoot, and Order in the same place. For example – you can specify what “role” a Client has (i.e. a Bride, a Family Member, etc) and whether they should have access to the Shoot or not. This allows you to organize better and streamline your workflow and gives you all of the control at your fingertips.

When you’re looking at a contact in Sprout Studio v1.5, you can now see analytics and statistics about them. You can see:

  • When they first became a contact (how “old” are they as a client)
  • How much they are worth as a client
  • How many Leads, Shoots and Orders they have

This allows you to quickly get a full picture of who each client is, and what kind of impact they have on your business. This is just the beginning; we’ve now laid the foundation for analytics and statistics on a client-by-client basis so that we can do much more with it in the future! This is a great start, though!

With Sprout Studio v1.5, when you’re looking at a client, you can see what they see with the click of a button. If you want to ensure everything is showing up properly or if you’re just curious to what your client sees, you can see it all by clicking one button.

In the last article, I showed you how your client views their entire photographic experience with you through Sprout Studio, and how much more organized you can help them be. Now, you’re seeing how much more organized you can be, too. And who doesn’t want to be more organized?!

Sprout Studio v1.5, with these features and 100’s more, comes out on September 20th.

Visit to sign up for a 21-day free trial. Sprout Studio v1.5 will be released on September 20th, and you’ll automatically get the upgrade once it is out. See you over there!

To complement this “Guaranteed Referrals” educational series, we’re also doing a Facebook Live video over on the Sprouting Photographer Facebook Page every morning this week at 11:00am EST. Come join us there to join in on the conversation! Here’s the video from the Facebook Live chat that corresponds to this article, below. Join us tomorrow at 11:00am EST for another video!

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