"What is done with love is done well."
Image by Diana Bello Studio
This past year I have experienced such growth not only within myself, but within my photography business. Throughout college I remember every person's face of judgement when I was would say I was an Imaging Arts major chasing a career filled with photography and graphic design. "What are you even going to do with that? Do you think people are going to pay for that?" filled my mind, even if the person didn't say it out loud it was something I could see swirling around in their mind; Things I even questioned myself. The answer, or solution, to all my questions of self doubt I found in this last year was completely putting my heart and soul into my clients. Instead of asking questions filled in doubt of fear of how people won't be interested in investing, I've focused asking changing my direction for those who are in need of my services. It starts with creating a personalized experience allowing customers to walk away with something that created just for them, not a Pinterest produced, Instagram influenced photoshoot. So here I am handing you a few things to make the beginning process easier. Photographers; Focus on these in post inquiry, and Customers; if they're not asking you may want to be tell them your answers anyway!
1. What's realistic for you?
Beginning a journey with a client (because let's be real the planning of a session can take months sometimes), I want to make sure I am catering to their needs with my services. At the end of 2016, I created a look book with all of my services since I am not only a photographer but also a graphic design and artist. My end goal wasn't to run away with the biggest paycheck in the world but to make sure my clients are completely satisfied and willing to reference me in the future especially with me being a multidisciplinary artist in multiple booming field. To me that means talking realistically about budget and needs! Photographers; yes, you need to survive off of this, don't pressure your client into something that isn't needed for them personally. It'll create resentment towards you in the long run. Clients; Do your research and come prepared. While we're all more than welcome to explain to your what comes with our services, We don't want to feel like a sleazy car salesman trying to buy your acceptance. We don't (at least I can speak for myself) want to talk you into anything you're not prepared to invest in, so from the get go let's get real.
2. What your vision?
Ever since I began photographing portrait sessions this has been a no brainer, yet how can things get lost in session and disappointment be found? I've found in the last year customers could have a few locations, props, outfits, they already have ideas for. Listen. This is the most difficult part at times because us creatives forget to put batteries into our listening ears and allow our mind to run wild with our own vision when they customer has something completely different in their mind. To make sure both photographer and client are speaking the same language, Clients; search your photographer's portfolio to see example of things you want to follow over into your session. Let use know what in your vision with no hesitation. Those things that keep you up at night excited, WE WANT TO KNOW. If there's something that isn't your vision let them know that as well. Photographers; send your client Pinterest boards that could be good resources for inspiration or assistance prior to the session. And listen, listen, listen. At the end of the day something that will be in your portfolio for god knows how long, and this will be something the client has to cherished forever. It's okay to take on the customer's ideas...
3. What do you think about...?
...and it's okay to take on the photographer's cray schemes. I have also had the opposite spectrum where I have had complete creative freedom to explore a vision of my own because the client doesn't know where to begin. A working photographer usually does have an eye for what will look good and magically (I swear it's a super power) to build off the few ideas the customer does have or find things the customer hasn't even thought of before. Clients; Find some trust within us, even when there's a wall of vulnerability involved. I swear we have your best intentions in mind. If you really dislike the concept or idea, decline it and let's brainstorm how to make it more your style. Photographers; See #4
4. Is there anything that frightens you, makes you uncomfortable?
Photographers ask this to your clients. Recently bringing this into my customer experience has brought me surprisingly closer to my clients because they can feel I am genuinely concern for the level of comfort. I began bringing this into play when a portrait client of mine expressed insecurity in how her arms appeared in images. With this in mind, I was then able to pose her and edit the images accordingly now that this was a main focused of mine. Another example is in wedding initial meet-up's asking about family dynamic and relationships. Finding what could potentially bring stress on a client's wedding day was the smartest thing I ever began doing for the fact we are able to talk through the worst case scenorio prior the day and come up with a management plan to ensure the photos were flawless. So Photographers; I beg you, this is a time it's okay to be nosey af. Clients; Don't be embarrassed. We have things about ourselves that make us cringe when we're looking through our own photos, no matter how much photoshop we've practiced. We also have crazy people we claim as family. It's okay to subject us to the bad because at the end of the day we're only here trying to only capture the good in your world!
5. What makes you YOU?
It's so easy to get tangled in the details and forget what the goal is, celebrating the individual! Prior to the session it's so so so important to get to know the in's and outs of what makes the client individually them! With my 2017 couples I have been able to do this easily by coffee dates but for those portrait sessions, esp. seniors trying to balance work and school, I've found email is the best place this can happen. Opening up on who I am is the first step. I've always been an open book but to give someone the permission to explain what they love and the little quirks that makes them is a one of the kind feeling but can be truly life altering. I tell about my addiction to Dunkin's ice coffee, all the art things I do, and how secretly I am a psychology nerd and how I really just want to be a dog mom. From there, I give my clients permission to tell me their quirks in order to "set the mood" of the shoot. Maybe one client is super tom boy although her session is filled with beautiful dresses for outfit changes or maybe a client is going to school to be a doctor but also has danced for a number of years. Knowing things like this I am able to think of how to coordinate their personality within the image & have their photos come to life!
So Photographers; Take the time to appreciate these clients, because they're people first. Clients; Be unapologically you! This is your session. Make it all that you are and more, I promise you, your photographer will adore you for it.
Moral of the story; To make this session magic both photography + client need to come together (yes like The Beatle's) in complete honesty, understanding, and most importantly in excitement! Work together to be thorough, even when it seems like its common sense, in expectations and ideas so the only surprises that should come up are how beautiful the images come out on delivery day!