Do you remember when you were a kid or a teenager, often feeling a sense of dread at the thought of going to a photo session? You knew you would have to get all dressed up, and then have to sit, awkwardly posed, in front of a camera operated by a photographer who may have seemed a little bit too chipper and over-the-top, which probably made you feel even more uncomfortable due to the lack of sincere human interaction.
Thankfully, that sort of photo session is not the standard that it used to be. With the multitude of camera and portable lighting equipment choices we have today, client shoots tend to be in a more relaxed environment.
Still, there are several points that you can keep in mind to ensure that your client shoot is not only productive, and that your client has plenty of images to choose from, but that they also have fun in the process.
1. Get To Know Your Client
If your client is someone who you have never met, do your best to schedule a pre-shoot meeting with them, preferably on a day before your shoot. Not only will this give you a chance to discuss what they are looking for in the shoot, but you will also have the opportunity to get to know each other. When a client feels like they know you, they will begin to trust you, which will make the shoot run much more smoothly.
2. Find Your Client’s Comfort Zone
If you are not shooting in a studio, try to choose a location that is comfortable or meaningful to your client. If possible, I always try to photograph people at or near their homes, especially if I am photographing their children because they feel at ease in their home environment. You may also want to try for a location that has meaning to your client. For example, if you are doing an engagement shoot, try to get some shots of the couple at the place where they had their first date, or where their proposal took place. The sentiment attached to a location can spark emotions in your client which will translate through your photos.
3. Take Candid Photos
At the beginning of the shoot, as you are walking to your location, for example, snap a few candid shots of your client as you are walking along. This will help them warm up to the camera so that when you do begin to pose your client, they will feel more at ease. It can be really difficult to achieve a natural looking pose if your client is uncomfortable, and breaking the ice with a few candid shots will help them adjust to being in front of your camera.
4. Be a Conversationalist
If you keep the conversation flowing with your client, they will begin to have fun and open up before you know it. Ask questions about your client, and be sure to reciprocate by telling them things about yourself. By doing this, you will not only prevent awkwardness in the beginning of your shoot, but you will also learn things about your client that you can then highlight through your photos of them.
5. Focus Your Attention on the Client
As photographers, we often tend to get wrapped up in the technical details of camera and lighting settings. If you are focusing too much attention on the technical aspects of the shoot, your client may feel as though they do not have your attention, so be sure to keep talking to them as you work with the technical details on your end of the shoot. This can be difficult at first, especially if you are working with a new camera or flash, but the more you practice this, the easier it becomes.
6. Have a Game Plan
There is something to be said for story-boarding. Even if it is just a list in your head of locations, poses and wardrobe changes, your shoot will flow more smoothly if you know what you want to do next. Having a structure to your shoot will also help your client feel more secure because they will not feel like they are having ideas sprung upon them without warning. Rather, they will feel as though they have control in the situation.
7. Assume the Role of Director
A lot of people tend to freeze up in front of the camera because they are not sure what to do with themselves. Don’t be afraid to tell your client exactly how to pose, because most people want direction, especially if they are not used to being photographed. By the same token, it is always polite to ask permission to physically move them into a pose. For example, if your client is a female and her hair is in her face, ask her if it is okay to move her hair before actually doing so. This small action will build her confidence in you because she will see that you know exactly how to pose her, but it will also build her trust because you are showing her that you are aware and respectful of her personal space.
8. Positive Reinforcement
When you get a great shot, tell your client! You don’t want to run the risk of sounding superficial, so be sure not to over-do the compliments, but every few shots or so, tell them that they look great, and that they’re doing a wonderful job. You may also want to show them a couple of your best shots as you are shooting. Some people worry that what they are doing in front of the camera doesn’t look good, but by showing them a select few shots during the shoot, they’ll see that they do look great.
9. Utilize Props and Scenery
If a client has something to hold in their hand, or a piece of scenery to play with, they will have something other than the camera on which to focus their energy.
Now, try to think outside of the box in terms of props and scenery, and customize them to fit the personality of your client. If your client is more subdued and low-key, something as simple as posing them on a park bench, rather than having them standing up can be just the right amount of scenery. On the other end of the spectrum, if your client is a child, or even a quirky adult, the sky is really the limit in terms of props. I have a vintage suitcase that I use as a prop, and clients love it, because they can carry it, sit on it, etc, and they get enthralled by the suitcase, rather than the fact that they’re in front of my camera.
10. Pause For a Breather
We all know that a photo shoot can be tiring, mentally and physically, and the client’s patience tends to run out more quickly than the photographer’s. Be aware of your client’s mood and body language, and if they seem to be getting tired or frustrated, pause for a few minutes and have a cup of coffee or just relax. A simple ten minute break can help everyone refocus, and it also gives you the chance to talk to your client and get to know them even better!
These are just a few examples that will help ensure that you make the most of your shoot. Each shoot differs in its own way, but keeping these steps in mind, you will be able to tailor the shoots to fit your client’s personality, while knowing that everyone will have an enjoyable experience. The main idea to keep in mind is that a relaxed and happy client equals great photos!