How to Put Clients at Ease in Front of a Camera
Have you ever heard one of your photography client's say this? "We get a little nervous having our pictures taken”.
I have probably heard this said a dozen times or more and in most of those cases I knew it would turn out fine. With a few reassurances, most clients will relax and trust you. But there are plenty of clients who, despite your best efforts, will remain stiff, awkward and nervous.
How can you, as a photographer, help these people unwind and trust you?
1. Build The Trust
When someone tells you they feel awkward in photos and nervous about the session remember to be patient with them. They might have felt embarrassed to say anything in the first place, so don’t minimize their concerns. Let them know that it’s normal to have some worries, and that you will do everything you can to help out and direct them throughout their photo session.
Let them know your shoot plan. For example, you can tell them “First, we will shoot some family photos of all of you, then we will move on to….” Knowing what the plan is can be very helpful to anxious people and calm nerves.
If you find that your clients are a bit stiff while you are shooting, take a break for a few minutes. Put your camera down, ask how they are feeling, and speak casually with them to help them relax.
Once you start photographing again, model the poses yourself or ask permission to help put them in those poses. If you want to get more natural interaction and less posed shots, shoot “test shots” in between posing. As soon as a client thinks they are no longer on the spot, they tend to relax. The perfect time to grab these images is when you are adjusting your settings, especially as the light changes throughout the session.
2. Take Your Time
Be prepared to spend extra time at the session. I am always early to my locations so I can settle my own jitters. I am a pretty outgoing person and find I need to reign myself in with quieter personalities. That’s not to say I don’t keep my energy up because you shoot what you show, but we have to be mindful and not stumble into being overbearing.
By the time my client arrives, I am ready to go with a smile on my face and an outstretched hand. Introduce yourself to everyone, children included. Take a few minutes to chat with them. You can talk about the weather, the location, how glad you are to be working with them. Just keep it light and friendly. I try to keep my clients talking during the shoot, too. I ask about how they met, or about their kids’ hobbies.
3. Manage Expectations
Finally, you will want to manage the client’s expectations. “My daughter gets a little rambunctious…” Mom may tell you with trepidation. Right away you know she is afraid you are going to judge her and her kid. Being a mother to twins, I will assure clients that there is nearly nothing I haven’t seen. And if her precocious child gets wound up, then we will just roll with it.
Tell the family, “We may not get the magazine sit-smile-stay shot and that’s fine. We will get photos of your child being just who they are". Let the family know that their session is uniquely them, and while we hope for smiles and good listening ears, we have to accept and be okay with knowing that might not be the reality.
Assure the client that you have plenty of time for a little playfulness and encourage tickles, hugs, and games because in the end, it will help the child feel more secure.
If you are able to tap into and maintain that level of comfort with even the most nervous of clients, congratulations! If not, keep working on it. There is no deadline for this sort of thing.
Luckily for all of us, every client and session is unique and presents its own unique challenges for us to work on overcoming and mastering. Clients put their trust in us to capture their personalities; including the quiet ones and aren’t we really the lucky ones!
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