I remember my first portrait session. It was terrifying. I felt like I had no idea what I was doing, and I couldn't believe that someone had paid me to do this. I felt inadequate, unqualified, and untalented. Regardless, I raised my camera, framed my subject, and took the first picture.
Sometimes it's all about first steps. Many times, starting a shoot can feel like you're walking for the first time. It might start a little bit shakey, and you might not feel like you have control, and there are people staring at you (or at your camera) expecting you to wow them. It's a lot of pressure! But eventually, you get the hang of it, you feel more comfortable doing it, and you even play with running, or skipping, or jumping. And before you know it, you're rocking the session and delivering an amazing experience for your clients. They feel loved, validated, and comfortable in front of the camera.
How do you get there? Here's my advice.
1. Be an encourager.
Compliment, compliment, compliment. Don't stop complimenting your client until you get in your car to leave the session. It may feel awkward and at times over the top, but the more encouragement you give your clients, the better they will feel about their photos, and the more likely they will be to walk away having an amazing experience with you. Create an atmosphere of comfort, and see what that does for your shoot!
2. Walk into the session with a plan, but don't always stick to it.
You will always have a beautiful, perfectly thought out plan for your session. And you should. But sometimes it doesn't quite go as planned. No matter what the cause, your session may be totally different than what you expected. Whether positive or negative, that should never control your reaction! Let your clients give input and inspire you, but always have a few poses and creative ideas on hand because you'll need them. There is little worse than being unsure of what to do when you have a client standing in front of you. Have a game plan with poses and settings, but be flexible with them and always let creativity lead the way.
3. Deliver more than your client expects.
There is nothing more amazing than ordering a 10 piece Chicken McNugget meal and getting 11 nuggets, right?! Or maybe opening a package of Starbursts and realizing you got two pinks! I know that sounds silly, but having your expectations exceeded can be a really amazing feeling, and clients will remember that about your shoot just as much as the photos you take. Find a way to make the experience unique, creative, and memorable for your clients. This will be your greatest asset when building your business and client base. Your clients should not only love your work, but should also love you and your business!
4. Blog about the photoshoot.
Blogging is time consuming, and there is no guarantee that anyone will read what you write. But I promise you that your client will feel so appreciated and so valued if you take the time to sit down and blog about your experience with them. Include personal details, funny anecdotes, and some of your favorite pictures from the shoot. Personally, I love including pictures that may not have made it into my online gallery. This gives clients an extra reason to love the blog, surprises them with new photos, and only adds to their overall experience.
5. Be all about the experience, not about how they should pose.
Posing is important. Backdrops are important. Shooting during golden hour is important. But more important than all of that is your client's experience. They should feel loved, cared for, affirmed, and valued. Photography is not just pointing a lens and shooting, but truly capturing people on an emotional level. To reach that goal, you have to give your clients an experience that allows them to open up and reveal that to you. Ultimately, it's not enough to expect your client to be happy with your work just because it's beautiful. The more you care for, serve, and invest in them, the more they fall in love with your work, and cherish the moments you created.
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