When you want to learn more about photography, you take to the internet and rapidly delve into an array of different topics. You can spend countless hours reading articles, watching videos, and scrolling through images. Unfortunately, not many of those articles and videos touch on what, in my opinion, is the single most important thing when it comes to working with your clients. I’m talking about communication and providing positive feedback throughout the entire shoot.
It seems like when you search the web for photography tutorials, you find thousands and thousands of topics related to lighting and editing. You can watch videos about every kind of creative lighting technique and retouching method you can dream of (internet tutorials are definitely a fantastic tool that I think everyone should be taking advantage of). But when it comes to actually shooting, I’m here to tell you that those techniques take a backseat to your communication skills.
If I asked you what you perceive your job as a photographer to be, what would you say? To take amazing pictures, right? Taking great images is a worthy goal, but I don’t think that’s our job. Our job as a photographer is to provide a positive experience about which your clients can’t wait to tell their friends. I want my clients to feel awesome about the shoot as they leave. I want them feeling great about themselves and great about the investment they’ve made in their portraits. The images that come after the shoot; they are the icing on the cake.
The secret to a great experience is constant feedback about what an awesome job the client is doing. A lot of people are nervous in front of the camera. Many of our clients will have had zero experience as a model and it’s up to us to make sure they have a great time and receive great images. In my mind, expression is everything. Backgrounds, makeup, wardrobe . . . none of that matters if you don’t have the expression to match. It’s your responsibility to draw out the expression that you’re looking for from your client and by telling them that they rock and are totally killing it helps them to feel more comfortable and to relax.
When I say constant, I mean CONSTANT. If you take five frames without saying anything, that’s four frames too many. I say something to my clients after every single frame. I say things like good, great, awesome, gorgeous, beautiful, great job, perfect, etc. and I say them after every single frame. Sometimes, a pose isn’t working or the lighting isn’t perfect. Maybe the expression isn’t on point. Those are the frames where it’s most important to communicate to your client that they are doing awesome. If you click off five frames (or more) in silence, your client is left wondering if they are doing a good job. They are getting bored and they feel more and more self conscious by the second when you leave them in silence.
So what do you do when you need to make adjustments? Take a frame and tell your client great job. When you’re looking for a specific expression or pose, say something positive to your client and then physically demonstrate what you’re asking them to do. People are fantastic at imitating others if they have a visual example in front of them. If you feel awkward demonstrating a pose just imagine how your client must be feeling with a camera pointed at them! If the expression isn’t quite there, I like to describe what I’m looking for in detail. Create a scene, something vivid for your client to imagine. Maybe they are looking off into the distance. Create something that they can visualize; a simple story of the scene that the two of you are trying to create. The more detail you can use to describe your vision, the better. Take another frame, make any adjustments you need to, and tell them it looks stellar after each and every click.
This is something you can practice and be aware of starting immediately. At your very next shoot, focus on the experience that you are providing the client. Concentrate on the positive feedback that you’re giving your client after every camera click. Capture a frame, tell your client they are a rock star, make any necessary adjustments and repeat for the entire shoot. Always remember that the client experience comes before the finished images; make their experience your priority.