This video is for all of you professional and aspiring professional photographers who want to communicate more effectively with your clients as well as feel like you’re having more effortless photo shoots.
Tip #1: Know Your Gear
One of the things that you’re going to feel the most as a working professional, especially early in your career, is that you’re going to have a hard time separating what you’re thinking about the camera and the shoot from actually having a conversation with your clients. You’ll find that your mind will want to focus on exposure, composition, and lighting rather than communicating and building a relationship with your clients. So step number one in getting over that is to really master the gear itself, understand manual exposure so that you know how to dial those things in and it becomes muscle memory.
If you’re looking for a guide on how to do that check out our Photography 101 course designed to help you master manual mode on any camera. In addition to camera settings, I want you to master your ability to light, get confident with your ability to walk into any scene, and be able to find great photographs. When you get to that place then your mind will take it a little bit more easy you’ll back off on the technical side and allow more of your energy to focus on your clients and building that relationship with them.
Tip #2: Have a Plan
I’ve been doing this for over 10+ years and there are plenty of people that have been doing it longer but even with a decade’s worth of experience, I still scout my locations and plan before shoots. These things become even more critical as you learn more about photography because you want to set yourself up for the best shoot possible. Before the shoot, I am discussing wardrobe with my clients, helping them select an outfit that is cohesive and contextual for the locations we are shooting in because I’ve had the experience where a client shows up and they’re dressed in an outfit that doesn’t quite fit the scene which then reflects in the photos (whether the outfit isn’t flattering or the colors just didn’t compliment the scene). I typically arrive 30 – 60 minutes early depending on how intricate the shooting timeline is. If it’s a wedding, it’s gonna be a couple of hours early so I can scout the entire venue on the day of. Why? Even though I’ve shot at these venues 50 – 100 times by now, you never know what that location is going to look like on the day of. I would recommend downloading the Sunseeker App to determine where the sun is going to be throughout the day so you can better track its location and find shooting locations accordingly. This is once again another one of those things that alleviates the stress from you so that more of your emotional energy can go into your clients.
Tip #3: Continue Building Rapport
For the first 15 minutes, I don’t want you to focus on taking pictures. This is a method I’ve explained in the past and what we teach in our first Wedding Workshop about client communication. I want the conversation to completely focus on them and what they’ve been up to recently. Talk about their work, home life, just get to know them better. In actuality, this is their first impression of you, and that matters, especially if this is an engaged couple and they are looking to book you on their wedding day. This is their first taste of how you communicate to make sure they feel comfortable but also who you are as a person beyond your art. What helps tremendously in this process is having gone through the W.A.V.E. (Wall Art Vision Exercise from our Business Training). This is a visualization exercise that we do on the first time that we meet or talk to a client and it helps us to understand what the clients actually want and value what it is that they appreciate not only in their photography but actually in their own life and memories so gearing that conversation the first 15 minutes of building rapport should be geared around what the clients actually value if their values are centered around family talk about family if they are centered around aspirations and career then talk about what they’re doing next in their career focus that conversation on the things that they value most and then from there and before picking up the camera we step straight into the foundation posing exercise that I believe I’ve taught you all in previous Adorama videos so we walked them through that as a continued ice breaker and to help them feel comfortable posing in front of the camera before ever picking up the camera for the first photograph now in that process of going through the foundation posing framework.
Tip #4: Establish Authority
This comes from a book I read called Charisma Myth where it mentions having authority with warmth, otherwise, you come off to other people as arrogant. You want to be warm in the way that you’re conveying your message, but at the same time, we want to convey authority in the subject matter that we’re teaching. The Foundation Posing Framework is a crucial step in establishing authority with your clients because it allows them to trust you while you guide them through basic posing principles so they can feel more at ease. Every client is going to come to you and say the same thing “we want authentic photographs…but we don’t know how to pose we feel nervous in front of a camera” this is where you can put them at ease during the photo shoot by saying & establishing that kind of authority, this way when the camera is pointed at them they’re already at ease because you’ve done this series of steps.
Tip #5: Be Yourself
When I came into the industry, there were several people that I really looked up to, and I still look up to today. One of them is Jerry Ghionis, who I’ve always looked up to because of the way he communicates with his clients in this smooth Australian accent and it’s a beauty to watch. At the beginning of my career, I found myself trying to emulate this and then I realized… I’m not Jerry. I’m the kind of funny, awkward Dad and that’s the person that I need to lean into, so on every photo shoot, I am my goofy self because that is who I am. Don’t forget who you are in the process because in trying to be someone else, the best you can essentially be is a worse version of that person. Focus on being yourself and take each of the frameworks and all the things that you learn and pick up from other people and bring them into your own style of communication.
Doing these five things will help you walk away from your photoshoots feeling like you just hung out with friends for a couple of hours and managed to get tons of great photographs along the way. In fact, you’re going to find that many of your clients are not only going to become repeat clients, but they’re also going to become your friends. Be sure to catch our next episode of Mastering Your Craft on Adorama’s YouTube channel next week! If you want to catch up on all the episodes, make sure you check out our playlist!
About the author: Pye Jirsa is a wedding photographer based in Southern California and the co-founder of SLR Lounge. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. You can find more of Jirsa’s work here. This article was also published here.