When people pay money for a photography session, the expectations are high. Excitement builds. The session itself becomes an experience, and adventure. It's easy to forget how much risk is involved for the client. They're paying money to someone they don't really know, then putting themselves in a position where they could look "bad." There's something inherently intimate about photography. When I shoot weddings I'm deeply aware that I'm often seeing more of the wedding than the bride and groom, and capturing the most intimate parts of it. And weddings aren't the only "life-changing" experiences that I've had the honor of photographing at Hurricane Images Inc.
So how do you build the trust and intimacy needed to make the client comfortable and the experience memorable? Here are eight tips:
- Be professional. That means be on time, return emails and calls promptly, have a contract, and come prepared. And don’t look like you just rolled out of bed.
- Listen first. Ask questions. By the end of the session you should know what they’re using the photos for, what they do for a living, whether they have kids, what they’re doing after this, and maybe their hobbies.
- Share something of yourself. Unless they ask a specific question, I usually share something about the business of photography-- what I like about it, how long I’ve been doing it, a session that meant something or was funny. Engage in a real conversation.
- Develop of list of “supportive” words: that’s great, perfect, looks good, that’s awesome, just like that.... Use them constantly.
- Show them the back of the camera. If you like what you see, share it. It builds confidence and gets them excited.
- Never cross the touch barrier. Except, well, sometimes you can. The best and safest rule is to never touch a client or model; instead, mirror how you want them to be physically. This is a great way to build trust, because it requires a certain amount of silliness. But it would be disingenuous to say I’ve never moved a client’s elbow or brushed an errant hair out of the way when they couldn’t physically do it for themselves. But you need to have established a lot of trust before that barrier gets broken, and you need to be able to read your client well. There are some whom I’d never dream to touching beyond the handshake.
- Don't rush. I'll take a good hour to shoot a business headshot if the client isn't in a hurry. Yes, I can do it in 15 minutes, but the only thing memorable about it will be how much those 900 seconds cost.
- Enjoy yourself. They will, too.