I spent the entire week stressing about my engagement session. Though I know that photographers shoot dozens of these sessions each year, I spent hours upon hours doing everything I could to prepare. And still, when the time for our shoot came, I was nervous and insecure.
But within the first few minutes of my engagement shoot, my photographers, Jeff and Erin Youngren, calmed my nerves and set the tone for what turned out to be a wonderful experience.
Though I’m not a photographer myself, I know that great photographers do more than just take nice photos. And being in front of the camera for my engagement session, I was reminded again of how important the client-photographer relationship is. Being a bride myself, I know that a great relationship doesn’t just happen because a photographer sends Thank You cards and has quick email responses. The in-person experiences before the wedding day play a huge role in how comfortable the client will feel on the day of their wedding.
So what can you do to capitalize on your chance to build a great relationship with your clients during their engagement session?
1. Communicate your goals and expectations.
Anxiety comes from the fear of the unknown. So the simplest way to calm your clients’ nerves is to let them know what they can expect during the photo session. When your clients know what the plan for the session is and what your expectations are, they will feel mentally prepared, and most importantly, relax.
Jeff and Erin calmed our fears with just two sentences. They said “Our goal for today is that you would leave here even more in love than when you arrived. Today is going to be fun; all you have to do is concentrate on loving on each other and we’ll do the rest.” From there, they gave us a general agenda for the day so we knew what to expect. We also knew that they had built in some flexibility in case we had ideas or suggestions, but we felt more comfortable knowing what was going to be coming up.
2. Create a safe atmosphere.
At an engagement shoot, your clients are looking to you to set the tone and create the atmosphere for their shoot. If you’re confident, positive, and excited, your clients will relax because they feel safe. Creating a safe place for them to interact outside of their comfort zone will help them feel more natural, which will make them easier to photograph. When they see how great they looked in front of your camera, they’ll feel more confident, and by the time their wedding day rolls around, they won’t feel anxious about how their photos are going to turn out!
I can attest to the fact that it’s just plain awkward to start hugging and kissing in front of a camera. We’re not professional models and for all we knew, we could have looked just as awkward as we felt. But Jeff and Erin were so positive and got so excited about the shots they were getting, which made us feel safe so that we could let our guard down and be more natural.
3. Don’t be afraid to take control and give direction.
Your clients hire you not only because of your ability to take great images, but because you’re an expert at your craft. Most of your clients will only have one engagement session, so it’s your job to gracefully walk them through the experience. Many of them won’t know how to pose and will feel clueless about what they should be doing with their hands, their hips, their eyes, and their lips! You know what poses are flattering and what poses are not, so give them direction! You’re the expert and have a vision that you should share with your clients so that they feel comfortable and trust that you’re not going to let them look silly in front of the camera.
Without any direction, I know that my engagement pictures would have highlighted a clenched hand, slouching, and an awkward smile that falls somewhere between a cheesy smile and a smirk. I needed someone to tell me what to do with my hands, what type of smile to go for, to stand up straight, and to lift my chin up. Otherwise, I would have felt disappointed when I saw the images and realized that nobody had told me what I was doing.
4. Have fun and don’t take yourself too seriously!
If your clients aren’t enjoying themselves, it’s going to show in the images you capture. It’s also going to negatively effect the relationship that you’re trying to build with them because it will be hard for them to feel comfortable! Keep things entertaining and interesting, and don’t be afraid to poke fun at yourself. A few funny mishaps can go a long way in creating a bond!
Jeff fell out of a tree. (Yeah, Jeff I really just told everyone.) This was one of many hilarious things that happened during our session. In his attempt to shoot from a different angle, Jeff awkwardly climbed a tree and then proceeded to fall from there. But he didn’t take himself too seriously, so we all had a good laugh and a moment of bonding that will stick with all of us. Laughter will ease everybody’s nerves and help build a friendship that will carry through to the wedding day.
Check out more images from our engagement shoot on The Youngren’s Blog (and show them some comment love).
Written by Elizabeth Villa
Elizabeth is the Content Connoissiur for The Photo Life, and spends most of her time planning editing and developing content for The Photo Life Dispatch and Blog. She’s an avid blogger and fashion enthusiast, spending most of her free time working with her sister on their blog, theUNexperts.com, a fashion, beauty and food blog for practical women just like them!