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Photo Shoot Do’s and Don’ts

Photographers – when was the last time that you were in front of the camera? No, not for a quick snapshot with Grandma by the Christmas tree, but an actual photoshoot. Doing photoshoots is like 2nd nature to us because we do them all the time, but we often forget what it’s like actually being in front of the camera.

For most of the clients we all shoot, it has been awhile since they have had their photo professionally taken (it may even be the first time for them) and many times they come to the shoot insecure and wondering what it’s going to be like, and worried that their photographer might not get a good shot of them (not because you as the photographer aren’t good, but because they don’t like how they look or they are worried because their fiance isn’t really into having a photo session done).

Today’s post is not about how technically you can make the shoot better for your clients, but how you can make the EXPERIENCE awesome for them, which of course, results in not just better images, but images that really reflect the clients true personality.

The DOs and DONTs of creating a great client experience:

outdoor engagement shoot photographer zach and jody gray

DO set the tenor for the shoot. DON’T expect them to know what you’re going to do.

As mentioned above, more than likely your couple is going to be a bit anxious about their session. They have been planning all week what to wear, and it’s been forever since they have had their photo professionally taken. They have no idea what to expect and it’s our job to set those expectations at the beginning of the shoot (if you haven’t already communicated some of this via email).

-When we go out on say, an engagement shoot (this is usually the first time we take photos of most of our clients) what we do to start things off is talk. We tell them this shoot is about having fun and nothing more. If they have fun, mission accomplished! When we set the expectation to be something that simple, just having fun together and with us, then they instantly relax and we end up getting great images!

-Give them a game plan for the shoot (eg. “We’re going to start shooting here, and then there’s this great place around the corner where the light is even more awesome, and then we’d like to end by the railroad tracks ;o) just down the road). Giving them a game plan helps them know what to expect which makes things go much smoother.

DO start the shoot from further away. DO NOT start the shoot all up in their grill 🙂

We want our clients to get relaxed and comfortable with each other in front of your camera as soon as possible and we probably do not want to do this with a 16mm lens 2 feet away from their faces… Can you say AWKWARD?

-We try and get them to do something that is really easy for them – like walking and talking to each other to start

-We usually start by putting on a longer lens and shoot from far away which helps them feel more relaxed

engagement shoot photographer zach and jody gray

DO encourage them every step of the way. DO NOT say ANYTHING negative.

Remember, your client is more than likely not very secure about their photo being taken because most people don’t do pro shoots 3 times a week. You want your client to get relaxed and comfortable with each other in front of your camera as soon as possible and you are the one that has control over how they feel. As you begin shooting them, if you encourage them, their confidence will continue to go up. If you are not continually saying something positive to your client, then you run the risk of them starting to wonder why. If you don’t tell them things are going great, then they will usually assume the worst. If the client hears the click of your camera and nothing from you, then they start to feel a bit unsure and wonder if they are “doing it right.” Ever had your client look at you and say, “What should we do?” or “Is this right?” You do not want them to get to that point where THEY have to ask YOU if what they are doing is right. You want to let them know from the get-go that what they are doing is great! As you’re shooting, some things that you can say is, “Awesome!” “You guys look great” “Oooh, I’m loving this!” “Keep it up, this looks awesome” “Nice!”… it’s really not rocket science, but it actually does take an effort to remember to say things that are encouraging. Sometimes we are so focused on our cameras and the technical aspects of what we are doing, that we forget about our subjects and how they are feeling! If we stop talking and start staring at our screen on our camera, our clients won’t be wondering if you nailed the exposure, they will be wondering if they look bad.

Q: So what if the shot isn’t awesome? A: You still tell them that it is and move on. Even when a client isn’t doing something right or is standing in a way that is not working, we will say, “that is perfect, and we can make it even better if you do this!”

Q: What if they aren’t doing what you asked them to do? A: Glad you asked!! We will address that in our next DO and DON’T but we do want to say that you never, ever, EVER, want to say anything negative!! If you do, it will pop their confidence bubble and make them want to hide behind the nearest tree.

Wrong way to correct a client: “No, don’t walk like that.” “That’s WAY too fast.” “You’re doing it all wrong watch me do it!”

Correct way to encourage a client to do something different (see how we changed the words and it sounds better already?): “Ok, great, now this time, let’s try it at a slower pace.”

Wrong way to correct a client: “Jane, your smile is kind of cheesy, do you think you could do a more natural smile?”

Correct way to encourage a client to do something different: “Awesome, ok, now relax your faces a bit… awesome, awesome!”

This may sound silly and you may not say anything necessarily THAT harsh, but screen what you are saying and if it’s slightly negative or not encouraging at all – rephrase what you’re saying and turn it into a positive statement.

Also, as photographers we know that positioning couples in certain ways can make them look more flattering and can hide certain features that they may not be too particularly fond of. Or, the shot is just going to look straight up AWESOME if they position themselves in a certain way. In guiding them on how to stand, they may feel a little weird because they wouldn’t naturally stand like that. A few great words to share with them, “Feels weird, looks great!” This affirms that even though they may feel a little weird, they know they look awesome!!!

engagement shoot in the fields photographer zach and jody gray

DO demonstrate what you would like for them to do. DO NOT mold them like puppets (aka man-handle them).

It’s awesome for us, because we mostly shoot couples, and we are a couple so we can easily model for our clients what we are wanting them to do. For those of you who may not be so lucky, it’s really important that you communicate clearly to your client what you are wanting them to do. The best we have ever been directed during a photo shoot was by Mary Marantz. Oooh, she is so good at CLEARLY giving instruction and her confidence in directing makes you feel oh so confident.

The last thing you want to do is mold your clients. As soon as you touch them and put them into a position, then they feel like they can move and then the shot becomes a stiff looking. It’s our job as photographers to put our clients in a position or area that will look great, and then they have the confidence and are comfortable to act like themselves, and then you are able to shoot who they are and their personalities.

If your client is just not getting it, and there is nothing you can do besides touch them, warn them as you are about to man-handle them. Make a joke out of it – “I’m going to get all up in your personal space for a second here.”

DO move on quickly. DO NOT shoot the same set up for five minutes.

It’s important to make sure things are moving along in your shoot. Once you have the shot, switch it up or move to a new location. If the client is in the same pose for five minutes while you’re shooting… still shooting… and still shooting… it gets a little old and the energy of the shoot can start to lag. Sometimes it’s hard to think on the fly, so have an idea of the shots you want to do before you get there if need be.

engaged couple photographer zach and jody gray

DO act confident. DO NOT act unsure.

You want your client to feel confident, so make sure you are oozing confidence. If you are acting unsure and twiddling around with your equipment talking about how it’s not working right and then you’re taking a shot and looking at the back of your camera hemming and hawing over it, the client is going to totally pick up on that and then feel like things aren’t going right, or even worse, that THEY are doing something wrong… NOT COOL. Even if your lights aren’t working the way they should or SOMEthing is malfunctioning, the client doesn’t need to know that, so just stay positive and they will continue to feel great!

DO know your client. DO NOT shoot them in ways that would make them uncomfortable.

The last point we will touch on today is make sure you know your client. We have heard stories after stories of a photographer’s who have made someone do something that is not really them and then it’s just straight up awkward. We know a couple whose photographer was trying to make them do all these “cool”, angry poses… and this couple was the last thing from “cool” and angry. Being forced to do those shots made them uncomfortable and left a bad taste in their mouth from the shoot. Likewise, you don’t want to tell you client to kiss if that’s something they are uncomfortable doing in public. Some people are very private in certain ways and we need to know that before the shoot begins. Whatever it may be, make sure you know your client and are reading them. If they get a funny look on their face after you ask them to do something, suggest something else for them to do and move on.

waterfall engagement shoot photographer zach and jody gray

That is it for today! Go and rock your shoots and remember to encourage, encourage, encourage and ooze confidence!!

Written by Zach and Jody Gray

photographers zach and jody gray

Named as one of Nashville Tennessee’s top wedding photographers in 2009, Zach and Jody are a dynamic photography duo who have quickly emerged into the wedding scene gaining local and national recognition for their work. They have been named by Westcott as one of their Top Endorsed Pros, received awards for their imagery, hosted numerous highly successful photography and business workshops across the United States, have been invited to lead a MasterClass at WPPI 2011, and their work has appeared in various publications including People Magazine, Southern Bride, and PPA Magazine.

**For more photographer tips and tricks visit Zach and Jody’s blog on Tuesdays!**

The NEW ShootQ is Complimentary while in Beta mode for the next few months.  Enjoy!
The NEW ShootQ is Complimentary while in Beta mode for the next few months.  Enjoy!