How to Get The Most Out of Your Session
This blog is for the clients.
There are endless articles published for the photographers, but I've found relatively little material for clients. I feel that as photographers we need to fix this. Clients need to hear our voice, if only to understand the creative process more deeply. Knowing how to get the most from a session takes the guesswork out of the booking process. It also allows clients to approach their session empowered. So, clients, this article is for you. I want you to be able to make informed, smart decisions about how, where, and what you book. I want you to come away with a renewed excitement for the creative process behind a lifestyle session. Over the years, I have come to realize that there is a lot of stress that can be avoided by knowing what you want to get out of your session and how to convey those expectations. Knowing a few simple steps to creating a beautiful setting can go a long way in making you feel completely comfortable with the creative direction that your photographer suggests.
How to convey your expectations
Many clients struggle to explain what they want when they inquire about booking a session. Clients: as a photographer, I give you the freedom to tell me what you want from a session. It's not controlling, as long as you're open to the creative direction of the photographer (more on that later). It's very helpful for me to understand your expectations and to find the perfect way to convey that in your session.
A main concern from clients is that they don't really know what to ask for, and they find it stressful to consider what they want, especially when they first inquire about the session. If this is your concern, I have a few tips that will help you mindfully shape your session, and also assist you when you initially contact your photographer about a booking.
- Think about the main emotional theme you want your session to convey. For example, maybe you're thinking of a breezy afternoon on a beach, or a sultry bedroom session. Maybe it's a family outing to get ice cream, or a secluded mother/child date. These sessions each have a feeling that's attached to them: flirty, passionate, fun, intimate. Whatever that emotion is, convey it to your photographer. They can help formulate a plan to put that emotion into motion. Just be sure to pick an emotional theme that you would be comfortable conveying.
- How many people are you wanting to incorporate into the session? This may seem like a basic fact, but it's imperative for the photographer to know the number of people they will be shooting with and how to tailer the session accordingly. It's also something that will affect the booking price, as well as the contract and location.
- What are your insecurities? Telling your photographer what you're uncomfortable with helps in creating a safe session space for you. Maybe you're shy and don't want to shoot around a lot of other people, or maybe you are just nervous about being in front of the camera. Share a little in your initial inquiry, and you'll probably be pleasantly surprised at how your photographer responds.
Everyone has expectations. If they're realistic, a professional photographer wants to fulfill them. Just make sure you're being translucent about what you want, and you most likely will not be disappointed.
How to create a beautiful setting
Two of the major questions I get as a photographer are what should I wear and where should we shoot? This is where the options are limitless. The more imaginative the wardrobe and location, the more your session will stand out. So let's talk about what to wear, and where to wear it.
Picking your wardrobe
This could be a whole blog article in and of itself, but I want to give a few general tips to help overcome wardrobe anxiety. Just as I sometimes have the hardest time picking my clothes from day to day, I find there's a fair amount of apprehension for most clients when they pick their wardrobe. Here are a few practical points to help you create a look that you will love and be comfortable in during your shoot.
Pick a color palette. The failsafe colors for a session are jewel tones and pastels. For example, a rich teal blue or a pale denim photograph very nicely. Primary colors are a little more tricky. Tones light bright red, yellow or orange can be fantastic, but usually it's not the best idea to wear them directly next to your face, as they can reflect on your skin and create an odd color cast. Of course, rules are meant to be broken, and it you have a darker skin tone, bright colors can often work fantastically in images. Just consult with your photographer about this point if you have any specific questions. I encourage clients to send me pictures of their outfits before the shoot so I can offer some advice, especially if they're having second thoughts about what to wear.
Don't match. This is true for sessions that have more than one person. One of the things that I try to tell every new client is that you really shouldn't match your outfits. All blue jeans and white button ups or matching plaid gives images a lack of individuality. The point of a lifestyle session is to show your individual personality, so pick outfits accordingly. Honestly, the more fun you have with mixing and matching, the more authentic your session will look. And please: don't wear khaki pants with pleats. They always look rumpled. Pro tip: wear different types of shoes. Boots, converse, flats, platforms and sandals are all fun options.
Pick comfy clothes. If you're uncomfortable, it will show. You don't have to wear heels or a three piece suit to look fantastic in your photos. I feel like this point really extends to every person, regardless of body type. Comfortable clothes are a must. You always hear the term 'dress fo your body type', but please don't feel you have to wear tight, restrictive clothing or uncomfortable Spanx. I actually recommend looser fit clothes with a nice flow, like long dresses or skirts, worn denim, and flat shoes or boots. For the feminine clients, a maxi dress photographs beautifully. More masculine clients can always wear a favorite pair of jeans or chinos. It's always best to choose clothes that fit you and that you love. This will really assist with making you feel at ease during your session.
Texturize. This is my favorite point of all. Texture breathes life into images. Think about the material you plan to wear, and mix it up. Avoid materials with a glossy finish, like thin or clingy polyester or sateen. Cheap fabrics will photograph as such. My favorite fabrics are cotton, linen, silk, denim, velvet, leather and woven materials. These all offer an interesting visual contrast while being comfy, well-made fabrics.
Obviously, these are only a few bullet points in a subject that's pretty much limitless, but I would encourage you to think creatively about what you wear, and stick with what you love. It doesn't have to be expensive. The camera doesn't see a price tag. It just needs to fit well, be a flattering color, and most of all, remain comfortable. You can always visit my Pinterest board for more inspiration on outfits.
Picking your location
The setting is something that affects your session on a dimensional level. This is why it's so important to pick somewhere that fits you. If you're uncomfortable with your set, you will be uncomfortable in your photos. I usually like to coach my clients on favorite locations, but I need to know some basic perimeters to get an idea of where we can shoot comfortably. The following are some things you should consider during location selection.
Somewhere private, or public. Some people don't want to feel like they're being observed by others while getting their photo taken. The exception here is models, but since most of my clients aren't models, I totally understand the discomfort of feeling like your every move is being watched. The camera draws attention. So relieve some of the stress by picking a location that is set off the beaten path, especially if you're a little uncomfortable in front of the camera. Vice versa, if you're outgoing and love attention, a street session will probably work perfectly for you.
Somewhere you love. I will always stress that this as the most important step to location selection. You will be comfortable when you are in a setting you love. This is why in-home sessions are so fitting for some families. However, the options are not nearly as limited as your living room couch. This is the perfect time to consider your favorite coffee shop, your friend's patio, a family garden, or even a workspace. Wherever you are most comfortable, that is where you will thrive during your shoot.
Somewhere scenic. I usually ask clients to pick one of the two broad location spectrums: urban or scenic. This helps me filter locations and also assists with scouting potential places to shoot. You might be comfortable in your house, but it doesn't have the adequate space or light to shoot a home session. Not to worry. There are a limitless number of locations. Every good photographer will be more than open to trying new locations, so if you are considering a scenic spot where you would love to take photos, let your photographer know. They will scout the location and give you adequate feedback.
Just as wardrobe is imperative to a great shoot, so is a wonderful location. Be willing to approach the setting with an open and creative mind, and your session will be unforgettable.
How to be open minded
When your photographer suggests a location, outfit, or concept, how do you respond? I encourage you to embrace the direction of your photographer, because without it, we could just take pictures with our smart phones. Honestly, this point may be the most important of them all. Over the years, I have found that some clients have been very hesitant to follow my creative direction. This might be for a variety of reasons, but it is not because I lack confidence in my direction. We all second guess things sometimes, which I completely understand. But when a client becomes combative or questions my creative vision, it makes the session much more difficult and, quite frankly, unpleasant. Here are some tips to help you navigate the psychology of embracing an open mindset during your session.
Remember your photographer has experience. If you hired a professional, that is what you will get: professional images from a photographer who knows what they're doing. They are well versed in making you fit the setting, and they know how to manipulate a photo to beautifully portray a creative portrait. They know how to direct you to the emotive, passionate moments that portray your personality, vision, and dynamic. Remember, you hired them for a reason. Let them do their job.
Remember a photographer sees the picture as an observer. Whereas you might be trying to envision an image in your mind's eye, the photographer is the only one who sees the whole picture. Don't second guess their instruction, even if it seems a little batty. They have a specific idea about what image they want to create. They see the picture through the lens, not just the human eye. This means you might shoot in some unusual, even ugly, settings. Sometimes, there is a gorgeous site next to garbage cans or in an apartment washroom. I have personally shot some of my favorite images on top of a parking garage with pickup trucks and cars speeding by honking, and orange construction cones directly behind the set. It wasn't a traditionally pretty location, but the finished product as stunning.
Remember photographers are passionate about their work. A great photographer went into their field for one reason: they love what they do. They're obsessed with the art of portraying your story in a way that's original and artistic. They are about making you look wonderful, because in turn, they want their work to look wonderful. A great photographer loves to try new things and push a client out of their comfort zone. I like to incorporate one 'out there' concept into every shoot, just for fun. And usually those are the images my clients love most.
If you come away with nothing else from this blog, remember to remain open minded. It is the key to every stunning photo session out there. Quite frankly, it is one of the keys to living a beautiful life. As Danny Wallace said:
The closed mind is a disease. You need to have an open mind; otherwise life will just pass you by.
This blog was written as a guest submission for the photography site Unraveled Academy. You can visit UA's blog and read more about the phenomenal resources they provide to photographers and clients here.