The photographer/client connection

On October 9, 2017 by piambro

Being a photographer is a dream come true. To be able to make a living out of my true passion is a blessing that I never discount and I’m always thankful for. Sure, about 25 years ago I started setting up my life so I could eventually do what I love, I often had to choose the harder path and often struggled with the notion that sometimes people don’t really consider being a photographer a “true” job. Just because I make money out of something that for the large majority is just a beautiful hobby. I now understand it, it’s human and I’ve come to accept it, no drama or crusades here.

Photography, when taken seriously, presents a lot of challenges and it’s not always a bed of roses. It’s not just about the huge investment in gear, studio space and all that pesky legal stuff. Any professional photographer spends less than 25% of his/her time actually taking pictures: the rest is education, marketing, networking and A LOT of hours spent in front of a computer, sorting and editing images for the clients. But every job has its own pro and cons, after all and I gladly accept the quirks of my own profession.

But when the time to shoot finally comes I like to highlight one very important thing: the client has to lead the way. Finding a reasonably priced professional and showing up on the agreed date is not enough to achieve great results.

Expecting a photographer to take over from there and deliver “the magic” is often wishful thinking.

I believe the biggest driving force has to come from the client. It is the client that ultimately decided the need for professional photos and the first step was then and there taken. It is now time to find the right fit, a photographer who can deliver the images that truly meet the client’s expectations, in terms of quality, vision and price.

From my personal experience of being in this business for 25 years, I’ve noticed that the single, most important aspect of a good photo session is the connection between the client and the photographer.

I believe the connection has a 20% chemistry component to it: if client and photographer don’t click (pun intended) when they meet in person, it’s usually next to impossible to get good results and one of the parties will end up not being fully satisfied. The client will be disappointed by the images or the photographer will feel that he didn’t deliver what he/she originally intended, or both!

Ok, with that said, let’s assume that the “click” actually happened: it’s now time to sit down and discuss in detail what the client really wants and how the photographer thinks he can fulfill those expectations.

Believe me or not, this is the exact moment when great images are created. The actual photo session is just a matter of putting it all together: the client will have to step up to the plate and work towards the end result as much as the photographer will now have to lay down all his/her expertise, vision and technical skills to make it happen.

I sometimes compare this as switching on a GPS navigator before a road trip. The client needs to know where he/she wants to go, the photographer (like a GPS) will give directions, waypoints and suggestions along the way. And he will take the client to the desired destination.

I understand this approach puts a lot of weight on the client’s shoulder but let’s think about it. When the client committed to professional images he/she envisioned a specific look or feel for those images. The client has a much clearer idea of what the final result needs to be and it is absolutely crucial to communicate that to the photographer. Remember: a GPS is totally useless until you punch in a destination!

I personally have different ways to help my clients to bring out and define what they want to accomplish. Not everybody is good at describing images from a technical standpoint, so I always suggest a preliminary meeting to sit down and discuss the project face to face. Usually the original spark that made the client want professional pictures is a single photo or a gallery, or a painting. I encourage my clients to do a little research and put together a Pinterest board with all the images that “speak” to them. In other words, the images that convey the look and feel they want to accomplish.

That’s the first step. The next step is to specify what the client likes in every single picture on the board. It is very important because photographers by default have a very technical mind and they tend to drift towards gear and light setups (I’m guilty, too) when the client is maybe only looking at other details like color tone, pose and wardrobe. The more specific my clients can be about what they like in the “inspirational” pictures, the more I can understand what I need to deliver. And I can also help with the waypoints (the GPS analogy, again) to get to destination.

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