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Monday 17 June 2013

Giving control to the client: candid photography

As a photographer there are many clients that we meet with on a regular basis. You might be a studio photographer and have people come to you. Maybe you're a magazine or newspaper photographer who freelances for a variety of publications. Or maybe, like me, you do a little bit of everything and wear a variety of hats. This week I did some portrait work, and I discovered that I'm photographer who prefers candid photos to formal poses.

Candid portraiture is a bit of an emerging area of photography, and the type of portrait photography I like looking at and shooting best. There are some very special shots out there to take if you watch for them and are ready to shoot, and I find that catching candid moments can be far more effective than putting people in poses and expecting them to smile.

The problem with candid portraiture, however, is relaying that style to a prospective client. When people hear the phrase "portrait photographer," their first thought is a studio environment -- and it takes some time for them to wrap their head around this candid philosophy.

I met with clients the other day who fell into this type of category. This wasn't their first time hiring a professional photographer, and they actually have a portrait sitting two or three times a year. They've had the studio experience, had portraits taken on a cruise ship, and a variety of portrait experiences. Our session together was definitely not their first time at the rodeo.

But before this, they had always been told where to be, how to stand, when to smile, what to do with their hands -- and so on. Do they have some amazing shots to show? Absolutely. That style of photography produces very nice, traditional shots that will stand up to the test of time.

But that's not my style of portrait. I'm a candid photographer, and I don't want to control anything.

So when they asked me where I preferred to do the photo shoot, I gave them an answer they probably weren't expecting.

"I've only known you folks for about five minutes," I said. "What gives me the right to tell you what you will like in an environment? What are your ideas?"

What a difference that made in the rest of our time together.

After they warmed up to the fact that they were in charge and I was there to capture their moments without interfering, the ideas came flooding out. Given the chance to explore and make their own decisions, they came up with about a thousand concepts and ideas in terms of locations, clothing choices, and subjects -- meaning their dogs were included in the photos.

This is great creatively speaking, because they'll end up with exactly what they want. But on the other side of things, this is also a great place to be in as a business: we likely won't be able to tackle all these ideas in one session, and assuming they're pleased with how the photos turn out the first time, they'll automatically turn into repeat customers. They'll not only be pleased with how the photos turned out, but proud of the role they played in the shoot -- meaning the photos will hopefully be passed around more so than they would normally and the name of my business will spread by word of mouth.

Keep this in mind. Find your niche market, study it, create it if you need to, and ultimately stay true to it. As I've said before, there are certain aspects of your business that define you as a professional. Stay true to those areas, so when a client hears about you and your work they will get the same experience and energy you provided for the person they heard about you from.

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