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How To Help Your Clients Prepare For Great Photos

howtoprep2

The more people I photograph, the more I’ve come to realize something: a great portrait is a collaboration between photographer and subject. When both are working together the result is far more than what comes from direction alone.

Now, the tricky part is that wedding and portrait photographers are usually shooting “normal” people, rather than trained models. Our subjects often aren’t experienced in having their photo taken, and don’t know a lot about the process.

But fear not! You can do a LOT to help your clients prepare for having their photos taken, and hopefully get to that magical state of collaboration. And bonus, it’s not even that hard. Simply create a resource. Let’s get right down to it, and chat about how to do that.

Making Your Resource

You have to remember that you know a lot about photography, and your clients probably know very little. They’re hiring you because you’re the expert! So you have to take all that fantastic knowledge, and break it down into useable and practical advice. In essence you are going to teach them how to have their photo taken by you! Teaching is fun!!

The contents of your resource will reflect your unique approach to photography, so it’s important to not just copy someone else! The more your clients can understand what it’s like to work with you, the better the results will be! So to get rolling on this, sit yourself down and think through your entire client process, step by step. Write it all out if you haven’t done so already. And then, at each step, see things from your client’s perspective. Put yourself into their shoes. What information will help them at this stage? What questions will they have? When will they need to know these details?

Carefully moving through your own process like this will give you a ton of information to share with them, and should be pretty simple! But, I know when you’re just starting out you might not have a process, or want some inspiration, so I’ll share some details from our own info PDF that we give our clients.

Our Info PDF

Upload from November 21, 2011

I have a few PDFs I share with our portrait clients at different points in the process, but the main one is given right after they book with us. The goal of this PDF is to help them prepare for the session, and know what to expect during shooting. The shoot is often quite nerve wracking for folks, so the more information I can give them the more comfortable and confident they’ll feel. Here’s some of the info we put in ours.

General Philosophy

The more you shoot the more you should start to develop a philosophy—the *why* you shoot and what you’re hoping to achieve with your work. This is important information to communicate to your clients! You’ll probably talk about this when they first inquire, so they should already have an idea of what you’re about, but we like to keep reiterating this so they keep it in their minds throughout the whole process. When we’re all on the same page with the reason for the shoot it’s a much more enjoyable and meaningful experience!

Location

One of the most common questions we get is “Where will we shoot? Do you pick or do we?”. And these resources you’re creating are intended to answer all these questions for your clients before they even have to ask!

So the location question should be addressed right away, and the answer is going to be up to you! Do you have a studio? Do you work on location? Do you prefer natural or urban areas? Why? Tell them how you pick locations, and why. Share some of your favourite images in different types of locations. The resource should be as visual as possible, and feature lots of your images. It’s a great way to show off more photos, and get them excited about having images of their own soon!

Upload from November 21, 2011

Kids

If you photograph kids you’ll want to provide parents with advice on getting their little ones ready for the session. We have tips like bringing multiple outfits, snacks, and a favourite toy in case the little one needs some comfort. We also discuss what we hope to capture when we photograph kids (their personality, not just a cheesy smile), and ways parents can encourage their kids to be themselves.

Clothes

The biggest challenge in getting ready for a photo session has to be choosing what to wear. This is the largest section of our PDF, and a topic you should give as much help with as you can. We aren’t very fashion minded, so we stick to the PDF, but I know of many photographers who will go to their clients homes to help pick outfits, or even go shopping with them! Now that’s how to be a super helpful photographer!

For us, we give tips on how to dress as a family or couple (i.e. you can coordinate, but don’t need to be matchy matchy), reminders to consider all parts of the outfit (like thinking about shoes and sock combinations, and not wearing hats at the beginning of the shoot). We also give some advice on hair and makeup, and encourage clients to bring an extra outfit or two if they want some feedback.

This section will definitely take some thought and work on your part, so don’t rush it. Look through your portfolio, and see if any clients stood out as having great clothing choices, then showcase them in the PDF and point out what was great about their outfits!

Upload from November 21, 2011

The Session

Then, of course, is the session. Give you clients tips on what to expect during the shoot, both in terms of what they’ll be doing, and what you’ll be doing. Again, you’re going to have to think about your own approach to shooting here. The more you can explain the *why* behind all this, the more your clients will appreciate your motivation, and trust you. Trust is massively important in getting to that state of collaboration we’ve talked about.

Then What?

Give your clients a peek at what happens after their session. This is where you will be doing a LOT of work behind-the-scenes, and they will appreciate knowing just what they’re paying you all this money for! If you do a lot of editing and retouching you could even show them some samples of how much enhancing you’ll be doing to ensure their images are looking top notch.

Also give them an idea of the timeline for their images. These are the kind of details that are worth repeating a few times, just so they don’t have that dreadful moment thinking “Shouldn’t our photos be ready by now?”, and you end up looking bad, even if you’re actually on schedule! Make it clear when they can expect to see the photos, and how that will happen (on
line, in person, delivery, etc.). Check out our article, Managing Client Expectations for Photographers for more thoughts on this stuff!

Products

While you have your clients thinking about their session, you can also get them thinking about the ways they’ll display the awesome photos that will come out of it. Let them know about all your products, and why they are fantastic. Get them thinking about where in their house they want to put the images!

Here To Help

Finally, we finish up by letting them know that we are here to help in any way, and they can contact us about anything! We genuinely want to make sure they are comfortable and prepared for the session. It will mean a better result for everyone!

Weddings

We haven’t been wedding photographers for quite a while now, so the times may have changed, but I’ll give you a quick idea of the additional info we gave wedding clients! The critical thing to keep in mind is that you, as a wedding photographer, have vastly more experience with weddings than your client, who is generally going through the process for the first time!! So, the more information you can give them the better. They’ll really appreciate a helping hand, and you become much more than just the photographer. You become an essential part of their big day.

Timeline

The most important part of the wedding day was planning a smooth timeline. After shooting quite a few weddings we had a good idea of how the day generally ran, areas that always took longer than expected (hair and makeup!), places to add some padding, and the rough amount of time to set aside for photos. We wrote out a ton of this info for our clients and gave it to them when they first booked us. Then we would also have a meeting before the wedding to go through it all again, and help them talk through their timeline, just to be sure everything was solid.

Family Portraits

Even though we had a pretty modern approach to wedding photography we still took the family portraits seriously. They have a lot of importance for family history! So we would give our clients lots of tips on how to make the process go nice and smoothly. We suggested the standard groupings, and encouraged them to talk to their parents to see if they wanted any additional ones. We insisted on a written list to make sure everything was nice and clear. And we always firmly suggested doing the portraits immediately after the ceremony to avoid anyone running off! Because of all this preparation we usually got through portraits in under 20 minutes and were always complimented on how painless we made the process!

Vendors

Photographers are often one of the first vendors booked for the wedding, after the venue. From there on out the couple has to choose a TON of people to help with their big day. If you know of great vendors in your city, create a resource for your clients! You’ll save them a ton of time, and help ensure that you work with a great team on the wedding day!

Big Idea

Ok, so I’ve said it a couple times now, but it’s well worth reiterating. What you’re doing with these resources is simply anticipating any questions your clients might have, and answering for them ahead of time! A great way to make sure you’re creating a great resource is to keep track of any questions your clients ask. If it seems to come up a bit, add it into your PDF!

The easier you can make the process, the more fun they’ll have, and the more they’ll enjoy working with you! Which is pretty much the goal isn’t it?

Creation

I’ll just take a second to let you know how I make these resources. I use InDesign, and save them as PDFs. They’re super easy to send via email, don’t waste paper, and look rather snazzy. It’s super easy to use InDesign, which is also what we use for albums! If you want to learn more about InDesign check out our Awesome Album Design Skills tutorial. It’s focused on albums, but the concepts can translate over into creating resource PDFs!

Your Turn

Do you have any other tips that you share with your clients to help them prepare for their photos? Share them with us in the comments now!

Lauren Lim

Hey friend, I’m Lauren! I’m a photographer and head ninja here at Photography Concentrate. I’m downright obsessed with photography, and love sharing it with super cool folks like yourself. When I’m not shooting, or writing, you can find me cooking (and eating!), traveling, and hanging out with wonderful people.

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Discussion

27 Comments // Leave a comment

  1. I love this. I do the exact same thing, and I can tell you it is so helpful.
    Here are some blogs that I share with my couples (wedding photographer here) Enjoy
    http://blog-nc-photography.ca/archives/1008
    http://blog-nc-photography.ca/archives/624 (my favourite)

  2. I really like the idea of creating a list for the family portrait time during a wedding. As photographers, we do not know if Aunt Jane or Uncle John is missing from the picture. Having a little cheat sheet ahead of time sounds like it would help move the process along more smoothly

  3. Great resource guys! I have this on my list to create a welcome packet for my new bookings and this information will come in so handy!

  4. Such a great tutorial..I'm now thinking again to my PDF and how to enrich them with useful information for the clients!:) Thanks for sharing them!

  5. Thank you, guys, this is great info and perfect timing. Do you send these PDF's via email? Did you have any trouble making the document small enough to email? What percentage of your clients do you think opens it and reads it? I currently have a client information site that I send them a link to: it includes all the information they will need in one place but a lot of them either don't look at it or get confused, so I'm looking for the absolute simplest method for next year.

  6. *@Nicole:* Thanks so much for sharing! So awesome to hear of other photographers helping their clients and having great response from it!

    *@Ryan:* Oh man, the list is crucial! Just call off the names and let them figure out who is who :)

    *@Dennis and Patrizia:* Thank you! So glad it was helpful!!

    *@Ali:* You are very welcome! Yep, I send the PDF via email. Even with lots of photos it's rarely more than a couple megabytes, which is well within email attachment limits. Never had a problem! And I think emailing it to them directly, and letting them know the value of prepping for photos, ensures that most go through it!

  7. Fantastic tips, will definitely start using these techniques. Thank you for sharing :)

  8. This is great!! I always ask clients to avoid clothing with pictures/words/labels/logos.

  9. My favorite tip is for parents of young children. I can't count how many portrait sessions go bad cause parents get upset or frustrated with their kids not doing what I want. I tell parents prior to our shoot that don't worry about the kids too much. We will either get the shot or I will be back to get it later. Tell parents to always look at the camera not the kids unless I tell them otherwise and that we are on the kids time typically. I also try to make it fun for the kids. Tell them to come here and help me take a picture of Mommy or Daddy always gets a smile. Kids sense stress so if the parents are chill the kids will be better. Just a few that I relay to my family portraits. I love the wedding idea and all of the tips really. Would you be willing to share your PDF's?

  10. Great article i have bookmarked it!

  11. *@Bashar:* Awesome, so glad you found it useful!

    *@Tracey:* Ah, excellent tip. Yeah avoiding logos and labels and text is super helpful! Thanks for sharing!

    *@Dave:* Those are fantastic tips. Thanks for sharing! I totally agree that it's important to give parents a heads up on how to make the session go nice and smoothly, and changing their expectations is big. Kids are going to want to play, so let's encourage it! We're thinking of the best way to share the PDFs, so stay tuned!

    *@Paul:* Awesome, so glad it helped you!

    • Fantastic article! Would love to see example PDFs for inspiration! Keep up the great work.

    • So glad I found this! Did you end up deciding on a way to share the pdfs? I’d absolutely love to see them. Best wishes for Max and family :)

  12. Thank you so much for the great tips! I have on my To Do list to create a client prep package and this is an awesome tutorial to help me figure out what to add. Plus, great advice and tips from all of the comments too!

  13. Awesome article and info.
    Don't I just love you for sharing it all out, your among few of the best Pro's out there whom I've learned a lot and such articles have been a great help in my Photography Career!
    http://niazaliphotography.blogspot.com/

  14. This is a wonderful article and such a great idea. Thank you for sharing!

  15. Great info!!! I'm just starting out and all of this is helpful. I am going to get started on this ASAP. Thanks for sharing

  16. I'm still just in the stage of learning the technical photography skills but articles like this gives great insight into the "behind the scenes" of going pro. Thank you so much for sharing – oh and great tips in the comments too!

  17. I am also just starting out. I've been doing nature photography for quite some time but am now branching out into people. LOVE photographing people. These are all such great tips – I'm very grateful that you and others are willing to share advice for people like me who are starting out and really want to get serious about photography! Thank you!

  18. Very informative. There’s always a few different ways of doing things so it’s always great to learn how other professionals work. Thanks for sharing.

  19. Thank you for the tips! I just started my business, have been brainstorming on a better way of giving my clients a pre-session tips list, and this was perfect.

    I have been devouring your site since last night, it’s addicting! Great writing style + great information = win :)

  20. Thank you! Love this!

  21. Great tips! Thank you so much for sharing, I feel much more confident about running my business and moving it in a forward momentum!

  22. Wow, you got a lot of really nice comments on your article and it’s no wonder! I’m just starting out and I guess I kind of do this through just a regular email, but I don’t have it in a standard format. I’m thinking that this isn’t something that you can just through together and it will take sometime to thoroughly think it through but in the long run it will be a time save since I won’t have reconstruct what I’m currently rewriting and adjusting it each time I send it to a client. Plus, send the info in block, as you have done with you PDFs is less likely to overwhelm them than when they open up some long email. And like you pointed out, you PDFs will give your clients a chance to see not only some more of your work, but also how creative you are in the way you put your PDFs together. I can’t wait to head over to InDesign to check it out! Thanks for sharing you knowledge.

  23. Kim van Vuuren says:

    Thanks for the basic info. Great for the learner to have to have few tips up their sleeves, and not have to learn them the hard way!

  24. Love your blog. Thanks for sharing this, the information is great. Looking forward to reading more.

  25. I don’t know how I feel about the suggestion of providing clients with examples of just how much retouching you do. I think that part of the magic in presenting top notch finished images to clients is the confidence boost that seeing such a beautiful picture of oneself can provide. Talking up all the effort you go to to retouch their images could possibly lead to negative self talk in a client’s mind and detract from their experience of viewing the images.

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