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
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.
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!
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!
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.
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!
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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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!
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!
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?
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!
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!