I’ve been working with families as a lifestyle photographer in Houston, TX for about seven years now. During that time my style has changed quite a bit. I used to think I needed to be in charge and really “run” the session in order to help the clients know what to do so it could flow naturally. After a couple of years I found my way into an approach that was much better for me. I am not by nature a take charge kind of a person and that approach didn’t lend me to the types of photos I was going for anyway so it was time for a change!
I am going to give a little timeline of the steps leading up to my sessions that has really began to help me be free DURING THE SESSIONS.
Client contacts (usually through email).
I write back and give a friendly hello and thank you for reaching out! I make sure the client has seen my website and blog. I link them to the “How I Work” page and explain a little bit about lifestyle photography. One cannot assume that potential clients have seen their work – they may have been referred by someone! I always want to make sure that the client knows what to expect and likes my work. If they don’t share the same vision, I’d rather send them to someone else who matches their style. I send the pricing information and offer to answer any questions they may have as well.
Once I hear back, I set up a time to chat on the phone. I send the client an invoice to pay the session fee and send them the links to fill out the contract and “Getting to Know You” form asking that they fill it out before we talk.
By the time we talk on the phone, I have read their forms and know more about them. I want to make sure they’re comfortable and I answer their questions. I want to make sure they know what to expect and can picture how the session will run.
We talk about location (usually in home AND an outside spot meaningful to the family). We start brainstorming ideas: what do you like to do as a family, how do you see your children, how would you like them to be captured, what are some family insiders I can say to get everyone laughing?!, the list goes on…
I like them to know that their photos are important to me – I want them to be all about THEM! I will take my time and we will be relaxed. I give them permission for their kids to act like…well….kids…not to be upset if they are off task.
I want the parents to know I understand because I, too, have kids and I get it. I explain how we can take breaks and be patient – keeping connection is the most important piece of the puzzle.
Once we have talked and brainstormed ideas, we are feeling pretty good. If time and schedules allow then I will go and meet the family. I’ll check out the home and the available light in the spaces we are shooting.
It helps me enter the house with a plan and even more ideas. Meeting the family helps hype them up a bit more about their photos and really helps ease nerves on the day of the shoot. I like to play with the kids and get to know them at this time so that they like me and more likely to be my little partners on the day of the shoot.
On the day of the shoot, everyone feels more comfortable. They know I will not DIRECT…they know how it will flow based on the ideas we brainstormed during our previous correspondence. They know where we will start and the sequence we will go in…then we just let it flow. Occasionally I give ideas, pointers or suggestions.
I might move the subjects to better light, turn them slightly, ask questions to get some expression but mostly I let the pre-planning we did play out on it’s own and I just allow for the genuine interaction to unfold before me.
-Meet them before hand. Act excited for their shoot. Help them to understand the process. Play with their kids. Really immerse yourself into the family during your time together.
-Come up with activity ideas that would be perfect for their shoot. Each family is different and getting to know them will allow for the ideas to flow! (Ideas: fishing, reading books, art, boating, swimming, running through the sprinkler, playing a game, baking cookies…the list goes on!).
-Be a fly on the wall. Tell the clients what you love that they’re doing. “Aaww that is so sweet, you guys are really snuggly!” Don’t direct in a controlling way….direct in a way that is putting all of the attention to the connection of love they’re showing – you are observing their amazingness and bringing it to their attention. They will bask in the positive attention and feel comfortable to be themselves.