Preparing for a Successful Engagement Session
Awesome. Awesome, awesome, awesome. We are going to start this particular section on how to prepare your clients for an engagement session. I think it's easy for us to think and show up and assume that our clients will show up and they will do exactly what we want them to do. I kinda functioned this way. I showed up and I hoped that things would work out, and they functioned that way for actually a few months, and I have never been the type of person to tell other people what to do, like side note, that has clearly changed now. But for the vast majority of my life, I was never a person who should say, you should do this, you should try that, you should go here. Not remotely at all. It has since changed and it has changed to better my business but also to better my life. And because I had such a hard time telling clients what to do or what I think they should do, it manifested because it came to a head at an engagement session during my second year of business when a client...
showed up over two hours late to the engagement session. And at this point you're probably thinking, what were you still doing there two hours and some change after the start of it? And one thing that you will know about me shortly is I am determined. Like, I will stand you down. Like there is just no way that I'm going leave this engagement session. I am gonna stay here and I'm gonna prove it like... You guys are hearing how ridiculous this sounds? Well that was me at the time. And I called J.D. and I was in Malibu. And Malibu from Orange County is about an hour, but any traffic estimations in California vastly changes what that looks like. So if I were to leave the engagement session at that time due to traffic, I'd be in the car close to three hours. That's just what it is to live in Southern California. So I'm calling him every 15 minutes and, like, they still haven't showed up. They still haven't showed up, and I would be getting texts from the client, or calls, and she would be like, oh we're just exiting the freeway, and it's like 30 minutes later, girl you did not just exit the freeway. Like you just did not, and she kept on being like, oh, well, this happened, and oh, well this happened. And I was so infuriated, and I felt so disrespected that when she showed up I was like, we have, maybe ten minutes of light. I will stay here and I will shoot this, but if you want to reshoot the engagement session, I'm going to have to come down and charge it separately as a separate engagement session. And she was like, no, we're just thankful you didn't leave. Let's just do the session. And I'm like, in ten minutes? And she's like 10 minutes, and I was like, okay. So I did the best I could. I ended up shooting the vast majority of it at around 1600 ISO, and I just thought, wow. So I get back in the car, and I am just, can you believe the audacity, J.D.? Who does this? Who shows up two hours late for a shoot? Who has a ten minute engagement session? And he just lets me have my tirade, and then he says, well, did you tell them why they had to be there on time? And I was like, what do you mean? People should just be on time. And he was just like, well, yes, but if you don't tell people why they need to be on time, they will not understand that you can't do your job unless they show up and adhere to the things that you ask of them. And I was like, well, well then I'm gonna talk to somebody who supports me. (audience laughing) Okay. But he was right, what this really boils down to is that I needed to explain. I needed to explain why they had to be on time. I'm a natural light photographer. If I lose the sun, I cannot possibly proceed with the engagement session. I tell my clients, if you show up 30 minutes late to your session, I will not extend the engagement session by 30 minutes. The sun dictates how and why I shoot. I say that now to every single client. You want to know how many clients have been late to an engagement session since that disastrous one? Zero. People know that they are spending money to get an engagement session, and they're just not gonna lose it because they weren't trying hard enough to be there. I also needed to explain why, guys, why it probably wasn't a good idea for guys to be wearing baseball caps and flip flops to their engagement session. That was a little uncomfortable. I had to explain that going to four locations in one engagement session, probably not a good idea. I actually had to start teaching my clients what good ideas were and what not so feasible ideas were. Because if I didn't take time to explain it to them, I could not be frustrated if they themselves did not understand that. So basically what this means is that I needed to prepare my clients for success. So how do I do this? I explain what they should expect. And it comes in this way. So, about a month before their engagement session, I email my clients, and I give them four weeks advance notice because I cannot get into an email explanation one week and that could potentially change or pivot their expectations for the shoot. Four weeks? We can. So I outline what I want from their session. I say in this email, I want them to have a good time. I say in this email, I want them to get great photos. And I say in this email, that it's a great opportunity for us to learn and see how we interact with each other before the wedding day. So I outline my goals. Secondly, then I list what I'm expecting from them. What I expect from them is to be on time. That they're eligible for one outfit change. And you can offer outfit tips if they need them. They get one location change. And what I also ask them to do is to ensure that that location or either of the locations don't have anything that could affect our shoot. It could be under construction. You might have to pay a shoot fee. You might need a permit. All of those things I abdicate the responsibility to them to handle that because I don't want to show up at the engagement session and the client's like, Jasmine, why didn't you get the shoot permit? Because then I would think, well you can get the shoot permit, like, what? I would have to tell them, if we need one, you must get it. Now, then I request for, I refer to him as the groom, but it's usually the fiance, 99% of my correspondence is with the bride, so in this case, when I say fiance I largely mean the counterpart to my client interaction, request that your fiance watches slide shows in advance. Because what was happening was I would get these guys to come to shoots, and the girls were excited and they were amped because they had been seeing my photos on Facebook, they were excited. You know they were feeling good, and they guy would show up and be like, yeah, you know, doin' this for her, alright, so how long is this gonna be? There's a game, right? Like so we have been at this point to where it's like, I don't know how to make you want this, but what I noticed is if I asked the girl to ask her fiance to watch the slideshow, he would then see how much it meant to her. Because he just thinks it's just thing to check off of the wedding day things to do. And for her, she's like, do you see it, can you catch my vision? And he, most guys, just you know, happy wife, happy life? They'll just be like, okay. Then it changes the dynamic of how they get to the shoot being prepared. And then they know that I am not there to make them look cheesy. I really want them to be confident in their approach of shooting when they have their fiance. Then I ask them to, I encourage them to get their hair and makeup done. It can be potentially uncomfortable to ask a bride to do this, but then I explain why. I say, if you're wondering how your makeup or hair will appear in wedding photographs, this would be a great trial run. Furthermore, most brides get a trial run for their hair and makeup before the wedding day, and then what happens is you get it done and then are you gonna go grocery shopping after? You know, go bowling? Like the fact that we can actually kill two birds with one stone is a great opportunity for you to see how it photographs. And then brides are mostly like, hey, that's a great idea. But from a logistical perspective, we know as photographers that when hair and makeup is professionally done, it photographs better, it simply does. So if you want something, it's totally okay to ask for it. And also I ask to see if they're going to be bringing props. I don't want to show up to a shoot, and then be like, oh, there's a sofa in a field, right? Then I need to figure out how does this change the logistical lay of the land? So I have to prepare myself and then I have to let them know what I'm expecting. Then it comes time for prep, so I've outlined my goals, I let them know what I'm expecting, and then I prep them. I tell my clients that I want them to feel comfortable. So if you're starting to notice that there's going to be a pattern, if I'm telling them what I want at minimum one month to the engagement session. Then when we arrive at the engagement session, I'm telling them again, I want them to be comfortable. I encourage them, for freedom of movement. I come in and I say, I want your ideas. If you want to go to a particular place, let me know. I tell them, I shoot digitally, so if you see something that you think could potentially be a good idea, let me know. But then I follow up with, if it doesn't work, it won't make the edit, there's no pressure, offering me the back door so that if a client is like, I wanna stand on this stump. I have really had a client, there was like a stump, in just like this random park, and she wanted her and her fiance to stand on the stump. And I'm like, and at this point I had already given myself a back door, saying, okay, if it doesn't work, so I was like, totally, let's stump this photo, right? Like I'm like, great! It did not make the edit, and when she said, oh, did any of those from the stump work out? And I said unfortunately the light wasn't right, and it wasn't the most complimentary because you guys were at such a high angle. That was it. Had I not given myself the back door, she would have expected that photograph in her edit. Then I explain how beautiful I find confidence. I have to let them know, I'm seeding already. You guys see that I want them to be comfortable, I want them to have a good time, and I explain that I like confidence, so that I'm already giving them the permission to be confident upon arrival. Lastly, I send ideas, encouragement, and if my clients are shooting at a location that I have shot at before, I send them links to engagement sessions that I have shot to give them an idea of what they can expect. If a client wants to know who she should be wearing. If the location is okay. I want her to feel really good so that she's not second guessing everything. So that she did all the second guessing at the front end, I assuage those worries, she arrives looking and feeling beautiful, ready to deliver. Now, does it sound like a lot of work? Yes, but the more work you do in advance the higher likelihood you are to have a really successful engagement session. Now, I want to move now to the logistics of the shoot. So, now we did the prep for the shoot. Now I know what I do in advance. And now we're gonna get to what it really looks like to insure that my bases are covered on the day of the engagement session. So it sounds very basic, but check the weather. I live in California which is really, you know, great most of the year, and even just coming, before I came to Seattle, there was this freak rainstorm. It was days of like 78, 78, and then boom. 60 degree day, which is I'm sure not very cold for a lot of you. But in California it was like news reports. This just in, it hit 61 degrees. (audience laughing) Bundle up, ladies. It's like, okay, but for us this is a big deal, and it also rained, so if I had an engagement session that I just assumed, oh yeah, this week's great. What can go wrong? I would be doing a disservice to myself to at least let my clients know it will rain. But in other areas, I'm sure you guys are accustomed to this, but it never hurts to know what the rain pattern will be. Have a plan B when it comes to weather, too. Just because the weather does change, I don't immediately go to let's change it. I go to how can we fix this, and if you will be unhappy, then let's get there. Second point is to leave with plenty of time, and I know this seems like intuitive, but there is nothing worse than showing up late, even if it's five, ten minutes, this is your first impression as a paid creative member of their wedding team. And if you show up ten minutes late to their engagement session, they're gonna wonder if you're gonna show up ten minutes late to their wedding. And that's not gonna fly. Because here's the thing, always assume there's traffic, always assume there is an accident. Take a book with you, bring your computer with you, catch up with email, be productive. More than anything, err on this side. J.D. thinks I'm crazy. I leave hours, like an hour and a half, in addition to what it normally would take me. And I'm like, I'm gonna take my book, I'm relaxed, I'm gonna be at peace. Remember how that creating that zone, that's what I definitely need to do. Thirdly, insure you have the exact address. Now people will say, oh we're gonna meet at Huntington Beach, or, oh we're gonna meet here. No, no, learn from my mistakes. A client had said, oh we're gonna meet at Calamigos, she had just said Calamigos, and in my mind, at a different, in my mind, when she said Calamigos, I assumed she meant Calamigos, Malibu because I had no idea that there was a Calamigos elsewhere. And so, I'm on my way, feeling great, and this is the wedding day, this is the wedding day, okay. We leave the hotel and I think to myself, wow, we're driving a long way to get to Calamigos, Malibu. And I'm going and something in my heart is just off, and I'm like, something's off. Something's really off here. So I go to my phone and I search Calamigos, and come to find out, there's three or four Calamigos in Southern California, and then I like I put my head between my knees, and I'm not lying, I'm dry heaving. I'm like (gagging)... (audience laughing). I was like, J.D., the wedding... Like, I died, I died, and I was like, I don't know what you have to do, get on this emergency exit and we just have to go. We just have to go. And he was like, okay, calm down, calm down. Thankfully the limo got a flat tire. (audience laughing) Thankfully, we were saved. And I learned the most valuable lesson that day. I need an exact address. Even you could say, loosely, even if there's only one Theo Chocolate Factory in Seattle, I need the address. It's my responsibility to get that. Double check your gear. I shoot, on an engagement session, I keep what I shoot rather light. I don't want to be overcome with my options. So I shoot with the 50mm 1.2, the 35mm 1.4, and the 85 1.2. Those are the three lenses that I use. I keep one lens on my camera. I keep two in my bag. And I also take a spare camera that I leave in the backseat of my car underneath the seat, so, god forbid, anything should happen with my camera the day of the shoot, I say hey, give me a couple minutes, I'm gonna go back, I'm gonna get my spare. An average engagement session, I'll shoot somewhere in the ballpark of eight to ten gigs of memory, and we're gonna talk about what that looks like, and I shoot medium raw. Now, what I also want you to do is to cross check for daily events at the venue. I heard of a, I spoke with a wedding photographer who had planned to do a downtown Los Angeles engagement session, and when she arrived about four, five, six miles from it, everything was at a complete stop. And she had no idea why people weren't moving and why everybody was wearing running shoes. Unbeknownst to her, Los Angeles Marathon was going on that day, and so her clients are stuck in gridlock traffic. She's stuck in gridlock traffic, and it was a complete waste. They couldn't even get ultimately to where they wanted to go. Yes, theoretically, it was the client's responsibility to find that out, but anything day of, I also will cross reference just to make sure. Now, we're gonna move now onto the engagement session. When the engagement session actually arrives, I arrive early and I scope out the location. Now I arrive early because if even I have shot in locations before, you never know what could happen. Case in point. The Knot Dream engagement session. She tells me where to meet. She tells me that they hike there all the time, all days of the week, all hours of the day. So I said, great. So I arrive early and I see that there's a gate in front of the public parking lot, and I'm like, why is this gate locked? I hop out of my car and it's completely locked. There's not a single car in the parking lot, and I think to myself, okay, no big deal. I'm just gonna find parking elsewhere. We couldn't find parking for four miles on either end. And there was a distinct signs that say, if you park at this Wayfarers Church, you're gonna get towed. And I'm like, wow, okay. So if I arrived early, it was so windy. I mean, it was like Dorothy and Toto windy. I was like, there's a house that's gonna land on us. It's so windy, we can't get into this parking lot. There is no parking, what are we gonna do? So I call her and I'm just like, I let her know, this is the lay of the land. She was like, I really, that's just like, it's our space. And I was like, okay. And the cameras with Creative Live were there, so I'm trying to keep it together on the front end, and I'm just like (frustrated groan)... I was like, okay, no problem, no problem at all. Just bring a rubber band and some bobby pins because your hair is gonna be flying everywhere. We were able to park in 30 minute parking. There were two little parking spots, and we just said, if we get a ticket, this is the price we're gonna pay to shoot this engagement session because that is what she wants. I cannot pitch her any more, so she knew. But had I not arrived an hour early, we would have been like, what the heck's going on? I didn't have enough time to tell her to bring the rubber band or bobby pins. I would have felt like completely off my game. When the clients do arrive, even though I had already some heads up, I was like, hey, it's very windy. Hey, it's very bright. And hey, you will have to park and there's a potential of your car getting towed, and she said, okay. I said, here we go. So when they arrived, because it was our very first interaction. It was the very first time, uh, I didn't even talk to her. I'd actually texted her. It was the very first time we'd texted each other. I didn't want her coming to the engagement session feeling apologetic or frazzled. So when she arrived, I immediately put her at ease. Hey, how's it going, so glad, isn't this working perfectly. But it was like a wind tunnel. (muffled talking) Isn't this working perfectly. (audience laughing) But, it's fine, so then they kinda dove into what I call my welcome spiel. My welcome spiel is something, because you guys know, because I've spoken about this in previous lessons, you know that I sometimes get frustrated with my inability to articulate my thoughts. So I figured, the more I say my welcome spiel, the more confident I'm gonna be as I approach the shoot. So what does my welcome spiel include? My expectations. I have already emailed what those expectations are, right? You know what those expectations are, but I'm reminding them, and I want to put it in the forefront of their mind. I want to give them permission to be themselves, permission for ideas, and permission to be beautiful. Thirdly, I subtly remind them of my goals. My goals are to give them great photos, for them to have a great experience. And then, I tell my clients that I have arrived early for the shoot, and that I have a lay of the land, and I can map out the session if they so choose, or if they have ideas I want to hear them. Then, lastly, in the back of my mind, I am focusing on the words that I want to shoot for. We're gonna dive more into that in a future lesson about what my words are and how I shoot with intention, but for now, my words that have been my words for years, are fun, fresh, and editorial. As I approach my shoot, because I'm a lifestyle photographer, and because I'm going to be a little bit more hands-on in curating my vision, every time I put my clients in a pose, I must make it one of three things, fun, fresh, or editorial. Now, an ancillary word, like a fourth word that most photographers would just kinda encounter naturally would be romantic because two people in love that naturally happens, but I am not shooting with the intention of it being romantic. I'm shooting with the intention of it either being fun, fresh, or editorial. Now, as I go through the shoot, I'm constantly letting my clients know how they are doing, offering feedback, and telling them where we are headed. I don't want to have them second guess, and I want to stay one step ahead of my clients. I don't want them to say, where are we going next, or how am I doing, or how does my hair look. I want to be telling them so that the only thing they think about are my directives and them not having the head space to actually say, do I look awkward, how do I feel, where's my arm. Toward the end of the session, I tell my clients, hey, about ten minutes, fifteen minutes before the session, I will let them know. You guys, I love what's going on. How about we go to one last location, we shoot there for five or ten minutes, and then we'll call it a day. So I'm letting them know because sometimes if you just abruptly end a session, they're just like, oh, okay, great. So you're seeding those expectations of what you want, opening that communication. Now, because I want them with me every step of the way, I want them to stay with my vision, and the way I get the vision is by simply setting up a photography map. We're gonna go to point one, we're gonna go to point two, we're gonna go to point three. Each of those locations we're gonna be shooting it slightly differently. Then ten, fifteen minutes before the shoot ends, hey guys, now we're going to that last location. This is going to be great. Stick with me, thank you guys so much, blah blah blah blah. Stay ahead of them. Now, before the clients leave, I will inform them of when they should see a sneak peek to their blog post. I say, oh, it will be in about a week, but I post a sneak peek the day after. And then I tell them, you're gallery should be online in about two to two and a half weeks, but I will show them their gallery in about one to one and a half. That is what my time line looks like. So, we're going to get into the specifics of how to shoot an engagement session, specifically how we will shoot The Knot engagement session for Samantha and Taylor so you guys can see a beginning, a middle, and an end. But I actually want to walk you through what transparency looks like and how I communicate with my clients. Because I can say, yeah, you do this and you do this, okay? Right? But then there's something else in actually showing what my inbox and communication with Samantha looked like. Now please forgive me if this is not of interest to you, but I think that it does bear to kind of show the type of relationship that I'm building with a complete stranger, far in advance to us meeting. That's the goal. It's not to say, Jasmine, you have a typo. No, it is, maybe I do have typos, that's how I roll. But how I get to this point, how I make them comfortable, how I define my role as a professional photographer is done just this way. We had not met. We had not spoken on the phone. And I had just sent her that email of preparation that I just told you about, right? My expectations, how many outfits, how many locations, let me know. I had just sent her that. And after she had said we're gonna shoot on this date, and I said, perfect. And then she had sent me an email, and she said, Jasmine, I'm so sorry, my mom was unexpectedly scheduled for a round of aggressive chemotherapy, and I'm her primary caretaker. Is there any way that we can switch this? And I emailed her back, and I said, absolutely. These are the days that work for me. You let me know, and she let me know the day before the session. And I think it's really important to deal with people with grace surrounding elements that they cannot control. So this was her response. Hi Jasmine, your email seriously made me cry for so many reasons. First of all, I'm ecstatic to hear about your mother being in good health after such a battle. How cute that she is voting. I let Samantha know, I forgot, I let Samantha know, I said, my mother, since Samantha knew nothing about me, she knew nothing about my story. I said, my mother was diagnosed with brain cancer that seeded into her central nervous system. I know what it's like to be a primary caregiver. I know what schedules look like and how appointments come up unexpectedly. I am here for you in any way, so you let me know. I will be flexible. And I also told her that my mom is voting for like her wedding dress and for her bridesmaids' dresses, so, but she really, and my mom is all about this wedding. She said, but I'm so sorry that your family endured that, and it breaks my heart to think of all that you went through. It truly is the most challenging time any of us have ever faced and everyday is just a big question mark. Having said that, it's so comforting to know that you have an understanding for our situation. We really appreciate you being flexible. May 4th works for us. We will put that down. When it comes to locations, we actually wanted your opinion. There's a beautiful place in Redondo Beach where Taylor and I go hiking, it's called Abalone Cove. It's breathtaking, right off the cliffs of Halo Verde, however, should engagement shots be done in a similar setting as the wedding? Since this is an oceanfront place, we didn't think more of a rustic location would be better, since the wedding is at a winery. If that is the case, there's plenty of places around us with that feel. Thanks so much, we can't wait to meet you. My response. Hi Samantha, some of the greatest things cancer gives us is patience, flexibility, and understanding. If nothing else, it's a great teacher of compassion. May 4th is locked as yours. We'll settle time once we solidify the location. Until then, let's chat about logistics. The only rules for an engagement session are, one, you should feel at home in the location. Two, you should be able to freely express affection and emotion in the location. Three, you should be at full liberty to have fun. Four, you should feel beautiful in this location. Do you guys see what I'm doing? I'm telling you what I have done, and this is how it's working specifically for her. As long as the location fits within these parameters, we are good to go. On that note, you mentioned a hiking trail. Are there trees, shrubbery, what type of trails? Why am I asking this, anybody, just shout it out, and I'll repeat it so... Shoes, absolutely, that's a total girl answer, but yes! (audience laughing) Oh, shoes, because if she's wearing high heels, which most girls do, you have to be like, bring a pair of flip flops and then we'll change into them. I also was asking because I needed to know what kind of light I was working with, having never been to that location, so I asked, are there trees? Cause then I know, great, I can shoot in open shade, and I could rock that at least at the beginning of the shoot. Do you have photos of the environment? This would be super helpful in advance knowing what we're working with. The engagement/wedding location doesn't have to match, so err on the side of where your heart leads. Can't wait to hear from you soon. These email correspondence happened between two days. Her response. I love your outlook on everything, and I can already tell we're a perfect fit. We will be working together, well, Well, she thinks we're a good fit. And what is this based off? She thinks we're a good fit based on two emails? That's great, that's awesome. If I can show somebody that I'm a good fit in two emails, I know that anybody can do the same. Here are some pictures, but it does not do it justice with a simple camera. The area we enjoy the most is actually right by the water, with sea caves and tide pools and such. When you catch it at the right moment on the right day, the colors of the waters and the rocks and the atmosphere is simply gorgeous. You feel like you are in another world. There's also a little beach section, pic attached, before entering the cave, as well as more hiking-looking locations along the way to the sea caves, picture attached. There are a lot more images on Google search of Abalone Cove, too, but I hope this gives you a general idea, let us know what you think. Okay, this is one of the photos she sent me. And I'm like, oh, okay, so we have lots of rocks, no trees, and lots of dirt, and I'm like, oh my gosh. So I go to Google, and I'm like, please, please, please, please, what am I working with? So I got general idea of what I'm working with, but I knew that I had to arrive really early in advance to see what am I working with and how difficult is it gonna be to shoot in full sun. You guys will see the video and how that actually happened. And I actually emailed the producer that night, and I said, you know, we got through the shoot and things ended well, but I just want to let you know in the beginning of the footage when I'm actually walking around during the pre-shoot, explaining what I'm looking for, you might have to edit some of that stuff out because I was like, on camera, they're like, okay, tell us what your thinking. And I'm like, what I'm thinking? I can't do this right now, I can't. I can't do this. I was like, my hair is like out to here. The mic is like (imitating static), and I was like, I have nowhere to shoot. What am I going to tell people? I have nowhere. (audience laughing) So I was like, just cut that out, okay. So now that it's said, it may or may not make the edit, but I was like, you will see me kind of just be real, like in that second, and just be like, I'm having a moment. I don't know where to take these people. And it was to such a degree that I'm walking around, and J.D. was like, I think you should just do this by yourself. I will do this by myself, I will find these locations by myself. I was so worked up about it that these are Google images that just didn't do you any good. What I respond, this is gorgeous. (audience laughing) I will arrive early... Because it's gorgeous to her, right? The better experience she's having the more she's gonna trust that I will be able to document it. I will arrive early to ensure that we have a good understanding of how the shoot will unfold, but ideally, we'd love to end the shoot at the tide pools and cove area. Setting expectations, again. Sunset is slated, because there's a web app, not a web app, a web site, like sunsetsunrise.com, and I figured out the date, the location, and then it will give you sunrise, sunset. Sunset is slated for around 7:30, so we'll start at 5:30 p.m. sharp because the cameras were coming with Creative Live, I decided to extend the shoot a little bit, otherwise I would have started 30 minutes later to keep the engagement session an hour to an hour and a half. That's the time I think is the best. Anything beyond that, it becomes a little bit more taxing. Please let me know if you plan on bringing changes of clothes as this will help me draft a perfect timeline. If so, we'll shoot one outfit on the trail in the leafier environment, or as much as possible, and the second outfit will be by the tide pools. Let me know what you think, and we can take things from there. Here's my cellphone if you need anything day of. May I have your cell for emergency contact only? Can't wait. Lastly, I need an exact address of where we'll meet just to make sure everything is perfect. Thank you, J. Star. Hi Jasmine, the only question actually still I had were in regards to outfits. Do you recommend having two outfits? And should I wear white or is that what most people wear for a session like this? Given the setting, I didn't know if you had some suggestions. She's asking for help, so I need to position myself in a place of authority by saying, oh, yeah, I can totally answer all of these questions. Hi Sam, yes two outfits is nice for options. Sometimes one outfit photographs better than another, or sometimes it's just nice to have a variety. Feel free to wear clothes that make you feel gorgeous, amazing, and confident. This is my biggest advice. Are you guys seeing the pattern, again? This is like the third time I'm telling her, I want you to feel beautiful, and I want you to feel confident. Stay away from patterns that can be a wee bit distracting. You can absolutely wear white, I love it, but know there isn't a set rule for what should be worn at the engagement session. The idea for the shoot is to make you feel like the photos you receive look like they could grace a magazine, oh, maybe like The Knot. So don't hesitate to get creative and have fun. Does anybody notice that I chose photos that look like a magazine because that's one of my words, editorial? And creative and have fun, which is another one of my words. I'm preparing her for the types of photos that I want. If you need more help or insight, please let me know. I'm here for as little or as much advice as you need. If you'd like, we can loop in Jeannie, her wedding coordinator, into the outfit conversation since she is a legitimate fashionista. I'm going to empower Jeannie, the coordinator, to be part of the conversation if she so chooses. Now, Samantha responded, said thank you, that works. The day of the engagement session, this is what I send her. Happy engagement session day, I want to remind her. I just want there to be no miscommunication. I'm excited to meet you, and I know great things are in store. Here is my cell in case you need to reach me. Can you send me your cell in case I need to reach you? This is the second time I had to ask her because she didn't give it to me the first time. I'll see you at 5:30 at Abalone Cove. She sent me her phone number and that was that. And it was just great because had I not had her phone number I would not have been able to text her. So, this is the dynamic. You have now seen how I prepare my clients. You now will be able to fully understand what went in to preparing them as I shoot the engagement session. Now, these emails happened about two days, and at this point, in our relationship, I don't know them too well, yet. But up until this point, she has said that she thinks I'm the perfect photographer for her based on nothing but online presence. In a future lesson, I'm going to talk to you about how the shoot unfolded, how we got through those difficult things in the beginning, and just like when she had sent me those photos and then I respond and say, it's gorgeous. The response was oh my gosh, it's so windy, but we're just gonna get some great wind-blown photos, right? I mean you have to put a silver lining to every possible experience. So your homework, what I want you to do is I want you to make a list of ways that you can prepare your clients for an engagement session in advance. Then what I want you to do is create a template that outlines your expectations, that outlines your outline of the day, and that outlines your prep tips. Expectations, outline, and prep tips. I have done this in a series of email templates. The thing that I hear the most from photographers is they don't know how to put words around what they always want to say, and almost ten years into it, I've just decided to create a little system. You can find my personal preparation, email templates, on jasminestar.com, jaminestarstore.com. And lastly what I want you to do is, I want you to exceed their expectations by managing their expectations. I want you to find ways to outline the shoot and what the shoot will entail to prepare you for the things that you want. Now, I think I'm off with my keynote just a little bit. Oh yeah, here we are, perfect. Exceed expectations by managing their expectations. Thank you guys, I'm excited to show you what the shoot will actually look like, and on that note, we can open it up for questions and answers if you guys have them. Great, so if we do have questions in regards to preparing clients, I will just make sure you guys have a mic, okay.
Yeah, so my question, it seemed like with that email exchange, like, that's pretty extensive, and I can imagine that she really felt taken care of after all of that interaction. Full disclosure, I'm not great at that continual interaction, and getting back to somebody immediately with that. So, I want to know what would your recommendation be to create kind of canned templates and just do it that way, and try to, or to outsource, or...
Well, it depends. It depends on what type of brand you want to build. In its most basic form, I believe that you can build a personal brand and you can build a business brand. I have chosen to build a personal brand, so to outsource my email, it would be a disadvantage to me because people become accustomed to my voice and accustomed to the emotional connection that we are creating prior to the shoot. On a side note, I want to heavily encourage you that the generation of people getting married, mostly, belong to the Millennial generation. The Millennial generation has high values for constant contact, quick and swift service, and personalization. So if email is a pressure point for you, then you need to say something needs to change. It's maybe if you have a business brand as opposed to personal brand, you can turn over that responsibility for email. Or, like what I do is, I allocate an hour and ten minutes every single day to email, and that's where I start my day. I start my day with my inbox, and I will only do what I can get through in an hour and ten minutes. I prioritize. Client emails go on top, family emails go on bottom, in the middle, and business emails go on the bottom. If I cannot finish all my emails in an hour and ten minutes, they get pushed back to the next day, but I can guarantee that my clients are getting a personal response with 24 hours. That is a high value point for a lot of the brides that I am booking because they're educated professionals, they're lawyers, they're doctors, they're CPAs, they want it now. They don't want to wait 24 hours for it, and I think that it goes back to creating the type of experience, so if it's not something you're good at then I would take a step back. Yes, abdicate the responsibility if you're building a business brand, but if you're building a personal brand, you need to just reshift your day and say, these hours nobody can talk to me, I need to plow these through to make sure my clients are taken care of. Sorry (laughs). (audience laughing) Bummer, take care of my clients. Are there any other questions? We'll go mic here and then we'll go back.
I guess this one ties in to the same. Do you see a benefit to using email that extensively over just having a phone call because in my experience was I would just call them, but then they would have no resource to refer to if they were having questions about the session.
So, two things, two things to that. One, I think it's a generational thing. I think that Millennials value electronic communication, and two, it's a legal thing. The little law school that I did have is like word of mouth is not admissible. It's a he said, she said, so I would prefer to have detailed email exchanges. We said 5:30, if you show up at 6:30, no, we said 5:30 and here it is in the email. I also don't communicate with my clients by way of Facebook, and I try to limit texting to a minimum. So much so that Facebook has not been yet qualified as admissible evidence, but email has if we ever got into a legal altercation. It has not got to that point, but if a client texts me because a lot of clients prefer text, they will say, oh do you think we can add an hour to the wedding, I go back to my inbox, and I'm like, hey Kim so excited for your wedding. I see that you texted me about adding an hour. Can you email me back just to approve, and I will amend your invoice. And she says, yep, great. So email for me is always, always that thing, yes.
So my question goes back to responding right away. Do you ever find yourself needing or responding on the weekend or after hours, and how do you handle that when, if there's an expectation to be, respond, immediately?
That is an absolute great, great question. So I respond to my clients within 24 hours Monday through I would say maybe Saturday morning, if it's a client, and if a client emails me Saturday afternoon, I don't feel the pressure unless, if the bride is not getting married in the next seven days, I have, I give myself latitude. If a bride is getting married within seven days, I respond to her email immediately. Because I know what it felt like to be a bride planning things, and to wait a full day for a response was so overwhelming. So I need to make sure that I'm delivering exactly what she wants. Now, if I am working or if I am not working on that Saturday, I will respond to that email on Monday and be like, hey, thank you so much for your flexibility and patience this weekend. I usually work, which is opposite schedules of what you have, but let's start this Monday morning off addressing exactly what you want, then I go into that. So I set expectations. No, I will not respond to text message or answer my phone if it's a client after 6:30, like no. You can't text me at 10:30 and then expect a response. Like, I'm not, I'm not a girlfriend, I'm a hired creative for your day, and we have a personal relationship, but not that personal. I need to draw that line. Awesome, and I think that there's another question, yes.
I don't know if I missed it, but I was just gonna ask, for locations do you always choose a location or do you get your clients to choose them?
That's a great question.
Like why do you choose to do it the way you do?
I request that my clients all choose the location because, and maybe this is just a little bit of legalese in me, if they are unhappy with the result, I never want them to look back and be like, I can't believe you recommended us going to the beach. Like don't you know we're snow boarders? Like, no, I don't know where you're comfortable. I don't know where you feel okay to make out. Like, these are things... (audience laughing) But it's really true, I mean, it's true. So I actually don't want to at all be responsible. Now, I would say, by and large, my clients pick really cool places. Not the engagement session that I did with The Knot, but the one before it, I had clients who reside in Los Angeles and they said, oh do you think we can shoot in our backyard in our home? And I said, absolutely. I would have never thought to say, let's shoot in your home, and when we got there, it was such a great session because it felt entirely just like them. And it was like perfect. You know, there have been times where I get to a location, and I'm just like, oh man, and I think there was a little bit of that at The Knot engagement session where I was just like, okay, there's not a tree here. It's like a big field, and it's so bright, and it's so windy, and then to get down to the beach it was like a steep climb down these like switchbacks, and I'm like, oh my god, oh my god, oh my god. It wasn't until we were going down the switchbacks that I literally saw like a two foot by two foot pocket of shade, and I was like, this is exactly what I had planned, you guys. Stand right here in the shade, and I was like tight cropping. So that's how it looked and I think that, yes, it could be a potential disadvantage, but it also forces you to stay on your toes. It could be easy to be like, there's this great park by my house, and then you just go through the motions. Like, you know the spot, you know the light, here we go, rigamarole, but I don't think you get stuff you're really proud of. And I will say that I'm dang proud of The Knot engagement session because it turned out so much better than what I thought it was going to, and they were really happy, and we're going to get into what that looked like for them, too. But that was a really good question. Was there another question, yes.
I'm just curious if you have like a scheduling software resource that you use to manage all of the dates and coordinate with the client?
No, J.D., please, please, please. (audience laughing) That man is just like so chill, like so chill, like we share a Google calendar, but you can see, and this is the answer, is that we use the Google calendar which is not an advanced system, but it definitely works for us. And so I'm like, J.D., any time you do anything, you must add to this calendar because this is our master calendar. It's like homeboy will add like one thing every four months, so no, he's not exactly our go to guy for organization. But, so when we talked about how I email clients four weeks in advance to their engagement session, once we establish the engagement session, I will back it up four weeks and write a little note in my Google calendar, send Kim email engagement tips. And then, as we get to the wedding, we're gonna talk about pre-wedding work flow, like the things that I would do, the things that I need to do is four weeks, six weeks in front of the wedding, I schedule in my calendar, send email prep tips. If I'm flying for a destination wedding, and I know that it's going to be a destination wedding, I back up 90 days from the point of which I need to leave because that's traditionally the best prices that you can get for tickets, and I email my clients the day, like 91 days before I want to buy. And I'm like, hey guys, 90 days is traditionally the best time to get domestic tickets, so if tomorrow is approved by you I'm gonna do a cross-reference. I will send you an invoice according to what I found, and you guys can give me the final approval. So I have all of this done in my Google calendar. It's not extensive, but it definitely works. Yes, we're gonna bring a mic up here. Pass one that way, thank you guys so much.
I just had a quick question about scheduling engagement sessions. Something I've been running into is couples wanting to schedule their sessions on the weekend, and I may be available, but I kind of like to take advantage of the off-season weekends. How can I convey to them that I would love to do them on the weekdays? How do you work with that?
So, after the client books me, I will send them a few weeks after, because I don't know how far in advance they want to do the session, so a few weeks after we book, I'm like, hey, I just want to let you guys know, I know that your wedding's in August. Let me know what you guys have in mind for the engagement session. I shoot engagement sessions Monday through Thursday because I'm usually working on the weekends. By saying usually working, you're actually conveying if I'm not working on a wedding, I'll be working with my husband and dog at a park, you know, enjoying the sun. But, so you set those parameters before because if you say, when do you want to do it, and they say, Saturday, oh, I can't do Saturday. Sunday, oh I can't do... It's like, instead of saying no, you set the parameters first and then take it from there. Thank you guys so much. Those were awesome questions, thank you, awesome. (audience clapping)