Six Tips to Session Success
For a lot of people this is going to be maybe one of the more applicable lessons because a lot of people don't have all that chunk of time to do sessions so one hour sessions seemed to be the easiest toe work with so I'm going to kind of share with you how I approach him and that even in an hour I can get really good moment photos um okay, I guess that is going to be a lot of instructions so let me know if I'm going too fast or if you have any questions you guys an audience know jim stop me or you guys right here. Okay, I have six tips to being really successful in um one hour documentary family sessions um and this is when you're working with your clients the first thing is getting your clients and it is really important that you have a strong portfolio. Ah lot of times we get very attached to our pictures even if their crappy um because we know the story behind them or we know how hard it took to get that picture but in the end they it might not be the best picture and you really onl...
y want your very best representing you online, so what I suggest you dio is find a friend or a mentor or a teacher that you respect the whole lot and go three or portfolio together and try and go through objectively as best you can um you know it's hard, but I've learned that I am not attached to really any my pictures I couldn't just let them die like goto photo heaven when they need to just go away and I might warn them for a second, but then I move on because I really want a very specific type of clientele, and because of that, I have to have a stronger portfolio than anybody else in my market looking for me, um, looking for that type of work so it's really important, especially also because I don't have that competitive rates. My rates are kind of higher than most, so my work has a stand out even more, especially if people are on the fence about spending the kind of money if they're really attached my pictures in my portfolio, they'll be more likely to hire me clear communication is number two, and it is essential in my clear, committed communication I'm talking about clearly communicating with your clients before the shoot. Um, make sure that all of your communication you have with your clients on the website in the inquiry and pre shoot clearly explain your approach to the shoot, so I on ly shou documentary style photos on my website, I'm communicating that I'm communicating that I'm not going to make standard formal pictures um I don't want them to even expect or ask for them, but the only way that I can do that is by not showing anything that I don't want to shoot so if you go into my, uh portfolio actually my wedding families no matter what it is I don't really have any camera where photos I think I might have three four and of the ones that are camera where meaning that the subject is aware of the camera and looking directly into it those are mainly documentary style portrait ce and there's a difference between a child portrait and in documentary portrait and we'll talk about that as well um when they inquire with me my, uh email my initial email clearly states how I approach to shoot what my background is, how I feel about shooting documentary pictures, what I want to do for them if you clearly state that then there's no risk of expectations not being managed. I think a lot of times issues that clients have with photographers are because their expectations did not match what it's the expectations of the photographer wass or was not clearly communicated so I just make it clear you're gonna get one hour and of that hour you're going to get fifteen minutes and that's it you're only getting fifteen minutes of family photos of you guys sitting and looking at the camera and those are extremely relaxed they're not going to be very structured, I'm not going to direct a whole lot, so if they know that ahead of time, they're not gonna expect anything else. There's already going to be prepared for that managing that expectation, and, um, so then they can decide if they're going to hire me or not. The other thing that I put in the on my website in the inquiry and the reminder e mail is that they are not to wear matching clothing. Um, I kind of my mood changes a little if they still don't listen to me, and I show just the shoot, and they're all wearing white and khaki or matching clothes. I really drive that point home do not wear clothes that all match, and I used that analogy that using beginning, like, you are never going, when when do you wear the same outfit? Is a grandmother never like, why would you do that in the way that people that push it the way that I get around that is I say, look, you want to look your best in your pictures, and the only way we're going to look your best is we're gonna feel your best. And are you really going to feel your best in a starchy new pair of pants in like, scratching shirt that you just bought? No, you're not where clothes that you feel good in sexy, and like that, you just feel pretty in, especially women. Men don't really care it's women that are usually in charge of shoot, so I need to cater to them and kind of speak their language, but I honestly feel this way, like where, whatever it is, it makes you feel good, like because that's, when you're going to look your best, and then in the reminder, email, I again go over what needs to be done. I need you to bring things to the shoot that you're going to interact with, bring bikes if we're like, going to a party, bike, it's, balls, bubbles, kites, we'll talk more about this, but it's, not about the activity. The activity is a facilitator for me to succeed in making documentary moments and not make them to capture them. The activity is meant to relax the family and get them to engage with one another, and when they start doing that, they're going to really forget about me and react naturally to one another, whether it's, a lot of laughing, or, if it's a struggle to catch a frisbee, or it gets really windy or not windy at all, and then there's moments, trying to get the kite to fly, what again it's not we're not making instruction manual about how to blow bubbles that's not the point of the pictures it's not the point of activity the point is that they're using but we're using bubbles to facilitate an activity that's going to create a reaction and interaction which is going to make my job a lot easier shooting does that make sense to you guys? Okay? And so I am clearly state that out on my website when they inquire and then the reminder email um third thing which actually that today might be the most important is that you gain trust and you only have about fifteen minutes to do so that's the point and the purpose of my more structured portraitists is teo get trust from my clients so that they will relax and that they trust me to be in their personal space yes, I tend to do those fifteen minutes of more structure do you do that first? Who? We're gonna talk about that? Yeah definitely first so that's why I say you only have fifteen minutes to get that out of the way um and that's why I say you basically get about fifteen minutes maximum to get the trust you need from your family's that you can make moment filled pictures for the last forty five minutes the shoot in one of the ways I do that is I'm going to try and connect with my kids first uh kids have a lack of sense of self it's a wonderful thing about us when we're children children that I work with children that I that I adore that I watched they I have really a lack of sense of self till about eight or nine meaning that they don't think about oh I'm gonna look bad in the pictures they don't give a flying bet like that's a good word right so when when they come to me uh when I'm meeting clients for the first time especially if it's like the actual first inter introduction if I've never met them before um I've got my cameras I immediately as they're coming to me I squat down especially those little guys and get on their level I'm like hey guys how you doing you ready to make some pictures and I'm speaking in that tone I'm I'm psyched to meet them what's your name I'm kirsten and the other thing that I always do is try and have a conversation with them that has nothing to do with pictures oh my god is that a dinosaur on your shirt or you have really pretty pink shoes on or um I heard that you really like the beach or wherever it is that we're shooting because I'm trying to get their mind outside of I'm a stranger I'm just there to take pictures and I want them to realize that I want to be their friend and especially shy kids if you get down to their level and not speak at them because speaking at them is going to make them more fearful and you get down to their level lower your voice a little beat decided be genuinely interested in them they're going to react better and I can usually get any kid that's hiding behind their mom to immediately come around and talk to me if I do that so it's really important once you get the kids trust then the parents are just going to follow along we're gonna talk about that tomorrow also it dana lives but it's really true because so as adults we're constantly concerned about what we're going to look like do we have a double chin are a close all you know are they perfectly fitting our bodies? Do I have a fat roll hanging out all those things especially women are thinking about however if they see their kids a relaxing and I'm encouraged him teo encouraging them to engage with their children then they're going to kind of let all that go because now they're leaving the space in their brain to just be apparent does that make sense okay, same ideas with the camera like um if we're worried about how it works, then we don't have enough space to make pictures same thing if a parent is just thinking about what they look like in their photos and like if you know, if everything's gonna work out there, kids are acting crazy and like, if they could just let all that go, then they have enough space in their brain to just be a parent and enjoy the shoot. Um, so along with that is subject connectivity in this, uh, will address bears question they had earlier in that you want to talk to your clients, you want to engage with them while you're shooting, having the camera up to your face, you're also talking to them, asking them questions, asking, asking the kids about school or if they have pets at home or what their favorite color is or if they hate their brother like anything to get them to engage with you on a non photographer level. This is what david was talking about, like really caring about your client's about humanity, about having that that connection you have to be genuine if you go into and you're not genuine, they're going it's like bees, you know, smell, fear, it's the same thing like if you go in nervous, apprehensive, not genuine, they're going to pick up on that and that's going to affect the entire moon of the shoot and subsequently subsequently you're going to react to that in the way that you photographed them um so I talked to him a lot get close use your thirty five millimetre I said before I'll say it again. They have invited you into their space to make pictures of them. You've already had the access. You don't have to work for it. So I know that some people like mice, my mentor students, their biggest fear is they're not gonna wanting that close. They're going to feel like I'm going to make them feel uncomfortable. I just is there gonna feel uncomfortable? No, they're probably not like they trust you. Your professional, they want good pictures. And if they really feel uncomfortable, they're going to say, hey, can you just back up a little what's they really okay, fine. They just say it's the same thing with street photography like, I don't want to photograph them because they're going to say no, ok, they say no, who cares if they say no more than likely in a family session? That is not gonna happen and is more you're feeling uncomfortable about getting close, not them feeling uncomfortable? That's you like kind of creating this fear in yourself? And I think that fear is the biggest obstacle with photographers and making good pictures is their fear. Getting in the way, um, in the six thing is you've got to get dirty. Like you need to be on the ground sometimes you have to climb a tree yesterday you're gonna see in a minute I was up to like my thighs with pants on in the water like for me, the most important thing is to make the picture so I don't wear really nice clothes sent for yesterday's we're filming and got wet, but whatever but most of time I'm pretty grubby when I go to a shoot because I'm gonna get dirty um sometimes on non fixable unfixable dirty uh might ruin a pair of pants, sir, you know, get grass stains but for me it's worth it s so I go into the chute already prepared that I'm gonna wear things that get started it's fine for anyway that worked at the beach. I always wore board shorts uh, a bathing suit top and then a t shirt because I was always going in the ocean and I still will if I have any beach sessions or vacation sessions. Now I just know to always wear my board shorts so I don't feel them frolicking around in a bikini in front of family. But for charles sometimes so usually board shorts and then a bikini top and then a t shirt on top of that, if I'm working in a pool, I'm in water um shooting in the pool so I love this quote george bernard shaw. Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything. This is where I'm at right now like I'm really committed to inspiring and teaching other photographers to approach their family sessions this way. I'm also trying to inspire maybe family uh, wedding photographers there's I've talked to a lot of wanting for harper's that are just bored, they're burnt out, they don't want to do weddings, but they don't know how to make money. Otherwise I want inspire them that you don't have to make studio. I mean studio portraiture great, but that you don't have to have a studio too. I have a flourishing family photography business and you don't have to do the stereotypical expected family shoots that this is an option. You can do this, and so for me, I feel like the first step to getting more and more people will want these is I have to educate photographers how to do these inspire them to do them, and then the more that that work it's out more people, seeing the more they tell their families and more they want him, and then we can kind of like, get rid of the white and khaki forever my goal. This is from yesterday so it's very recent and then later on after lunch we're actually gonna look att every picture I took from the shoot we're just gonna look at the raw so here's a little teaser video so we're here at the park which is also right near the beach, which is awesome for photos I have a family of eight coming in six kids and we're going to just have a lot of fun to take a couple of more structured formals and then I'm gonna just let him play I've also suggested a bunch of activities for them to do but remember it's not about the activities activities air just to facilitate the family interacting together so I can get some really awesome moments we're gonna take some pictures of a full family together we're gonna go over there and do that and they want to do the same thing over here and then we can play born to save the water balloons to last because everyone's gonna get soaking wet who's going to win the water balloon fight who's positive you guys look awkward in the back you comes to next year brother squeezing right behind here and I kind of sit and like kind of year you go come come come close you guys talk to each other don't look at me all right kids so each other's secrets everyone talks here a secret and you guys are gonna walk along that like water line here for me and then you're gonna go kind of far all right? And then I'm gonna say, all right, you guys turn around when I do come on back, but don't look at me, talk to each other, try not to look down because it's kind of boring, but if you can, like, talk to each other, you can play ice if I was something out there. One thing that I stressed my students is the topic of location and there's so many photographers where location becomes a priority uh, over their subjects for one of their shooting. And for me, I feel like I can shoot anywhere and make great pictures because of the end of the day. It's about the relationship between the people that I'm photographing it's not about the activity it's not about where we choose to shoot. If you can find good light, you could make great pictures no matter where you are. All right, you guys ready on your mark that's that go ahead, help yourself. I'm really psyched with how this shoot turned out. I had a great time with this family. They were really interacted with one another, uh, really natural in front of the camera uh also one other thing to remember is as much a cz it's great to make pictures of the people interacting with the activity also keep an eye on how the other family members are reacting to it because those moments could be just as good as the direct ones that kind of help to like see you working um I know that there's going to be a longer um there's gonna be a longer portion of that right jim with um for people that by the yes if you purchase the course one of our bonus materials is you guys out there if you purchase the course you will receive the entire length of this video we have two videos actually that we're going to be handing off for bonus material so you can look forward to that yes so that's just a little teaser I guess um okay so these are instructions I give to my client all right this is what I'm thinking about this is the clear communication you will only be allotted fifteen minutes per hour so if they hire me for two hours it's usually because it's a bigger family um extended family and then they can have a half hour but only fifteen minutes per hour uh for formal portrait ce the second thing I tell them to do is bring things that you and your family can interact with together so like I said kites bubbles books, toys, skateboards you name it anything that they enjoy doing especially like I'll also ask them um, what do any of your kids have a special hobby? Do they play sports? Have them bring those things with them? If they can. I really stress that all you have to do is be yourself that's it just please just be yourself don't feel like you have to pretend to be anything other than that. Just relax and have a good time. And like I said, I'm going to say it again and again and again, no white and khaki. So I really hate one catch. Okay? So here's a little bit more about the clear communication that I was talking about earlier, just that you can see, so to ensure their no unmet expectations and that you work with your clients that want this kind of, uh, fairly photography, you need to make sure that your process and approach is clear. So with the photos, like I said before, the first thing you need to do is make sure that the clients know what to expect when they're looking at your pictures and they know what to expect hiring you when they're looking your online portfolio show on ly the types of pictures you want to be making and also include pictures of activities that you want your family's teo consider engaging in. With the inquiry when you received that inquiry, aside from providing to them the information specifically to the shoot and product pricing clearly describe your process in regards to the day of the shoot give them a run down of the what the typical hour will be and also include I do this include a frequently asked questions page because this makes your job a lot easier when I get the same questions over and over again, I'm sure you guys do, too, so just make sure that if you include that it'll kind of shorten or kind of cut down on the questions that you're going to get over and over again and then the email I always send out an email about a week before the shoot that just kind of checks in with them, see if they have any questions. Do any of you? You shoot you neither of you do do you shoot you? No, I was trying to use something else for a while, but it it was one of those like this could make my life a lot easier, but the learning curve is so big forget it. So I just have email templates in the business section tomorrow I'm not actually show you the back end of how you shoot you, because in my opinion it has changed my life like it's, like having a secretary personal assistant I would not be able to run my business without it they don't pay me and say that I'm like really serious about that so the email gets automatically set out set sent out in all I have to do is have it pre written and then you actually have the option which is really awesome where you just have it's automatically filled in with information about their particular to their shoe in their names so I don't even have to think about it it just doesn't automatically and then if they have questions and they can write me directly but I'm a week before the shoot I suggest sending out checking in message the client's reminding them of what they should bring of how they should not wear white and khaki and I do suggest to them please don't wear logo's or a lot of prints but that you also don't even have to match each other in regards to colors just like maybe not pinks and like light blues and lavenders with like a hard flag related colors like red, white and blue that might not go well but that they can coordinate but they don't have to be matching so we have a question from the internet yes um and the question has to do with so when you advise on color it's not like you don't want them to know we're matching but you do like them toe where complimentary colors and solids and such, I suggest that yes, in that the kids should wear lots of bright colors and they could have patterns on their stuff, and then that parents can wear more muted down um, patterning or, you know, just solid colors. I don't tell them what to wear, please don't match, but you can wear a complementary stuff. Um, and then I reinforced the hour schedule by reminding them that only the small portion will be designated to formal photos. This is the more important, um, aspect to how I approach my shoots and that's the instructions I give to myself, not my client's. Um, I need I said this before I'm going to gain trust from the kids first, and then the parents will follow. The other thing I'm going to do is I want to give them visual variety, so I'm using the three different lenses that I have my thirty five millimeter, my eighty five millimeter and my eighty two, two hundred believe it or not, I also will bring my iphone and I'll shoot with my iphone, and I'll talk more about that tomorrow, and then any underwater cameras I have if it's gonna be water related activity, yes, camera bodies with you, and how often are you switching lenses on those two? I'm on ly switching lenses if necessary between the eighty two, two hundred and eighty five if I can keep the two hundred on the whole time and I don't think I need the eighty five they don't just stay with that the entire shoot um when I'm working in the beach and anybody else working on the beach as well, I highly advise having an assistant and the assistant's job is to hold your second body because as it is, you're going to get a crap ton of sand in your gear and it's not even a matter of getting in the body it's a matter of it getting in the lenses and then the lenses don't work properly so the as much as you can avoid the sand in your camera the better because as it is already rolling around and I'm going to get it, but I would rather not set my camera in the sand or if I have two bodies and I'm like laying down, which happens a lot don't want me on the right to lay in the sand, so for the last four years I was at the beach I had an assistant and they're easy to find I paid fifteen dollars an hour, so fifteen issue that's great for college kids and they just came and held my gear and hung out if I needed them to grab anything like well, they got their ball like down the down the beach can you just go grab that for me? That was all there job wass and they liked it like I had really good assistant so I definitely suggest getting an assistant um for greg and I we my fiance and I we shoot together now so we just have the two bodies so he's just a backup shooter for me I'm the main shooter, so he always has my back up camera, so whatever I'm not shooting with hill shoot pictures with that wound and then when I need to switch, we just switch him at all of your chutes, including or one hour shoots or just her twenty four no, just one hour I will not I will not shoot anything other than the weddings are one hour with, like, the twenty four hour to seventy two hour shoots or just me and that's because of the amount of connection that you have to make with your clients on the kind of, uh, trust and uh, I'm really like photographing some pretty intimate close moments with the families and I don't want more people they're like that is a completely different shoot um so it's just me but for the one hour yeah greg's with me all the time now weddings he's with me all the time um but I shot weddings for a long time with just me an assistant and I didn't have a shooter um and I did the same thing for the one hour shoots but now that greg's with me we do that uh it's for the day in the life again we'll talk about it tomorrow but I am mentoring a pair of shooters right now and originally when they hired me to mention them deserve my one year program they wanted to do it together the entire time and I said no so they it's actually like a three way mentor so I mentor them together as shooters together and then they each are also mentoring with me individually because I want them to be individual shooters I think that's really important people that shoot together sometimes can like become homogenized and then they kind of lose their own sense of voice eso for them they do shoot day and lives together. I want point advised against it they seem to work it out that they can they're still learning there's a learning curve and there's a learning curve with me teaching them to do that, um telling them that only one of them needs to be in the room at a time that the advantages that they can be in two separate rooms but that the two of them shouldn't be shooting the same scene together with day in the life again, we'll talk about that later. Um, this is okay, so I have the visual variety and the other thing that I do with visual varieties I make sure especially if it's good light out, then I'm going to utilize the light from three hundred sixty degrees. So, like what we talked about in the first segment with all the different types of light, a lot of that is just your position and where the light is in your frame, so I'm really good about working the whole three sixty in that one hour since they have different looking pictures, um, by using the light differently, the third thing that I do is I make sure in addition, toe all the formals, this is when I I'm structuring them, I'm directing them, I try and make one good picture with the whole family in it that's not directed and it is very hard this is not easy, you'll be very tempted to direct them. Uh, but the more that you practice in, the more diligent you are and the more committed you are to making that picture that the more you'll look for it in every shoot. But it's something I tell may tell myself that I have to get at least one really good picture with all the minute and that it's not directed our post, um and my four thing is it's pretty simple. I'm gonna work hard to make the best pictures I can, and I think that it's hard sometimes when you're shooting a lot, especially for me, when I would be shooting ninety sessions in three months that I would get burnout on board. But you have to remember that for your clients, this is their first time with you, or they're on ly time with you for that year and it's not their fault that you're having a bad day or that you're hung over or that you're not feeling one hundred percent well, or that your cat might be in the vet if you can. You did you your very best to put all of that aside for that hour because that's only thing that's fair it's your client's also, if you can do that, can actually make you feel better for me, it's therapeutic to just get my mind off of everything else in my life to just focus on making really good pictures. Um, and if you could do that, you actually feel better after the shoot about all the other stuff that you have to return to when you get home.