Preparing for a Successful Client Photo Session

“Watch out”, she yelled a little too late as I slipped on an icy patch of snow and tumbled unceremoniously, almost flat on my face. The first thought racing through my head was, “My camera! Please God let nothing happen to my camera!”. Had I researched the location and the weather prior to my photoshoot, I would have realized that the temperatures had dipped quite a bit the night before, freezing the melting snow on the ground. A few hundred dollars later (my lens took the brunt of my fall and the focus ring got dislodged) with my ego a little bruised, I now always check the weather report before I head out. My car is my traveling studio and has everything I would ever need for any type of situation – photography related or otherwise!

Digital Photography School Preparing for your client photoshoot Memorable Jaunts

No matter what your level of photography expertise, a little anxiety or nervousness before a client photo session is very normal and typical. But with a little preparation ahead of time, you can reduce the anxiety, be confident that you have prepared for almost any eventuality, and actually have fun with your clients. I agree that preparations takes on different meaning for different types of client sessions – these are basic guidelines.

#1 Equipment related preparations

This is almost a no-brainer, but something that needs to be reiterated every single time. Recharge camera batteries, reformat memory cards, and clean lenses and cameras. Always carry spare batteries and extra cards. If you are going to be out for the whole day, carry your battery charger. You never know where you might find an electrical outlet, and those few extra seconds of battery life might just come in handy. I am very particular in downloading my images as soon as I get home from a client session. But that does not always happen, and there have been a couple of times where I had images on my card from prior shoots. There is nothing more unnerving than trying to remember if you have downloaded old images (or not) in front of your clients who are ready to be photographed.

#2 Location related preparations

Being a wedding and family photographer in Chicago means I have to deal with different types of clients, with different needs and expectations. Plus, weather is a huge factor in scheduling photo sessions. I am a natural light, outdoor photographer – that is what I do best. In a pinch, I will photograph indoors but that is not my first choice.

For family photo sessions, I have a few locations where I am very comfortable photographing. Those are my go-to location recommendations for my clients but every once in a while, I will get a client who wants to dictate the location. It could be a special place with special memories. This is where google maps comes in very handy. If it’s a local spot close to home, I will scope out the location prior to the shoot. But that is not always practical, especially with out of town weddings and engagement sessions, so I rely on google maps (any similar map tool will also do). Additionally ask around. I belong to several online groups of photographers and often times a quick question to the group gets me all the information I need about a particular location.

Digital Photography School Preparing for your client photoshoot location scouting Memorable Jaunts

Invest in location scouting ahead of time, you never know what hidden gems you may find.

Digital Photography School Preparing for your client photoshoot Location scounting Memorable Jaunts

The bike mural was hidden in an alleyway and could have been easily missed had I not scouted the location ahead of time.

#3 Business related – contracts, model releases and questionnaires

This might be different based on your own photography business, but generally having a contract and a model release is advisable. This helps in level setting for both parties. My workflow is such that clients are required to sign a contract and a model release form prior to the actual session. But life does get in the way and sometimes they forget. I always carry spare model release forms with me – clients are more than happy to sign the forms at the end of session rather than having to go back home and mail out the materials. With my wedding photography clients, I have the couple fill out a detailed questionnaire – this has specifics like names, relationships of people in the wedding party and wedding photo shot list. The more details I can get from the bride, the better prepared I am, even before the main event.

#4 Visualize and plan your poses

A little preparation goes a long way! Hopefully by following the above tips, you are feeling confident and prepared for the photo shoot. Take it a step further and visualize your session even before it happens. Research poses and looks you want to capture that are a true representation of your work. Mentally walk through the shoot. Having an idea of what, when and where will really help you create a road map of how you want to execute the shoot.

It is also okay to write down must-have poses and shots, and refer to them periodically during the shoot. I always take a few minutes during the shoot to check the back of my camera. I am open and honest with my clients and tell them that I want to make sure I have gotten the shot I visualized. Sometimes I also show them the back of the camera to see what I am seeing. Clients appreciate this feedback and it makes them feel like they are doing the right thing. Happy clients = confident clients = happy photographer! Remember that most clients are not professional models and putting them at ease is as much a part of your job as is taking pictures.

A little preparation and previsualization really helps in getting images that resonate with you and your brand.

A little preparation and previsualization really helps in getting images that resonate with you and your brand.

#5 Save the best for last

This goes hand in hand with #4. Most people get very self-conscious when a camera is pointed at them no matter how prepared they are. Often times the first 10 minutes of the shoot are the most awkward and uncomfortable for both parties. Do your best to set them at ease, talk to them from behind the camera, and encouragement them. Since you have pre-visualized your shoot, and also scoped out the location ahead of time, you know the best poses and the best light and location backdrop.

Save this for the last 10-15 minutes of the session. By this time the clients have warmed up to you and the camera and are having a good time. They are more open and receptive to trying out new things ensuring you have the shots that you want.

Traditional Outdoor Family Portraits Memorable Jaunts

One of the last frames of this outdoor family photoshoot – everyone was really relaxed and happy!

Of course, there are still a lot of things that can go wrong no matter how prepared you are. The weather might take a sudden turn for the worse, your car might have a flat tire 20 minutes before the session, the family might cancel at the last minute (I speak from experience). The key is to be prepared for all the obvious and apparent ones and just roll with the punches for the things you cannot control.

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