Portraits, weddings, landscapes, pets, boudoir, seniors and photography in general are what we all do. Right? The core of what we build our routines around. We all have our own flow or habits and that’s what typically defines our day. It becomes the focus of what we do.
Then one day you have a client that contacts you. They start off with this comment – “I want to do something super creative and different.” If you’re anything like me, you think “YIKES! I thought I was being creative and different?!?!” Then you slow your thoughts down and realize that this is an opportunity for YOU to get out of that routine. You realize that you have someone reaching out to you. They want to create something special. They know that you’re the photographer to help them do that. . . And that is definitely something worth getting excited about.
Our client Amanda came to us wanting to create an image that reflected the personality of her bachelorette party. Not just her, but her and 12 of the women that would be a part of it. Her descriptions were “Epic, Extravagant, Unforgettable and Unforgiving.” She wanted a shoot that, and I quote, ”Captures the delicate loveliness of a woman, but that subtly alludes to her carnal and ravenous sides as well.” All of it sounded a little intimidating, but we could hardly contain our enthusiasm.
[REWIND: PLANNING A SUCCESSFUL CONCEPT SHOOT]
My fiancée and I fell in love with photography because it allowed us to capture a moment while creating something special at the same time. An art that is constantly changing, although some days it can be easy to find yourself in a rut and feel that instead of creating, you have started to reproduce. So finding clients that challenge who you are and what you do are important aspects to feeding that creativity. Then (and assuming the final products meets or exceeds both you and the client’s expectations) it’s that challenge that can be an incredible experience for everyone involved.
With that said, here are 3 tips to assist you in meeting and hopefully exceeding those expectations to create kick a** creative photos with your client:
1. Find Their Perfect Song
All too often it’s far to easy to find inspiration on Pinterest, Google or another photography blog. You see something you love and you just “have to create this.” Instead of falling in love with the client, you fall in love with a “theme.” This isn’t to say that you should never do something that has been done before. I’m only suggesting that you find inspiration through your client and let it lead you to the inspiration of the shoot.
Easy to say, but often hard to do. Right? I know, but I truly believe that within each and every client you can find that “something.” It just takes time. Make it your mission to search for their “something.” It will eventually just click, and when you find it, it feels as if it was tailored to who they are. It’s entirely possible that both you and your client will come together wanting to create something amazing, but not realizing what that “something” is right away. That’s OK. Talk on the phone. Go to lunch. Go to Coffee. Get to know each other. Discover and be aware of the boundaries of the shoot. Then you can maximize the potential of that “something.” It’s always more than worth it.
The best part is when you find it. You’ll know you found it because it should give you the sensation of hearing your favorite song at the perfect moment. You won’t have all the details worked out, but when it hits you, BOOM, you’ll know it. When you talk about it, your voice will raise an octave. You’ll instantly sound out of tune and most importantly your client will be completely energized with excitement. I’m talking ‘Man In The Mirror’ vibes here! Good stuff!
2. Time. Balance Is Key
Timing these types of shoots can be interesting. On one hand, you don’t want to rush and not be able to pull it together appropriately. On the other hand, if you set aside too much time, it could let your client wander and get bored with that song we just talked about.
Remember, at this point of the experience, they may not be able to see the same vision that you have and could lose sight of the end goal. It’s your job to keep them energized and having a vision of what you see. So as soon as you find your perfect song, sit down and put together a reasonable timeline.
When you are creating this timeline, think about all the things that you may or may not need. What falls on the client’s plate? What will you take charge of? It’s not just about picking a shoot date and showing up. You’ll want to take time to find the right location, props, details, costumes, makeup, and hair. Not to mention you have to consider any extra gear you may need for this shoot in particular. Don’t be afraid to rent!
Most of all, take the time to do things “right” while using those moments to make it special for the client. Each time you look at a new location or find something exciting, let them know about it. Post it to your fan page. Send them a text photo. Let the world know you’re excited about this mysterious shoot on FB or Instagram. We have even been using an app called Bubbli to send location photos to client like THIS. The point is to use the prep time to build on their excitement. Their feedback will let you know if you’re on the right track plus they will that much more involved. It’s a win win!
3. Work Together
This is far and away the #1 tip to achieving kick a** creative photos with your client. It’s important to remember that this is not YOUR shoot. You are a part of THEIR shoot. It’s incredibly important to build a relationship of trust between you and the client, and it’s easy to get wrapped up in the excitement and forget who this is really for. They have come to you for your expert advice. So remember that the client could/should/will be looking to you for assurance and you need to be involved in those decisions. They are investing just as much, if not MORE, time and money prior to the shoot than you are.
That means that if they are unsure of a decision you need to step-up and let them know that it works and explain why. More importantly if it doesn’t work, you also need to find a way to let them know and explain why. Try to avoid a simple “YES” or “NO” since that can often leave them still feeling unsure of their final decision. (“Should I buy this shirt in Red or Blue?”. . . .”Yes.”)
Some of this can be a bit tricky. You don’t want them to feel as if you are pushing your ideas on them, but you also don’t want to let the creative vision wander off track and leave them unhappy. It’s your job to make sure that a “Mad Men” inspired shoot doesn’t end up looking like a “1920’s Prohibition” shoot.
I have had success with what I call “study and educate.” If you are using a time period for inspiration, study it. When questions come up, don’t just use your eye, look it up. Then when you want to help guide them a bit you can give them an informed opinion vs. “Nahhhh, I don’t like it.”
For example, if the client sends you a photo of a hat they want to wear. “Oh, I love that HAT!!! It’s incredible and what a great price! Those were super popular in the late 20’s and early 30’s. Not sure if they really fit into the mid 60’s as much, but if you wanted to pick it up and then we can see if it fits into the shoot as we find other pieces.” Don’t be afraid to work this through with them. They are asking you for a reason. They want your honest opinion.
Not to mention, that this part of the experience that will add to the value of photographs even more. Don’t believe me? Tell me this. Think of something you value…can you tell me special facts about it? I’m guessing YES. Same goes for your clients. They will love pointing it out to their friends and family. It adds a story to the photo. They would much rather point to the hat in the photo that is a genuine 60’s era piece that they found for a shoot vs “some hat that looked close enough.” The only catch is not to get too caught up in this. More often than not, budgets dictate what is possible and finding late 16th century props can be pretty difficult. . . . let alone an Eames lounge chair.
Trust me when I say that the client wants this to turn out just as incredible as you do, if not more. The investment of working together is more important than the gear in your bag. So when you are fortunate enough to find someone who wants to create something like this with you, treat them accordingly. In turn, the final product will treat you and the client accordingly.
Like most things, your team is important and not to be over looked. This started with a client’s dream for a special occasion and hopefully ends with her feeling over the moon ecstatic every time she sees this displayed in her home. But it’s important to remember that the guts of all this lay somewhere in-between those 2 points. We had costume designers, wig outlets and furniture stores. There were makeup artists and husbands stuffing antlers through wigs. Each and every one of the girls were responsible for finding and picking out their own dress while my fiancée Christy was the creative editing genius to give it the final polish. There were so many different facets to bringing this all together and any of them could have been a “dropped ball.”
I guess I bring this all up because while this is a photography blog, and creating a photograph is the focus of this post, it’s important not to forget that there is more to a great photograph than just the click of a shutter or using the burn tool in Photoshop. Your clients are dying to be a part of something. They want to feel the excitement and emotions around their project. This is their experience and you are there to be the head coach.
So if you can capture that energy, feed it through the whole experience, and pay attention to the detail. I promise the rest will fall into place.
You can see more of our work on our website, Studio Moirae.