Time and time again I hear a similar sentiment among creators: frustration at not being able to create exactly what is desired. Photography, like anything, becomes a job; we create for the people who will pay us, and often their vision doesn’t line up with our own. Burnout and pent up creativity emerge as frustration in the long run.

I went about photography from the other direction. I created only what I wanted without trying to please anyone, and then I found a small group of people who love what I do. When I find clients who commission portraits from me, it is always under my terms and rules. My clients know that the end product will be my vision.

Bridging the gap between what we want to shoot versus what a client wants us to shoot can be simple. It begins by putting the type of work out there that you want to create. This will help clients intuitively understand what your work might look like. When you come at them with more creativity than would be normal in a commercial session, they are ready for it.

Brooke will be one of several speakers at WPPI (Wedding & Portrait Photography Intl.) 2020 in Las Vegas, Nevada. This five-day conference (Feb. 23-27, 2020) is the perfect place for wedding, event, and portrait photographers and videographers to come together, be inspired, and discover the latest trends in wedding & portrait photography. You can find more information on Brooke’s presentations at the end of this article. 

Here are five ways to create more impactful art for your clients:

1. Set the Right Expectation

Expectation is key in the creative process, for yourself and others. We have many tools at our disposal to create expectation – words, sketches, sample images, mood boards. When you want to get more creative with a client, show them first what your intent is instead of springing it on them. If I’ve learned anything, it’s that people who don’t identify as being an artist can almost never understand what’s in our heads. We have some whacky ideas, and for someone who isn’t creatively inclined, our creativity can sound like a complex math problem. They can’t solve it, and they get frustrated trying. Open up your creative process as much as possible to clients so you’re all on the same page.

2. Give a Little to Get More in Return

Portrait by Brooke Shaden
Portrait by Brooke Shaden

Have clients who just don’t want to get creative? Try offering them a single creative image at the end of the shoot at no charge to start. This will help build your portfolio quickly and they’ll still get what they were expecting from the experience with you.

3. Incorporate Fun Elements that Most People Will Love

Portrait by Brooke Shaden
Portrait by Brooke Shaden

You are creative; your clients aren’t necessarily. So bring something to the experience that will be a conversation starter for you and your client, and your client and their family. Smoke emitters, for example, are great for this. If you can light a smoke emitter to create extra atmosphere in a shot, they’ll most likely love interacting with it. It’ll be weird to them, and weird is memorable. Plus, your shots will look atmospheric and whimsical, offering them something different than what they’re used to.

4. Ask Your Clients the Right Questions

Portrait by Brooke Shaden
Portrait by Brooke Shaden

Before a shoot, do you ask your clients pointed questions, and if so, what are they? I ask a very specific set of questions to each person I photograph. Here are some of them:

  • Where is your favorite type of place to visit? Indoors or outdoors? What colors do you see there? What does it feel like? Is it warm and cozy? Cold and wet? Damp and hot? Dry and chilly? Why do you feel a connection to that place? In what type of setting could you see your images taking place?
  • What color do you most identify with? What does that color mean to you? What memories do you associate with it? How would you feel about that color featuring in your images?
  • What emotion would you like to feel in the image? When you look at the image in five years, what story or message do you want it to reflect?
  • Can you point to some images of mine that drew you to my work? And for each image you choose, let me know what about it you love.

5. Connect with Your Client on an Emotional Level

Portrait by Brooke Shaden
Portrait by Brooke Shaden

I did a photo shoot once for a woman in Texas, and it was going just fine. We had a few images planned, mostly including antlers and baby powder. It was already weird and fun. But as I sat at her house before we left for our location, I noticed she had a lot of bird cages around her house. I asked her about them. She told me that she often feels trapped by her anxiety, and that was why she chose me as a photographer, because I also suffer from anxiety. Bingo. That was the missing link to our photo shoot. I ended up dragging a giant bird cage to our location and compositing her inside of it, and that was the main photo she ended up with when we finished.

Most people are missing creativity in their life. We can provide that to them, as long as we don’t scare them off with it too soon. Approach your clients with a good presentation of expectations, don’t force it on them but instead offer it as a secondary option, and get to know your clients really well. Make it fun for them, and it will be fun for you, too.

Creating that emotional connection to the person you’re shooting is key to pulling an emotionally attached image out of the experience. It will result in images that are more connected, creative, and long-lasting.

Come Join Brooke at WPPI 2020!

Create Art Images for Clients

“Go beyond a typical portrait session and learn the ins and outs of how to create a unique, one-of-a-kind art image for your clients. By learning Brooke’s fine art techniques, discover what questions to ask clients to create more personal work, how to work quickly and efficiently to create a dynamic art piece, and how to edit that image with simple but impactful tools in Photoshop. Light business tips with an emphasis on shooting fine art commercially and Photoshop.”

When: February 23rd, 2020 at 9:00 – 4:00PM
Where: Intensive Classes | Portrait

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Recognition: Deeper than the Surface

“One of the greatest pitfalls we experience as artists today is the pressure to create quickly. We rarely give ourselves enough time to know ourselves enough to create art that is worthy of our depths. Discover new ways of connecting to yourself so that you can create images that touch you, and others, in more impactful ways. Brooke will share personal examples of her pain and triumphs that have led to a very fulfilling life, and how those experiences have blossomed into lasting and influential art.”

When: February 25th, 2020 at 8:30 – 10:00AM
Where: Platform Classes | Inspirational

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