We all should know to value education and skills more than gear. That gets repeated all the time and I hope it sinks in. However, are there other skills that you should prioritize over gear? An ability to communicate with your client, aka the gift of the gab, is, in my opinion, far more useful than the latest and greatest lens / camera. But wait. What if you’re shy? What if you’re not lucky enough to possess this gift naturally as some do? Are you cursed to be forever struggling with clients and producing poor imagery as a result? I don’t think so.
Why Is Camera Equipment Less Important Than Communication?
Obviously, this is more important when doing photography that involves lots of interaction with clients; though, those in all genres of photography, even landscape and wildlife photographers, will have to deal with clients at some point.
[REWIND: THINK LIKE A CINEMATOGRAPHER & MAKE PORTRAIT SHOOTS A BREEZE]
Take posing as an example; someone less able to communicate their vision will struggle to a) get their client “on-side” and b) to bring their vision to life. Communication is key to our lives. If you are unable to communicate properly with clients so many areas of your business will suffer; the shoot itself, sales, social media presence, business growth. Pretty much everything. You can either be sitting pretty on $20,000 worth of gear with few clients or take some time to hone your communication skills, become a better photographer / pro as a result and then, buy the $20,000 worth of camera equipment, or something else far more useful; a car, or box seats at Wimbledon, for instance.
The Brief Story Of My Confidence
I was an awkward teen; overweight, bad acne, braces, the whole nine yards. As I got older, I underwent somewhat of a transformation until I reached the peak of my confidence when I worked in the film industry. I was slim, no more acne, found my hair style (no hair, much easier), and was working in the coolest department on set (aside from the art department, those guys are cool too).
I then lost all that confidence when I developed a health issue and was out of work for a few years and unable to return to my old job. Having lost all that hard-earned confidence, I had to find ways to bolster myself until I clawed it back. That’s where the following three tips come from. It’s what I did (and do) to make sure I’m always prepared and comfortable when dealing with clients. A lot of this is also just good practices – things we should all do.
3 Tips For The Less Confident Amongst Us, And Everyone Else Too
Rather than shouldering all the pressure of the shoot, a great way to alleviate some of that pressure is to think of the process as a collaboration with the client, and I often say precisely that to my clients. Yes, you remain in control at all times; you are the photographer after all, but by talking about your decisions and discussing every element, asking lots of questions and basing your decisions upon the responses, you’ll find that the whole process feels more natural. You have the skills, but sometimes it can seem daunting if you take a very “it’s all on me” approach. In the end, it is your responsibility, but collaboration makes it feel much better.
[REWIND: HOW TO MARKET YOUR PHOTOGRAPHY BUSINESS WITH CLIENT TESTIMONIALS]
For example, I had a shoot recently for the cover of a local magazine. I had a long chat over the phone with the client, asked tons of questions aimed at building a picture of what they wanted. We discussed locations, wardrobe, makeup, everything. The added bonus to this method is it makes the client feel special; they feel involved in a process which is quite out-of-the-ordinary for them, and they feel like you care.
My next tip to help boost your confidence is to educate yourself and fill in the gaps in your knowledge. It’s not a nice feeling when a client turns to you and says can we do “x”, you say “sure”, but are actually thinking “crap, I don’t know how to do that!”. You’ll also find that as you educate yourself, you become more of an expert and more able, the by-product being you’ll feel more confident in your abilities as a photographer and thus more confident in general.
On the subject of education, I would be remiss not to mention SLR Lounge Premium. Had it been around when I started, there’s no question I would have jumped at it. The content SLR Lounge produces is second to none and you get so much when you sign up. I’ll run you through some of my favorite bits.
- Access to all my favorite tutorials; lighting 101 and 201, photography 101 and LOADS of others
- Access to Breed – Fashion Photography Exposed (Rodwell’s advice is all too relevant)
- The first 1000 people also get; the SLR Lounge Preset System, Photoshop Paper Textures, Cloud pack, Smoke pack AND the SLR Lounge SEO ebook.
Those are just a few of my favorite things; there’s so much more to it. If you’re interested, click here to be taken to SLR Lounge Premium. If you don’t feel like that is for you, then I encourage you to seek out the best education, wherever you find it, and improve your skills. It really helps with confidence.
My final tip is to plan ahead to avoid uncomfortable surprises. This goes hand in hand with the collaboration tip. I always feel more apprehensive if I’ve not had a decent amount of time to prep. I go for a reconnaissance close to the date of the shoot, produce mood boards, shot lists, check all my gear, prepare the client as much as possible, and so on. However you choose to plan, try to develop some sort of workflow which allows you (and your clients) to consider every variable. Being prepared is a fantastic way to feel a little less pressured, and more confident.
Summary, Camera Equipment Is Clearly Useless
I’m only joking, of course it’s not. I very much adhere to the philosophy that gear IS, in fact, a major element to a successful shoot. But it is not the be all and end all, and should never be treated as such. There are many more important factors that should be prioritized well above camera equipment.
It’s tough being a less confident person in a client-facing world. That doesn’t mean you can’t do it though, and just because it’s tough doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get a grip on it. I’ve just given a few of my tips but there are many others. I’d love to hear any tips you guys may have in the comments below and remember if you found this useful, or know someone who would, don’t forget to share.