Directing your clients?

Discussion in 'General Shop Talk' started by rub, Jun 6, 2008.

  1. rub

    rub TPF Noob!

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    This week I did a shoot with a family. They wanted formal shots at there home (outside, in the yard/garden) and then some casual shots. It was a nice day, overcast, good light. I was nervous, of course. I showed up early to find a few good locations, and I was upset with what I found. There was no real garden - they only had a liliac bush that they thought we be a great backdrop. :( I suggested we go to a local park (I had sugested this when they contacted me about the photos) and they reluctantly agreed.

    And, 3 of the family of 4 had transitions lenses. And nobody would smile.

    I had a good 20 or so poses in mind that I wanted to get, plus whatever else I came up with on site, but they really told me what they wanted, and when I suggested things, they were dismissed. No one wanted to sit on the ground, climb up on a tree (2 feet off the ground) or get into any fun poses.

    The result is a bunch of crappy, boring pictures where everyone looks like they are wearing sunglasses. Exposure wise, they are good. But the compostion just blows.

    How do you direct clients to do what you would like? Or do you let them do what they want (at least for a family like this with their own ideas about what would be "good")? I want my clients to feel comfortable, but, they choose me as a photographer because of my style. How do you get them to loosen up, have some fun, and be comfortable? How do you balance what they want with your creative vision?
     
  2. *Mike*

    *Mike* TPF Noob!

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    Silly question. What did you charge for the session?

    When someone pays $200-$300 for a session, they're doing it b/c they want what that particular photographer is going to create. When someone pays $30 for a session, they are often looking for a monkey with a camera - someone that can hit the button.

    That's the first thing to comes to mind...

    Other than that, did you do a consult with them before the shoot? That's a great time to see what they want - traditional, casual, edgy, etc. Then you talk about how you'll run the session to get them what they want...
     
  3. Big Mike

    Big Mike I am Big, I am Mike Staff Member Supporting Member

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    Part of being a good portrait photographer is being able to control, manipulate, coerce....your subjects.

    It's a skill and one that isn't always easy to learn. I'm certainly not great at it and I've found that the only way to get better is to actually do it and gain experience.

    When I read or see interviews with high end photographers, they usually talk a bit about the connection they had with their subjects.
    A great interview was with photographer Platon, about when he shot Vladimir Putin. (you can find it HERE, in the 2008 section).

    The point is that it will (should anyway) really help you to get them to do what you want them to....if you first create a connection with them.

    I took a class on family & group portraiture, from a working pro photographer. She had many examples that she showed us, and for every one, she knew the clients name, the names of their kids, what they did for a living etc.

    I'm sure there are many little tips & tricks that photographers use. Maybe you do their shots first, but then try yours afterward. If they don't like your idea, you could say "OK, we will do yours, but give me a few minutes to shoot my idea after".

    I've also found and learned that when shooting family or group shots...the best shots are often the ones that are shot after all the 'posed' shots have been done. By that time, they may be more comfortable in front of the camera and with each other.

    This actually holds true for a lot of people photography. The shots at the end of the shoot are often the best. I cant' remember it but I'm thinking of a quote about throwing out the first 3 rolls of film because the model is never warmed up yet anyway.
     
  4. Overread

    Overread has a hat around here somewhere Staff Member Supporting Member

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    If you have an idea for a pose you could try taking a portfolio of your work showing differet poses and which ones you think will work well for the family/group.
    Sometimes people don't know what they want till they see it
     
  5. rub

    rub TPF Noob!

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    Yes, we did talk about what they wanted before the shoot. I showed some sample work, and that was when they asked to booked me. We knew there would be some formal shots, and then a clothing change and more casuals. I spoke with the wife about some fun ideas, and she was very receptive.

    But come game day, the dad has his own creative vision. And the mom is worried about the boys getting there clothes dirty (they are in their late teens, early twenties).

    As well, the shoot was done at a discounted price. I did it for 50% off my reg sitting fee, as I am new to the biz and was hoping for a bit more experience.

    But they seemed very happy with the shoot. They even tipped me that day. I just wish I was more assertive in my direction. Or maybe I handled them the right way?

    I just don't know how to feel about this.

    I did get a few shots that I really love, but only a few. I just feel the pictures are not an accurate represention of the work I do.
     
  6. tirediron

    tirediron Watch the Birdy! Staff Member Supporting Member

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    Yep! 100% :thumbup: Mike!

    Not that I've done a lot of this sort of thing, but when I have (and for weddings as well) I discuss in advance what they want, give them ideas, etc. I make it very clear to them that they tell me what they want, and leave it to me to get it; that means listening to my "suggestions" on how/where/when to pose.

    While I haven't yet (and hopefully won't because this isn't the sort of work I really like anyway) I would return a client's advance and leave if they decided to get mule-ish on me. I'm not a tempramental artist, but I'm also not going to waste my time and effort.

    Just my $00.02 worth - your milage may vary.
     
  7. Alfred D.

    Alfred D. TPF Noob!

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    That's all that counts, rub.
     
  8. That One Guy

    That One Guy TPF Noob!

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    Usually I pack heat. If they even start to act like they are the director, I will brandish my weapon.

    Seriously, you have to be firm and in control. Not bossy mind you but you should be in charge by telling them what pose to strike. Don't be afraid to direct or to correct them.....it's YOUR rep on the line.

    Interact with them. Tell jokes. Take fun photos of them as well.
     
  9. craig

    craig TPF Noob!

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    How you direct the client closely relates to your own personal style of shooting. Your style is why they hired you and not the other guy. Takes experience and creativity. Basically the answer to your question is in your hands.

    Personally; shooting with me is a lot of fun and a lot of work. I am in constant communication with the subject. Everything from exposure to their body language and how it is registering is explained. Generally I start off with their natural reaction to the camera and go from there. I should also add that it is much more then getting a check. My reputation and photography is on the line. All parties involved settle for nothing but the best.

    Love & Bass
     
  10. PhilGarber

    PhilGarber TPF Noob!

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    Well.... I'm no expert, but it sounds like you handled it fine! "The customer's always right!"
     
  11. *Mike*

    *Mike* TPF Noob!

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    In small business, this isn't always the motto to embrace. It tends to lead to bankruptcy among other things... :mrgreen:
     
  12. rub

    rub TPF Noob!

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    Just wanted to update and say that I saw my client this wekend. She went on and on about how comfortable I made them feel, how I had so many creative shots etc. So I guess it was good for them.

    She also let me know that she has been spreading the word, and has a number of people who are interested in using me.

    Still, I appreciate everyones comments and suggestions. I will definately be working on my direction for future shoots.

    If running into this type of client again, do you think saying something along the lines of, "I have these xx number of shots that I think would work great for the location and your family. If you have any suggestions, I would love to hear them once we have got these finished." could work?
     

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