staying true to you

by Danielle Hatcher

Social media outlets such as Facebook and Pinterest have been great tools in the photography world.  You can spread your work to hundreds or thousands of fans with the click of a button.  Fantastic, right?  However, those of us who are in business have all heard that phrase, “I saw this one photo on Pinterest…” Sometimes social media can overbear or otherwise dictate how we run our sessions.  While outside inspiration isn’t always a bad thing, it’s important that we don’t lose sight of ourselves as photographers.  While it is important for us to deliver what our clients want, it is equally important to stay true to our style.  Here are some simple tips you can use to stay true to you in a world overloaded with inspiration.

staying true to you photo

Know your style.

In order for you to effectively convey your style to your clients, first you need to know what that is.  Are you a more traditional, posed, portrait photographer?  Or do you prefer more of a lifestyle approach with mostly candid photographs?  Do you like stylized sessions with props?  Or do you like to simply meet with your client at a given location and see what unfolds?  It’s important for you to have a clear sense of what you love, in order for you to produce it for your clients.

staying true to you photo

Show what you love.

In your portfolio, and on your website and blog, it’s important to show things that are reflective of your photographic style.  My style, for example, is pretty non-traditional.  I direct my clients to a certain pose and then encourage them to engage in conversation and/or activities.  We chit chat, get to know each other, play fun games, etc. This usually results in images filled with natural interaction rather than a large number of camera aware poses.  Such naturally elicited images are always my favorites from any given session.  Staying true to myself, that means 95% of the time these are the images I showcase.  By doing this, I know I will attract those who are drawn to these types of sessions.  Often times, your clients may not even know what they want until they see it on your blog or site. Why not show them what speaks to you?  This will help you find your ideal client – or rather, it will help them find you.

staying true to you photo

Communicate with your clients.

This seems like a no brainer, but it’s so important for you to explain what to expect at a typical session.  I tell my clients from the get-go what my style is, and I remind them another 2 or 3 times before the session.  One paragraph in my welcome packet clearly reveals some of what clients might expect:  “For the majority of the session, I will prompt you and your family members to interact with each other…  You will never hear me utter the words, ‘Say cheese.’  Do not feel pressured to sit a certain way or make a certain face.”  I go on to say that I will always aim for at least one photo of everyone looking and smiling at the camera (grandma always loves those!) but that is generally not what I build a session around.  By laying the groundwork first, and establishing good communication, there will be no surprises for you OR your client.  I call that a win-win.

staying true to you photo

Be up for something new – within reason.

All the photos I’ve highlighted in this post are from an engagement session I had this winter with a lot of Pinterest inspired ideas.  I love when my brides use Pinterest to aid in the planning of their wedding – it helps them build a cohesive look for their big day and keeps them on track with their theme or overall vision.  There were a few things this bride wanted to try that she gleaned from Pinterest, including a couple of signs, props and chalk.  Usually chalk is a no go for me… I don’t want to do anything that might permanently damage public property.  Considering this particular session was on family land, I was game to try it.  The date of their upcoming wedding was to be written on a fence and they were to kiss over the top of the fence.  The resulting shot is below, and I was actually very surprised with how much I liked the result.

staying true to you photo

Want to know which shot I liked even more, though?  This next one, with the future groom opening the gate for his fiancé behind the date of their upcoming wedding.  I love his chivalrous smile softly shining through, even though he’s beyond the focal plane.

staying true to you photo

Next up were these signs, which are really cute and fit the bride’s vision for her day.  Would I normally use these props in a session?  No.  But I was willing to give it a shot, and remember, you don’t have to put it on your website or even your blog if it doesn’t fit your style.  To best utilize the prop and stay true to my vision, I had them interacting and laughing with each other.  Even though the focus may be on the signs they are holding, you’re still catching a genuine connection between them, which is ultimately what I strive to capture.  The smiles on their faces simply MAKE this photo for me.  It ended up being one of my favorites from the entire session!

staying true to you photo

If all else fails, just say no.  If you’re being asked to do something unsafe, a post-processing technique that is simply not your style, or any other idea you don’t feel comfortable with, remember you can say no.  Ideally you’ve opened up the lines of communication well before a contract has been signed or an actual session has been held.  To meet the desires of your clients while staying true to you, try to redirect them in a way you can both be happy.  As a final resort, you can try to refer them to someone who might better fill their vision.  Try and create that win-win situation for both you and your client, so you both walk away with a positive experience!

staying true to you photoDanielle HatcherCalifornia
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Danielle Hatcher is a wedding and family photographer serving Sacramento, CA and surrounding areas.  She is a native Californian currently residing in Roseville with her husband, two great kids (soon to be three), and their mutt Jake-the-wonder-dog.  Danielle shoots with a Nikon D700 and an ever growing list of lenses (just don’t tell her husband that).  Her kids always beg her to stop singing along to the radio so she has given up on her pursuit for American Idol.


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14 Responses to “staying true to you”

  1. Jul 31 2013 at 11:54 am #

    great post Danielle with lots of fabulous advice (AND yummy eye candy!)

  2. Jul 31 2013 at 12:16 pm #

    LOVE the imagery that goes with this fab article!!

  3. Cathy
    Jul 31 2013 at 12:18 pm #

    This is great, thank you!

    Do you believe a photograpbers editing style has to stay the same? I equally love bold and soft colors, creamy and airy, as well as a hazy, dusky, bown tint to my images…depending on the image of course. I usually give all the variations and put different variations from a session on my Facebook. My thought is to show my versatility. But, do you think it could be confusing to some?

    • Aug 05 2013 at 10:21 pm #

      Cathy – Glad you enjoyed the article! Thank you! As for editing, I do think it’s important within a session to edit consistently. If the client’s home, the location of the session, or even the weather dictates a light, bright and airy edit, then I would edit all of the photos that way. As you can see, this particular session was kind of gloomy so the images are a bit darker than I usually end up with. But I loved the overall feel of that day and it lended itself really well to the session so I went with it. Good luck! I think consistency is one of the hardest things to manage – once you get that down you’re good to go!

  4. Kristin Dokoza
    Jul 31 2013 at 10:32 pm #

    well written and good advice! Cute session too :)

  5. Aug 01 2013 at 9:58 pm #

    this is an awesome post! i have been struggling with clients at my sessions expecting me to want them to look at me with cheesy smiles & parents encouraging their little ones to do the same. i totally needed this swift kick in the behind to start laying out expectations to my clients ahead of time. thank you! xox

    • Aug 05 2013 at 10:23 pm #

      Thanks Marie! Glad you enjoyed the article! You can do it, for sure! Start with just adding one or two shots that are “just for you” in a session, and then build from there! :)

  6. Aug 02 2013 at 10:00 pm #

    Great article and tips Danielle! I am still trying to figure out what my style is. I know it is the warm earth tones but having trouble with the soft, hazy look. I like sharp images but am drawn to images such as yours. Do you use PhotoShop to create the softness or is it a setting on your camera? Oh and I have to know…what games do you play? lol Thank you

    • Aug 05 2013 at 10:19 pm #

      Lesly – I do 99% of my editing in LR (I have LR 4) and occasionally I bring a photo in to PSE for a head swap or composite. I use VSCO film presets with a matte look. Hope that helps! As for games, one that I really like is the A, B, C game… where I pick one subject and have the others in the photo say an adjective that starts with A about that person. The funnier the better. Then we move on to letter B, then C, and so on. I don’t think I’ve EVER made it past G because everyone ends up cracking up so much! :)

  7. Jessica Reischel
    Aug 03 2013 at 1:07 am #

    Wonderful post and stunning images!!

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