by Jodi Arego
High school seniors can make the most fun clients to photograph! They’ve hit the age when they really care about how they look in pictures, and for the most part, this totally works to your advantage as they are highly motivated to follow your lead and open up to your ideas. YOU are their authority on how to look awesome in their photos, and as such they are going to look to you to have their back in this whole process. However, as nervous as they are to be in front of the camera, chances are you’re probably feeling a little jittery yourself wondering how you are going to get them relaxed enough for you to capture their real smiles and photograph them in a way that honestly represents who they are. How you interact with your senior client will mean everything to the end result of your session images. So, well before you even think about lifting your camera’s viewfinder to your eye, take a deep breath and spend some time focusing on how to make your client feel comfortable and confident. Let me share with you some of my essential tips for helping my senior clients relax.
Meet with your senior before the session for an in-person consultation.
I love to meet up at Starbucks with my clients a couple of weeks before the session. Honestly, I can’t even imagine showing up to photograph a senior without first meeting them face-to-face. Over our favorite coffee drinks, we get the chance to meet each other in person and engage in a little getting to know each other chit-chat without any pressures of the camera. Most of the time, the senior’s mom meets with us too and that really helps solidify that all three of us are comfortable and on the same page for the direction of the session. I keep a very loose agenda of details for us to discuss which can break the ice in the beginning and also gives us something to fall back on if the conversation starts to get a little quiet. These meetings are super quick and casual but are a definitely a crucial first step in the relationship I build with my senior clients.
Email, text or Facebook with your client to keep the enthusiasm up.
With the coffee date behind us, I keep up the enthusiasm over the next days or weeks by texting the client an idea or something else that I’m excited about and can’t wait to share. I also have her text or email me pictures of the outfits she’s planning to wear. The constructive feedback and encouragement I give throughout this process not only solidifies for them my role as the authority for the session, it also really puts my clients at ease knowing that I am thinking through the details and that they are being entirely taken care of. The bonus of those short messages back and forth is that they make the day of our session feel like we’re just friends getting together for some fun. We both arrive to the location feeling excited to see one another again and are ready to create beautiful images.
Give feedback and build your client’s confidence throughout the entire session.
Let’s face it… it feels a little silly to be in front of the camera. I’m always glad to be the person taking the pictures, not the person in the pictures. When I greet my client with an enthusiastic, “You look fantastic!” and sincerely mean it, she becomes unarmed… the insecurities about how she looks just melt away. After saying all your hello pleasantries, walk them through (again) what the plan of attack is and help them understand what to expect. I do this at the pre-session consultation, and I do it again and again. Who really likes to venture into the unknown for something like this? I find that people are much more relaxed when they know what to expect, so I make sure my client feels more than familiar with the process.
Before you begin, look over their clothing choices again, and tell them how much you love what they selected. They want your validation and approval. Positive affirmations, genuine of course, will go a long way to helping your client feel at ease.
Finally, when we start actually shooting, seniors often wonder “if they are doing this right”. Compliments (genuine of course… they will read through anything else) on their smile, the way they’ve positioned themselves, even on how the light is shining on them affirms them, helps them relax, and creates a beautiful confidence in front of the camera. You are now poised and ready to create stunning images.
Enter into their world.
One of the things I love most about photographing others is connecting with them and gaining a bit of an understanding about who they are. When asked sincere questions, people generally love to talk about themselves, and seniors are certainly no exception . . . they are so passionate about life! Extra-curricular activities, after-school jobs, the big dance whether that be Homecoming or Prom, college plans, post-graduation dreams… you have so many topics to explore to make a true connection with your senior. If your interest is sincere, your questions will reward you with engaging eye contact, honest smiles, relaxed body posture, and ultimately beautiful, authentic images that reflect the essence of your client.
Probably most importantly, let them see you having fun.
If I want my seniors to have fun at their sessions that first starts with me. I really do love everything about working with this age group… from our first introductions, getting to know one another, planning the clothes and accessories together, their eagerness to cooperate, all the way to showing them their galleries and watching both their face and their mom’s light up when they look through their final images…. I love it all! I don’t hold my enthusiasm in, and I let them see me squeal or get a little carried away in excitement. It’s part of the genuine experience, and it helps them let go of their own inhibitions and relax in front of your camera.
Working with this age group is incredibly rewarding. I’d love to hear what works for you to get your senior clients relaxed and ready for their session.
Jodi Arego, Texas
Non-Profit Coordinator | CM Mentor
Website | Seniors | Pinterest
An ideal day for Houston area resident Jodi would begin with time alone to sip a cup of coffee in an early-morning, quiet house, one-on-one time with her husband and each of their three kids, Tex-Mex for dinner and end with a clean kitchen and a glass of wine before heading off to bed. She enjoys working out, cooking, reading and of course, photography. Her photographic style tends to be mostly lifestyle but also includes loose portraiture and high school seniors. When asked how she got started in photography she says, “I had a defining moment when my oldest was two. One afternoon, I was watching her play in her little kitchen and I wished for a photographer who would come into our home and follow us around for the day making beautiful pictures out of our ordinary, every day life. I didn’t know of anyone who did that sort of thing so I became that photographer for us.” Jodi shoots with a Nikon d700 and a variety of prime lenses.