10. Get to know your client and let them get to know you.
The most important part of family portraits is capturing the family’s personality. You have to get to know them. What are their interests? Does mom have any insecurity? What type of humor does dad like? Are the kids shy? Do they think farting is funny? Knowing these things will help you know how to handle your session, if mom is insecure about her double chin, then you know to keep an eye out on it. It is also very important to connect with your clients and build a relationship with them. The more you connect with a client the easier it will be for you to get them to relax, and follow direction.
9. Help your clients prepare and know what to expect.
I cannot stress enough how important it is to educate your clients. Not just with pricing and policies, but with what to expect during the session and clothing suggestions. The day of a session can be so stressful for clients and you can help elevate so much stress by just helping them prepare. I have a large PDF that I send to all clients. It has everything in it, from what to expect during your session and after, as well as clothing suggestions, and a list of what not to wear. Clients love the guidance; after all, we are the professionals.
8. Make them look and feel beautiful.
Our job is to make mom look and feel amazing! So I make sure to tell her during the session how great she looks, if she is feeling insecure I show her the back of my camera, to show her just how amazing she looks. When the kids give me laughs I tell them how great they are doing. Being in front of a camera is so nerve wracking, so by taking the time to encourage your client it will help them relax, and have fun, and your images will show that.
7. Create a positive experience.
My client’s experience is just as important to me as the final product. I want my clients to have fun, and create great memories from our times together. So I always tell jokes, tickle kids, really do whatever I need to do to keep the mood light and fun.
6. Transition from pose to pose to create a smooth session.
Make sure to take advantage of every pose. Get the smiles with them looking straight at the camera, then crack a joke to make them laugh and loosen up, or encourage a tickle fight to get the fun shot. Make sure to shoot wide and tight for every pose, and get a good mixture of portrait and landscape shots. This will give your gallery lots of diversity.
5. Mix it up.
Make sure you get a mixture of posed and candid images. Everyone loves walking images, and let’s not forget sitting and standing poses. Think outside of the box. Use the information you learned about your client to make their session fit them perfectly. Use elements at your location to frame your subjects, or as posing tools. I had a client who had just found out they were expecting #4, and for the last shot of the session we surprised the kids with the news! It made for a great shot, and captured such a special moment for the family.
4. Go with the flow.
Allow the children to dictate the flow of the session. I always ask clients what is the most important shoot of the session, and so I do my best to shoot that first since kids have short attention spans. I always try to do a full family shot first. I want to get the shot that I know is going to be blown up the largest while mom’s hair and makeup look the best, and the kids are in a good place. I tend to do 2-3 family poses before I get into sibling shots or individuals, but if a certain kid needs a break, I switch it up and shoot individuals while the other child gets a break. When I am shooting children I tend to shoot them from youngest to oldest, but like I said, if need be I have to be flexible to shoot what I can when I can.
3. Find a way to connect.
Before a session I tell mom that during the session I am going to mainly focus on the kids. I have already built a relationship with mom, but during the session I really need to build trust with the kids and dad. I will pick at dad when he gives me a fake smile. Usually men look pained when they are in front of the camera so I will make a quick joke about how maybe dad needs to go potty (note why I ask what type of humor dad has) or if dad is a big hunter or a football fan I will say something like “you must be missing a big buck, or a big game aren’t you?? That is one sour puss face..” This helps loosen guys up when they see that I am fun and funny. For kids I ask silly questions like who wants ice cream??? Can we put some gravy on top?? Oh no, I now want some chicken livers, and peppermint!! For little kids I love to ask them if they are married… or if I can be their girlfriend.. Anything fun and silly.. You have to find a way to connect with your clients to bring out their fun side. Mom is easy, you just tell her how amazing she is doing, and if she is super tense, get them to all shake it out, and it helps relieve some tension.
2. Be true to yourself.
The most important thing is to be true to yourself as an artist. My clients come to me because they love my style and vision, and because of that I direct the session. I give clothing recommendations, I pick the poses, I choose the perfect locations and I direct the session. I have had clients ask for Pinterest shots, or things that were just out there, but I always stay true to myself. The only way to survive in a sea of photographers is to stay true to yourself, and pour every ounce of yourself into your work. The passion will shine through and you will have something to be proud of.
1. Follow through.
After the session make sure to follow through with your promises. Customer service can make or break a client experience. We all get behind from time to time, but make sure you are upfront with clients, so they know what to expect. And if you ever do run behind make sure to make up for it in some way. A free 5×7 can go a long way if your gallery is a day or two late. My goal for my clients is for every interaction from the first call to the delivery of their portraits to be a fun enjoyable experience. If a client loves their portraits, and enjoyed the experience of working with you they are going to tell their friends, and that is the best form of marketing around! Stay true to who you are as an artist, and deliver a top notch experience for your clients, and your business will be blessed.
Nicole Everson, Florida
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Nicole Everson is living her dream in Florida with her husband and two little girls. She runs a successful studio focusing on weddings and portraits and has developed her unique style, blending both classic and documentary images to capture real moments and genuine emotion in her subjects.