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Successful Photo Session: 7 Steps to Take

Successful Photo Session: 7 Steps to Take

Successful Photo Sessions? We’ve all been there; you head out for a session and you’re feeling on top of the world! Setting off to do what you love, camera in hand, chai (or coffee, if you prefer) in your tummy, and a smile on your face. You are INVINCIBLE! *cough* or so you thought. Nine times out of 10, something is going to hinder the day from going as planned, and so, here are seven glorious steps you can take to be more prepared for pretty much anything that might come between you and that perfect experience you’d hoped for.

1. Client Evaluation. Believe it or not, for a successful photo session, the photographic process actually begins far before you start conceptualizing the session. You’ve received the phone call, you’ve scheduled the date, the client loves your work, and you’re ready to deliver. But have you taken those extra special steps towards getting to know who you’ll be working with? I offer my clients a preliminary evaluation worksheet filled with questions that dig a little deeper into who they are, in conjunction with what they are looking for photographically speaking. In order to get great images, you really need to understand who you are working with and how they are going to react to you as a person. I highly recommend producing a client evaluation so you can be sure you know just how to cater to the diverse personalities that you will be working with. Not everyone is going to react to you the same way, nor will you react to each of your subjects the same.

2. Location Scouting. Have you done your homework? Is the location you’ve selected going to give a dynamic that will bring out the personality of your unique client? Let’s put it this way.. imagine a floating feather. See it? Now imagine that same floating feather behind a moving train as it travels nostalgically off into the distance. Now.. imagine that same floating feather in a field of daisies. Feel the difference? Get to know your client, then put them in a situation that will either reflect or contrast with their personality. Dynamics are an important part of a great image.

3. Backup Gear. For a successful photo session, you really, truly need to have ample memory cards, lenses, and at least one additional camera backup in the event that something goes wrong. I can’t stress this enough!

4. Ideas List. Believe it or not, bringing a list of ideas can get you out of many sticky situations. Not everything you’ve tried in the past is going to work for everyone. Writing down compositional ideas, concepts, and ways to engage your subject is only going to improve the quality of interaction that takes place, and if something isn’t working out you can refer to your list rather than getting antsy and allowing that anxiety to interfere with your inspiration. Worried they might think you look silly pulling out a sheet of paper? NO WAY! You’re only going to appear more organized in the eyes of your client.

5. Backup Date and/or Location. You never know what the weather is going to be like if you are shooting in an outdoor location. Always have an indoor backup ready to go just in case! Scheduling a backup date at the same time you book is a great way to avoid the frustration of needing to reschedule. I don’t fit more than three sessions into a week, so I can easily set aside an extra day, generally within the same week, for my “backup day”. If you are someone who shoots multiple sessions in a day, you could consider having one or two “backup only” days set aside in the event that something comes up. You also never know when someone is going to get sick, but remember to enforce a strict cancellation policy so you aren’t left hanging either. I require at least 24 hours notice for cancellations.

6. Appointment Book and Literature. It’s a great idea to bring your contracts, information, and appointment book to your session in the event that your client asks you about future availabilities, or other questions pertaining to ordering. Even if you think you can remember every single thing you’ve constructed for your business, its highly likely that they’re going to ask you something you won’t be able to think of off the top of your head. You don’t ever want to say “I’m not sure” or “I can’t remember”. Even if you don’t, it is far more professional to reply with, “Here, let me grab my literature for you and we can look over that together.” You’ll score big points, and most likely big sales!

7. Gift of Thanks. What’s better than gift giving? Not a lot, but if you’re a paying client, you always appreciate when someone gives you something free. So why not say thank you directly after a session? It is only going to enhance their experience and give you more opportunity to show how appreciative you are towards them for choosing you. So whether it is a coupon towards a free print for the next time they book with you, a little keepsake frame to encourage them to buy a print of that size, a cute little toy for those of you who shoot child portraiture, etc… you get the idea. They’re gonna love you!

So you see, there is more to being a photographer than knowing how to use your camera, and being prepared is really the priority, especially in the eyes of your paying client.

Michelle Black, the guest writer for this article, has 6+ years experience as a portrait and wedding photographer. She also offers one-on-one online photography training to photographers.

You can find her work at:

Website: michelle black concepts
Resources: the photo professional
Forum: the hideout forum

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10 Comments

  1. February 22, 2010 at 9:33 am —

    Great advice. Thank you!

  2. February 22, 2010 at 10:03 am —

    What a super helpful post! Thank you for sharing these ideas. I’m excited to try some of them out.

  3. February 22, 2010 at 12:27 pm —

    Its been a pleasure to share this with all of you! Thanks for reading 🙂

  4. February 22, 2010 at 1:21 pm —

    she is so right about bringing calendar, contracts, etc. will definitely start doing this!

  5. February 22, 2010 at 3:41 pm —

    wow wow wow, thank you for this post!!!

  6. February 22, 2010 at 7:47 pm —

    Thanks, Michelle, for the great tips!!!

  7. February 22, 2010 at 11:54 pm —

    Really loved this post… so helpful! Great tips! I’d love more ideas for a customer evaluation!

  8. January 31, 2011 at 9:40 am —

    Great tips. Just wonder, what kind of questions do you include on your preliminary evaluation worksheet?

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Successful Photo Session: 7 Steps to Take