In episode #66 of Oh Shoot!, Cassidy Lynne gives her favorite tips for what to do if your clients are a little bit awkward in front of the camera and how you can overcome that awkwardness as their photographer.
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Working with Awkward Clients as a Photographer
It’s very normal for people to feel awkward in front of the camera! Remember, taking photos is probably a whole new experience for your clients. They likely haven’t had experience working with a professional photographer before or if they have, it’s likely only been once. Remember this is probably their first time as you are posing and talking with them!
Treat it as if it’s their first experience getting photos taken!
It’s About Storytelling and Capturing Your Couple as They ARE
Couples and wedding photography isn’t just about posing and getting good photos for Instagram. It’s about storytelling and capturing your couple as they ARE.
We can get stuck in the idea that we have to do the same Pinterest worthy photos for every session, but that’s not the case. When you get out of that mindset you truly start to focus on capturing your couples as they are and that helps a lot with awkwardness! You aren’t focused on turning your couple or subject into someone they’re not.
Sometimes, the awkwardness is in your own head.
- YOU might feel awkward because you actually feel awkward.
- You may feel awkward because you’re not confident in yourself as a photographer or business owner.
- You may feel inexperienced, not ready, or nervous.
Those feelings will contribute to that awkwardness. In cases like this, you really have to fake the confidence and show them that you don’t feel awkward. When you’re confident in your skills and in taking photos, your clients are going to feel much more confident in front of the camera as well.
Remember, YOU are the expert & they don’t need to know about your nerves. So portray yourself as the expert!!
Tips for Photographing Awkward Clients
#1 Set up an engagement session to get to know them.
This is specifically for wedding photography. It helps the couple get a feel for your style, your posing, and how you photograph them. It also shows them who you are as a person. If you’re not able to meet up for an engagement session or it’s not a couple, try to meet up with the client for coffee to get a feel for their vibe. It also gives them a chance to get a better feel for you and your personality. Building that relationship with them before the session or wedding day is key!
#2 Communicate, communicate, & communicate.
Communicate with your clients. Overprepare them for the session. When it comes to this type of communication, tell them how you shoot and pose beforehand. Tell them how to prepare for the session as well. What do they need to bring? What can they expect from you?
The worst case scenario is they don’t read any of your prep emails. Best case scenario is your client is someone who feels like they need prepped and you give it to them. They show up knowing what to expect and feel ready.
#3 Play music during the session.
A lot of photographers play music during their sessions. Playing music during the session takes away that awkward silence and the sound of your shutter. Music can help your clients feel at ease and loosen them up a little bit, especially if it’s music they like!
A good way to find out their music style is to send a questionnaire before their session. In this questionnaire, you can also ask them what locations they want and what vibe they’re going for. This all goes back to preparing the client beforehand in tip #2.
#4 You won’t know they’re awkward until they get there, so always plan for it.
There is a rare chance the couple will tell you beforehand that they think they’ll be awkward. Always expect that every client you’ll meet for a session will feel weird in front of the camera. If they end up being great, it’s like a gift! If not, then you’re ready to handle it!
#5 Most couples feel awkward because you give them no direction.
When it comes to sessions, DIRECT like you’re directing a movie. This goes for weddings too during portraits. Tell them exactly what to do and how to do it and don’t be afraid to redo it.
Be very specific about where to put their hands, their faces, and what to do. When someone sees that you’re going to direct them and tell them exactly what to do, it helps them loosen up a little bit.
Movement is the ultimate thing to use with awkward clients to get them comfortable. Plus, it’s a great way to break the ice. Movement is normal and it feels natural for them to be moving around.
When I have awkward clients I always start with something like walking because it’s a natural movement. There are so many variations of walking you can do like pushing and pulling, hip bumping, and slingshotting. The piggyback is also a really fun one too!
Figure out what your clients are good at, and keep doing variations of that. Some clients are really great at straight faces or laughing or looking at each other. Figure out what they’re comfortable doing and what looks natural to you. Keep doing that.
#7 Take lots of candids.
Spread out your shots to capture in-between moments and get candids during that time. Don’t just shoot during the pose. Always have your camera ready and shooting at all times. It’s not great to overshoot, but you never know when that natural, candid moment is going to happen. The more photos you take, the more opportunities you have to end up with great photos at the end.
#8 Talk to your clients.
Let them know they’re doing well. Sometimes people can feel uncomfortable because they feel they don’t look good. As photographers, we have the opportunity to say, “You’re doing great!” or “I love when you do that!”, etc. When you tell them what they’re doing well, it boosts their confidence.
Make them laugh from behind the camera too. Some couples may not think you’re funny and that’s fine. If you can make them laugh, you’re going to get great candids out of that.
Keep talking (even when you’re not shooting) to make it feel like they’re just meeting up with a friend for photos.
Prep your poses ahead of time. Have an idea of where you want your session to go like knowing you’re going to this location to do this and this other location for this. Specifically with awkward clients it eliminates that silence between poses when you keep the session moving.
#9 Get to know your clients.
Set aside the first five minutes of the session just to chat. Relationship building is KEY for all of photography, but most importantly for awkward clients. The relationship aspect is huge for client experience and important for your business in general.
#10 Don’t tell them if they do look awkward.
If the subject looks awkward in the current pose, don’t tell them it looks awkward. This is CRUCIAL! Take the photo, but make a mental note about not doing that pose again. The worst thing you can say is, “That looks weird.” Let it slide and move on.
Don’t keep doing the poses that they’re struggling to look comfortable in. Focus on the ones where their smile looks natural and they look like they’re thriving. A lot of times they’re thriving because I’m hyping them up and telling them that they’re doing great! You could even show your clients the back of your camera so they can get a glimpse of what you’re capturing! It gives them some reassurance to relax and that you know what you’re doing.
At the end of the day, the feeling of getting your photos back as the client is amazing. Even if it’s not the most creative or Pinterest worthy session you’ve done, it’s still your job to capture their relationship and memories. You’re giving them an experience of confidence in front of the camera. It’s a privilege to capture stories like that!
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