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The Biggest Lesson I Learned in Photography | Tina Case Photography

August 29, 2014  •  Leave a Comment

The single biggest lesson I have learned so far in photography hasn’t been about which lens to use, what camera body to choose or what aperture to select.  It also isn’t about the white balance, the lighting or shutter speed.  The biggest lesson I learned boiled down to something that is so obvious but often overlooked, especially if you’re working with a client you’ve worked with before. The lesson I learned was finding out exactly what my client wanted to achieve in that particular photo session.  The list of questions below helps me discover exactly what my client wants.  And if they were fuzzy about what they wanted at first, they should walk away with a very clear picture, pun intended, after answering these questions.

[To see a copy of my session form, click here. This can be filled out, or better yet, conducted in person or by phone.]

Taking photos between tasks as my family builds a home for the needed.  Mexico.Taking photos in Mexico as we build homes for the needy.Taking photos between tasks as my family builds a home for the needed. Mexico.

When a client has hired you, whether it’s the first time or the 100th time, it’s imperative to ask these key questions before each session:

  • What is this session all about for you?  Find out what the essence of this session is about for your client.  You might learn that it is a special anniversary, or that it’s the first time they’ve had professional photos since they got married (even though they have grown-up children), or that a relative from far away will be there.
  • What are the MUST HAVE shots you hope to achieve during our session?  If your client says they don’t have any particular shots they are looking for, ask again.   Keep digging until you learn something.  Help them get started by having them look through old family albums, magazines, or Pinterest to find examples of photos they love and that evoke something inside.  Pinterest is one of my favorite tools to use and I am using that more and more to learn my client's preferences and style.
  • Where does your client want to conduct their session?  Whether it is at their home, at a park or by a meaningful landmark, find out what setting your client wants.  Do some legwork and find new locations during your days off.  It’s a good way to practice your skills in different lighting and to create a catalog of locations to recommend.
  • Do they want a change of outfits?  Often my clients, especially high school and college seniors, want to have a change of outfits.  That way their final album is more versatile and they can use those images and post over several months with new images. 
  • What details do they want to capture?  Sometimes it’s possible to get lost and not see the forest for the trees.  In other words be sure to look at the big picture AND the details.  I made the mistake of thinking I captured some party details but did not go back to check it out during the event to see what changed.  Be sure to go back and forth throughout an event circling back several times to ensure you capture those details.  And make sure to review your photos to be sure they are tack sharp.
  • Props or no props?  I’ve been using more and more props lately, and that’s because my clients are asking for them.  From age blocks to baskets and mirrors, I have been having more creative fun using props.  They are another way of inserting a unique and personal element into the portrait.
  • Are they open to having photos taken the day before or after an event?  I added this question because I have been doing a lot of event and anniversary sessions.   I have learned the hard way that those scenarios don’t always present themselves to the best settings for family group photos.  For instance I recently photographed a Bar Mitzvah reception at a sports center.  Everyone was sweating, the fluorescent lighting was harsh and everyone was wearing logo t-shirts.  However, to the family, that was all part of the attraction.  We discussed how these shots might look so their expectations were set.  We got our sweaty shots but they turned out great and the family is happy with them.  But you never know until you ask – so this is a key one to discover.
  • Is there anything else I should know?  You might be surprised to learn that your client is going to repost your images (if they purchase the digital package) to their website.  If that’s the case ask for photo credit and a shout out if possible.  Especially with event photos, those are often reposted in social media.  I had a whole album of photos posted to a company’s Flickr page.  They did not tag or list my name on each photo. Fortunately I know enough about Flickr to add a comment with that information and now that company knows how to do this in a batch process for the future.

Don’t have the unfortunate happen to you. Find out exactly what your client wants for each and every single session.


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