It’s honesty hour on the blog, and wow am I dropping some truth in this one. If you have ever felt frustrated by a photo shoot that didn’t go as planned, this one’s for you.
Isn’t it funny that you never see photographers posting in their Instagram captions “BOY was I nervous when I made this photo! I was barely able to hit that shutter button and had absolutely no idea whether this was going to look good or not. The couple wasn’t really listening to my direction, and my emotions were taking over my good sense. I was totally unprepared for this.” You don’t see it, because it’s tough to admit, but it happens! In fact, in my first year of photography, it happen a lot.
A few years ago I had a photo shoot that was…. not my best. I went in feeling unprepared, and clumsily struggled to place people in the photo and get them to do what I wanted. I had poses I wanted to try, but they just were not working. I wanted to elicit certain emotions, but I was so stiff myself that I couldn’t find a way to relax the people in front of the camera.
I went home feeling defeated. I culled the images and they were fine but they didn’t feel great. I knew they weren’t my best. I didn’t want to edit them and I definitely didn’t want to put my name on these and deliver them to a client. I know we’ve all been there before. But… how does it happen, is it preventable, and how do we fix it once we’re in the middle of it?
First off, go in with ridiculously high expectations for yourself, but no plan on how to get there. Save images to a mood board on Pinterest, but don’t ask yourself exactly what about those photos you like. Is it the blurry background? Is it the location? The emotion? The colors?
Next, make sure that you don’t talk to your clients at all beforehand. You don’t want to set any expectations with them. Hopefully, they find you on Instagram and just pick you because they need any ol’ photographer. If they’re looking for a newborn photographer, but you’ve never seen a baby in your life- don’t bother telling them! Surely you’ll figure it out in the moment.
Absolutely don’t do your research beforehand. You found photos on Pinterest that look good, and that’s all the research you need. Never mind that every client is wildly different from the next, and that everybody deserves a custom experience, tailored to their specific needs. Don’t think about variables that could affect those good photos you’ve seen all over Instagram- you can figure it out when you get there.
Finally, make sure you worry about getting paid before you worry about learning your camera. Set that bad boy to auto and let technology do the heavy lifting! Plus, you can just fix it in photoshop later or slap on a Lightroom preset and call it a day. Easy. Peasy.
But it’s all based in truth. I have said every single one of those things to myself before, and I’d be willing to bet that if you’re honest with yourself, you’ve said at least one of them too. Maybe not all at once, maybe not intentionally. But these thoughts have a way of creeping into your mind, and it only takes one of those thoughts to completely bungle a photoshoot before you even start.
Don’t fret! Even if you go into a photoshoot absentmindedly believing any of those things, it doesn’t have to ruin your photo shoot, or your shooting career, or your life (sound dramatic? You’re talking to a total drama queen here).
Remember that mortifying photo shoot I talked about in the start of this post? It didn’t make me stop shooting forever, and here’s why. I didn’t let it define me. I took responsibility and used it as a learning opportunity. Even though I didn’t want to use the photos from the shoot, I was still able to use the experience and grow from it. Here’s what I did:
First off, I was totally upfront with the client. “Hey, I just got home and went through your images! There are a few super cute ones in here, but honestly, I wouldn’t feel right delivering these photos to you. Would you be up for a re-shoot? On me!” And that opened a few doors for me.
It broke down the barrier I had put up by pretending to be an expert when I didn’t actually know what I was doing. It gave me a chance to make things right with a customer. And it meant that when I went back in for that second chance, I was able to take a deep breath and think things through. I was less focused on Being the Perfect Photographer, and more focused on delivering for my clients. I was level-headed. I listened to what they wanted, and answered with what was feasible for me to actually do. And you know what? The second time around, everything went off almost perfectly.
Every photo shoot- good or bad- can offer you something, if you’re willing to open yourself up to failure. When you walk away from a photo shoot feeling defeated, ask yourself- what specifically went wrong? Did I manage expectations? Did I effectively communicate?
Photography is not an easy sport, and it leaves a lot of opportunities to let things fall by the wayside. Starting next week, I’ll be writing a few new blog posts aimed at helping the photographer uplevel their skills and deliver amaaaazing photo experiences for their clients. But it all starts with being able to recognize when things go wrong- which is why this blog post is the first!
What missteps have you taken that led to a less than perfect photo shoot? Don’t be shy- we’ve all been there!
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