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April 26, 2017

My Client Experience

What are people looking for when they hire a family photographer? What I’ve come to learn is that your photos are not enough. There are thousands of photographers out there with great equipment who know how to use it, and are talented artists as well. There are also people who have a decent quality DSLR camera who take pictures as a hobby and their stuff comes out pretty good too. Most people can’t really tell the difference. So how can you set yourself apart? What can you offer your clients that they cannot find anywhere else?

The answer is – yourself and a great client experience. Because portrait photography is a personal business. Your clients must feel comfortable with you as an individual, as well as a professional. Personally, if I can read right away that someone is easy going and non-judgmental, I’m much more likely to open up and be myself, not worried about what they’ll think of me if I’m a little overwhelmed and not having a great moment. I know I don’t need to apologize for myself because they seem to be the kind of person that understands life is messy. As a photographer, you may only spend a couple of hours with these families, but you probably see them at their most vulnerable. They need to know you’re going to make this situation easy and enjoyable for them.

Typical Scenario: A family has just spent several hours preparing to come and meet you in the park to get their pictures taken. The parents made sure their littles had napped, been fed, bathed and had coordinating outfits. After convincing them to put on an uncomfortable dress and tying a bow in their hair which they’ve now ripped out, they are pretty exhausted already. Mom also had to get dressed herself. Then she had to make sure dad didn’t have white socks on with his black pants. Then they had to get the kids in the car. Maybe there was traffic along the way (it’s Chicago, so yes there was traffic). Maybe they couldn’t find anywhere to park once they got to the portrait location. Then they had to get the kids out of the car, pull out the strollers, put away the Cheerios, and convince them the Cheerios would still be there when they got back.

After all that effort, now they’re worried their kids aren’t going to smile or cooperate, so you can expect that they might show up stressed. This is all normal and perfectly fine.

I want them to know that I value their time and investment, and I understand that they want these pictures to turn out well. I want them to know when they arrive that our hour or two together does not have to be stressful, even though life usually is. This will be playful and silly. Don’t worry if your kids aren’t smiling yet. Let’s just see what they do and give them some room. The best pictures I’ve ever produced have been when we can just play and laugh and let loose. No pressure.

This is the experience I offer. A relaxed hour or two together just being with your kids. Ignore me really, I’m just there to gently direct and watch the fun happen. How often do you get to do that anyway? With work and cleaning and cooking and church and events and play dates and phone calls and things breaking throughout your house…do you get to just be with your kids? Now’s your chance. Of course we’ll pose for some – get that family portrait you are so excited and proud to have. Those things are important. But if your littles aren’t cooperating at first, we’ll let them get out those jitters and come back to it.

And in the end, you will receive beautiful portraits of your children. They will be crisp and bright and sincere. The natural light will be covering them in its warmth and glow. You’ll wonder to yourself how on earth they turned out so well because all you remembered were your kids crying and playing in the dirt.

So far, being myself and serving my clients with love and understanding has proven the right way to go. All I can do is keep refining my craft and loving people well. That will always be enough.

Chicago Family Photographer