It sometimes feels like clients only seek photography services (documentary especially) for the MILESTONES (weddings, birthdays, events, etc.), as if only the big moments are worthy of hiring a photographer for / spending money on.
In my experience (after starting out on this lone, documentary road in my local area), when money is attached to photography, it’s as if (some) clients have a paralyzing need to create a session (get pictures) where they look amazing.
Even when they say they want meaningful photos, there’s this Keeping Up with the Jones’ vibe that trumps the magic that could be preserved without any effort.
They overcomplicate. We let ’em by not putting our Chef hat on.
When this feels true for my clients, I’ve noticed a synchronicity:
Their beliefs around the purpose of photography are different than my own (ours as documentary photographers).
Not better, not worse, simply different.
By meeting them there, I can better show them another way to look at pictures. They can have the opportunity to decide, rather than continue the path of the ONE way they think photography has to be.
For example, they may look at your pictures and think they’re beautiful, connective, full of love, joy, etc. They want those things too. So, they inquire.
But, there’s a difference in beliefs that’s unspoken: you shoot your best work when your clients are honest and accepting of their life as it is, but this inquiry sender believes they have to plan + orchestrate the perfect setting / activity / appearance in order to achieve those pictures they’re after.
It’s our job to be the professional – to guide them away from self-sabotage of BETTER pictures.
.I’m not saying documentary is “better” than other genres, I’m saying we can give our clients the metaphorical permission slip to let their guard down and allow you to make more intimate + iconic work for them.
In my ebook, Family History Photo Sessions, I share how one of my girlfriends and I were out to dinner, reminiscing about “the good old days” when the idea to photograph back-to-school shopping was born. I would have LOVED something like this of my mom + I when I was a teenager.
Naturally, as a photographer, this was easy to see, but to the non-photographer, probably not to easy to see. Right?
That’s why, if you want to inspire your clients to look honestly at their life and see the little nuances that compose their relationships (like the simple experience of back-to-school shopping), you have to ASK.
How time amplifies the value of an experience:
My friend and I never shopped together growing up, but our stories about shopping with our moms were wildly similar. We realized that our almost-30 selves are now living this one thought which I used to roll my eyes over:
My mom always said, “If I could go back knowing what I know now, I would.”
Back then, I thought, “whatever, mom.” I was eager to get through school + grow up. Life was about tomorrow instead of today.
Back then, back-to-school shopping was about being spoiled with new shoes, new clothes, a new backpack, and school supply galore.
Back then, it was that added bonus of sharing a meal with only mom – something delicious in between stores, which for me meant my Hot Stix cheesy bread and Strawberry Crush soda.
Back then, it was about how unfair it was that I had to get the cheaper, store brand supplies, when I wanted the more expensive Five Star brand notebooks.
But today is different.
I don’t remember the clothes I bought or the school supplies. I feel grateful for that time with my mom and remember the feeling of being with her. Pictures of THAT would be priceless.
What small memories could you amplify BEFORE time makes you (or your clients) increase the value?
Learn exactly how I turned a simple shopping trip into a coffee table book worthy session for this mom and daughter. They even printed some of these pictures as wall art in their “makeup room” in their home.
The photos below are from the coverage of that little idea with Stacie of Colorvale Photoshop Actions and her daughter, Tatum.