Intro by Skip Cohen
I first met Kristen Jensen this past summer and her background is different from so many artists. Because Kristen spent most of her career in front of the camera she's got an incredible ability to empathize with her subjects and instantly builds that special trust level to bring out the very best in their expressions. Plus, having spent so much time on the commercial side of the business, many of her images have a strong illustrative/editorial appeal - she's able to be contemporary, without being too over the top for her clients, who, as you'd expect, love her!
There's a lot in this post with a touch on direct mail and Kristen's approach to a Fall promotional offer to a few quick tips on working with kids and even a little help for client's on graphic design work. One statement Kristen mentions really says it all:
"Gaining trust with your client and/or subjects is the trick to taking great photos."
From commercial/beauty photographers like Matthew Jordan Smith to Kirk Voclain photographing seniors to William Innes talking about engagement shoots, each one has talked about the importance of trust. Trust and getting to know your subject is a key to great expressions and images!
Check out more of Kristen's work on her site and in Panasonic's LUMIX Luminary Lounge. Plus, you'll find some great tips from Kristen in the LUMIX Theater and a very special podcast she did here at SCU last summer.
I just finished sending my last family portrait JPEG to my client this year for their Christmas card.
Every autumn, I offer a discounted family portrait session to my clients. I like to send this promotion to my people via good old fashion snail mail. I really think direct mail is on a comeback. Heck, I know when I get something in the mail when someone has taken the time to hand write, I feel special and worthy.
Okay, maybe not that great, but it makes a difference in the email blast age we live in. Now, not all clients book a session from ever promotion, but sooner or later the family does book again. At the very least they refer me to a friend and/or book me for another type of shoot that my studio offers.
Being an early pioneer of Mom-tography I found family portrait shoots are very creative for me and it is great to be able to book a session with a snow or rain date. Also it is great fun to plan an imaginative story with your client. Although the sessions can be challenging, like when kids of any age don’t want to be photographed. All in all it is very gratifying knowing when you got your shot and you’ve captured something great that will last for generations. It is a “feel-good” shoot and a definite “win-win”.
Life became a lot easier once I switched over from my heavy SLR cameras. Once I started shooting mirrorless with the Panasonic LUMIX GH3 I realized the image quality was amazing. As well, I was less worried about lugging around all the extra gear and my back is happy now, too. Another definite “win-win”.
The list below is helpful to make things run smoothly from booking, shooting to the follow-up with your family sessions:
1. Book a shoot date-with a weather permitting date as a backup
2. Plan the location of the shoot-have two alternatives (I like to start at the clients home)
3. Coordinate wardrobe with client-have two alternatives. I suggest something color coordinated like natural/neutral fall colors or everyone wears jeans and white shirts. This always depends on the style of the family.
4. Schedule your Family Photo Session with your online hosting service (I use Pictage)
5. Pack at least 2 mirrorless cameras and lenses-feels good to travel light
6. Pack a GH3 Camera with a speed lite for fill-flash and a 25mm f 2.8 lens
7. Pack another GH3 camera with a longer lens. I love the 35/100 f 2.8
8. Set both cameras date, time to sync
9. Set both cameras to shoot rapid fire/continuous-with kids you will need to shoot lightening fast
10. Send a Thank-You and book a post portrait follow-up at your studio within 2 weeks from shoot date. When your clients see the images large they will be more likely to purchase large prints, canvas’ and framed images-which makes you the most profit for least amount of time, btw.
11. Ask your client to write a testimonial about you-don’t be shy
12. Ask your client to refer you to their friends and family-don’t be shy
13. Up sell your client on other types of photo sessions you offer. I offer weddings, business portraits, editorial shoots and advertising assignments.
It is amazing that once you do a fantastic job for a family that they will and do refer you to their friends and family. But, often I have been even more fortunate to find that my client has asked me to shoot business photos for them, too.
Take the Bouissou family with their four beautiful daughters. I did the typical shot of everyone seated in the grass, but then I asked them to walk for me. When I ask this of clients they usually look at me like I am nuts. Well, after years of modeling I call this the Eddie Bauer-Walk-Through-The-Field shot. I ask the family to walk a couple of times forward then back. It is fun and after they do it few times they actually like it. After this shoot Sarah and Bernard Bouissou (owners of Bernard’s Restaurant) asked me to photograph the two of them for their business website. I then shot food for their website as well. So you just never know what will happen from one family portrait session.
Being a Lifestyle Photographer is pretty cool because I have the opportunity every time I walk out the door to meet my next client. I met Julie Cromwell and her then 9 month old, Jack at the town pool. I was taking my 9 month old son, Noah to the same swim lesson class. We became fast friends and over the years would get the boys together for play-dates and birthday parties. I always tell my clients that they are 99% of the photo and I am only the 1% that happens to be there at the right moment.
Julie’s kids, Jack and Erin, are model-like kids. I just photographed the kids again after a four-year break and look how they have grown. I went back to the same beach at the same time and tried to recapture the energy and shot that we all loved years prior. When photographing kids you have to shoot low and fast. Again, I always have two cameras set and ready to go. One with a flash and fixed lens and one camera with a longer portrait lens.(see both shots of kids on the beach).
Besides the family photos, Julie wanted advice and images for her new business concept. I recently designed her new logo for her business, shot her new updated headshot and we are working on launching her new website this coming year. (see StyleWorx logo and Julie’s headshot. This extra work came to me organically and by keeping in touch with my client on what other services I offer.
In the colder months, I do most of my Family Sessions in my studio.
Now….the trick with photographing kids is to have literally everything ready to go. So when your client arrives make sure you have music ready, lights on-and someone home-ha, and cameras ready. Because little people do the funniest things when they don't think you are watching. With children you have to move quickly and it helps if the kids like you.
Last week my client brought her daughter Ava, to my studio do a Christmas card. Sounds easy, right? Well, 5 year old Ava was not in the mood to be photographed. She did not want to brush her hair or change clothes. So I first asked her what type of music she loves…done. Then I said that I used to model and be on TV (which I am sure she thought, yeah right granny) and that many people get to sit in my famous makeup chair. Then I whipped out all the flash and glitter i.e.; makeup galore.
Well, that was it for Ava. I made a bet that if I could do a little makeup then she could do her own after our shoot. The next thing I offered after the makeup session was a wind machine. She loved it. I made sure my camera was on fire rapid mode and went to town. Ava’s parents were delighted and so was I...that is was over! Just kidding!
Creating a photo session story is what I did for my clients Mirjam and Alain. They wanted to send photos of their boys back to Mirjam’s mother in Germany. Mirjam wanted to show the boys grandparents what an average summer day is like in Connecticut. So together we planned to do a picnic in front of an old barn. It was a perfect day and we all had a great lunch, too!
Gaining trust with your client and/or subjects is the trick to taking great photos. What works every time for me is sitting down with my client (s) and simply starting a conversation and getting to know each other. This is what I do right before all my shoots. Sometimes we chat for five minutes sometimes for ½ hour. I find this approach works really well with children as well.
I love shooting with my LUMIX cameras. I often tell my friends and clients that a photo shoot with me is just like having a conversation and getting to know each other. Being a Luminary makes that experience even easier.
Welcome to Luminary Corner. Besides being a recognized member of the professional photographic community, each post author is a member of Panasonic's LUMIX Luminary team.