Look beyond the price tag when investing in portraits.
You don’t need a bargain – you need value.
While recently chatting with a client after our branded lifestyle portrait session, she told me that she booked a portrait session months before while in Europe for a speaking gig.
Once I got over the fact that she cheated on me – sigh, tear wipe – I leaned in to listen to her story.
She told me a photographer she knew through a colleague of hers was in the same city as her at the same time, so she decided to take advantage of the opportunity and get some portraits taken outside of the US.
The photographer charged an extremely low rate for her sessions, so why not, right?
Once they met, they spent time capturing portraits in my client’s hotel room, on the street, in the nearby park and a bunch of other locations.
After several hours together and a couple of hundred photos captured, I asked my client how many keepers she selected from the pile.
Wait, what? ONE PICTURE?
Yup, just one photo out of that entire experience.
I was a bit dumbfounded, to be honest.
Mind you, this was moments after she and I went through the pile of photos we created over the course of a couple of hours. In our case, the difficulty, fortunately, was getting rid of photos because she loved so many of them.
The difference between these two portrait session experiences was staggering.
Now, I’ve been hired to clean up other photographer’s messes in the past, but honestly, the disparity that she described was hard to grasp.
I wanted to know where she thought the difference lied between the work we did and what she got in Europe.
So, my client obliged with a laundry list of reasons:
The other photographer is not specialized to serve speakers, authors, and coaches.
She specializes in fashion photography, which is awesome for fashion work, but, not for branded lifestyle portraits for thought leaders.
The goals for these two different genres live on completely different planets, and, as a result, the photos will not resonate as deeply – not only with my client but with her own audience.
All photographers possess different strengths and gifts behind the camera – hire the ones that serve your community specifically in order to maximize the value of the image content you capture as well as the experience of the session itself.
No strategy session beforehand.
While we spoke at length about my clients’ outfits, locations to shoot, the lifestyle activities we would capture, in addition to the overall mood of the portraits, there was zero conversation with the other photographer beforehand.
She just showed up and clicked the shutter button on her camera for a couple of hours and hoped for the best.
While this is a perfectly suitable mode of operation for an impromptu session or just having fun with the camera, this is not the way for any member of the speaker, author and coach community to acquire marketing assets that will promote their services to those they serve.
These images need to be dynamic, compelling and authentic to them, which is why it’s important for the photographer to understand who they are, who they serve and why they do what they do before they unpack their camera and lights.
They need to understand the goals of the portrait session for their client and how these images are going to be used throughout their online presence.
It’s a little more involved than hoping a handful of the images are in focus, 🙂
Reviewing the photos throughout the session.
While photographing with my client on the street, I walked over and showed her the way the images were coming out on the back of my camera.
And, mid-way through our session, I stopped down the session in order for us to review what we had captured up to that point on my laptop, which is a much bigger and better view of the photos.
She was extremely appreciative of the feedback I was giving with respect to how she could leverage these images both on social media and other marketing avenues. She also found it helpful that I offered my opinion as to which images better represented her brand and should be used as speaker submission photos.
We also discussed what we thought was working and not working with regard to the aesthetics of the images – lighting, locations, her facial expressions, and wardrobe – and we made notes to implement these adjustments for the second half of the session.
At one point, my client remarked how she not only didn’t do this before her portrait session in Europe, but she’s NEVER reviewed photos with any of the photographers she’s worked with in the past – and she’s worked with quite a few.
Normally, the other photographers simply emailed her a link to a shooting proof gallery and it was up to her to figure out which images she wanted to use, let alone see them mid-session.
Of course, it’s possible to make those decisions on your own, but, when you work with a professional photographer, it’s about optimizing the entire experience – from consultation call to the delivery of the images – in order to maximize the success of the session.
It was really interesting to hear about these differences between my service and the one my client received while working abroad.
Her experience highlighted the need to hire a photographer that not only understands her specific image content needs based on her niche, service offerings, and personality, but also to create an experience and hand hold throughout the entire process in order to ensure maximized results from the session.
Long story short, don’t bargain shop for this shit.
Find a photographer who can collaborate with you to create an entire image content library that you can leverage long-term for all of your marketing needs.
Also, remember one very important point; most people will be introduced to you through your online presence – your social media profile, blog and/or website. Make a strong first impression with images that present you in a way that befits your level of expertise and passion you have to serve those who need you.
You’re going to need a hell of a lot more images than just one to achieve that, 🙂
John DeMato is an NYC branded lifestyle portrait photographer and storytelling strategist who serves speakers, authors, coaches and high-level entrepreneurs across the country. His 50+ page e-book, S.H.A.R.E. M.A.G.I.C.A.L. I.D.E.A.S., lays out the how what and why behind creating a memorable and referable online presence – sign up to get your FREE copy today.