Psychology of a Photography Session

Today's post comes from the book How to Create a High Profit Photography Business In Any Market, 2nd Edition by James Williams. It is available from and other fine retailers.

Creating a genuine interest in your client when they come in for a photography session can pay big dividends when it comes time for them to place their order.

At our studio, we try to pamper the client as soon as he or she pulls into the parking area. If it is raining when the client arrives, someone will greet them outside with a large umbrella and escort them to the door. We also help them carry any items they may have brought for their session.

As the client approaches the door to the studio, the first thing she notices is her name on a marquee sign near the entrance welcoming her to our studio. The door to the studio is beautiful; it has a very rich look and feel to it. I have visited studios with dirty, squeaky, front doors covered with photography association stickers from years past. I’ve been at some studios where you have to jiggle the doorknob just right to get into the place!

Once the client has entered the studio, we guide her to the dressing room. On the dressing room door, there is a small framed sign with a mini spotlight shining on it that says “This dressing room reserved for [client’s name].” Once again, we are creating excitement even before the session begins. Inside the dressing room there are two mirrors mounted on the walls, a full-length mirror on the door, a bench built into one of the corners, clothing hooks, a clock mounted on the wall, and an electrical outlet for a curling iron, hot rollers, etc.

Learning about your subject’s interests will allow you to interact with him or her more naturally, and this will help you produce images that have meaning to the client. This, in turn, will help you to increase your sales.

Once the client has everything situated in the dressing room, I review the clothing and props that they have brought in and ask if there is a certain pose, prop etc., that they would like. Some clients request a certain pose or prop but most leave it all up to me.

Once we have the clothing changes in place, we start the session. I always shoot with the room lights low so that I can see the lighting effect that the modeling lights are creating on the subject. This also creates very nice mood lighting and makes the client feel special.

From the moment the client sits on the posing stool I explain what I am doing and why I am doing it. It is important for the subject to know exactly when you are going to take the photograph. Nothing can be worse than sitting on the posing stool with no idea what the photographer is doing or when the camera is going to fire.

A great expression is key to creating salable images. This image shows a white birch that has served as a framing element for many senior portraits. The trunk focuses the viewer’s gaze on the subject’s smiling face.

Constant conversation with your client is essential for good expressions, so find out what interests your client and ask engaging questions. Establishing a bond with your subject will increase the subject’s comfort level, and their relaxed demeanor will result in better, more genuine poses and expressions in the final prints.

I find it easy to communicate with my clients, especially the high school seniors. Seniors are very savvy. They can tell in a heartbeat if you are not trying to form a genuine bond with them.

Remember that if the client leaves the session liking you, there’s a pretty good chance that they will like the pictures you took of them and will be more likely to show their appreciation in the sales room.

A high camera angle helped to create this dramatic image. A projection box was used to create the white dots in the background.

It’s difficult to teach you personality from a book. The hard facts are that people who have a wonderful personality are probably going to succeed at about anything. Before I got into photography, I was very fortunate in my career at General Motors to be around some extremely talented managers. With very few exceptions the people who rose to the top were not only exceptionally bright but had a great personality. They just had the knack for getting people to do their jobs—and enjoy them as well. What does this have to do with photography? Plenty! A photographer with great people skills has a much better chance to succeed. Not only will his clients be happy, but he will have employees who enjoy working for him. What a combination for success!

Creating a relaxing mood at your studio will help your subjects be more relaxed in front of the camera.

Much of the overall atmosphere of your studio is created by you and your staff. As the studio owner, your outlook will impact your employees. If you are a warm, fuzzy, easygoing person, your staff will be pleasant too. If you are uptight and unpleasant, you’ll find that your employees will feel the same way.

When your client enters your studio it must be clean and well lit, and it should even smell good. We have a liquid fragrance we put in a heat ring on one of our lamps that emits a pleasant scent that you notice as soon as you walk into the lobby.

A fish-eye lens was used to create the distortion in this unique sports shot.

Be sure to have comfortable chairs for your customers to sit in when they are placing their orders or waiting to be photographed. (Hopefully nobody is waiting more than a few minutes.) We have cushioned arm chairs around a large table for our clients to view and place their orders. When clients come into your studio to place their order, you want them to be as comfortable as possible. I remember once going into a studio and seeing a counter where the customers stood the whole time placing their photography order. Talk about how not to do something! Your furniture does not have to be expensive, but at least be sure that it’s comfortable.

Here, the 3:1 lighting ratio on the face, beautiful hair lighting, and a dark background added up to an outstanding photo.

Visit other facilities and take note of the layout, furniture, and the general cleanliness. You will be surprised at what you notice when you’re really looking.

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