Working with People: What I’ve Learned
I’m an introvert. Maybe that’s why I’m drawn to landscape photography. Although I’m accustomed to it now, I still get stressed out before a portrait shoot. The thought of posing people and telling them what to do stresses me out. However, with landscape photography, you still have to learn to work with people, whether it’s putting your shots out there in social media, advertising and putting prints in a local coffee shop, or making the sale. Here are some tips that I’ve learned.
Everything you do creates your image and defines your brand, whether intentional or not. This is perhaps one of the most important photography lessons that I have learned…and am still learning. It goes beyond just your portfolio and your website. You have to create connections with people. Personality matters. People will remember if they had fun and if they felt comfortable just as much as they remember the quality of the photo. The first time I assisted a wedding photographer, he said he never meets the bride and groom for the first time on the day of the wedding. For him, it’s a must to meet with them in person ahead of time to start establishing a relationship and getting a feel for what they are like. People aren’t going to act natural in front of a camera if it’s shoved in their face by a stranger.
If everything seems to be going wrong, you still have to portray confidence and professionalism and the customer most likely won’t even notice your internal emergencies. This seems obvious. If a particular pose isn’t the most flattering, no need to announce it. The customer isn’t going to see the bad shots anyway, right? Just move on to the next pose. If you totally screw up the camera settings when the light changes, just say “OK now let’s try something different.” It happens, get over it. The best way to portray confidence (particularly when doing portraits) is to always be talking to the customer. Direct them on what to do, but especially give them feedback and encouragement. The better you are able to do this, the more confidence they will have in you.
It’s Not All About The Photographer
It’s awesome when you get a press pass to an event and get access to go places that most other people don’t. However, it is important to keep a low profile and not draw attention to yourself. Learn where the boundaries are and do not cross them.
On some gigs you get the VIP treatment as a photographer and they really roll out the red carpet for you. On others you’re lucky if you’re given a second thought. In both situations, it is not a reflection on you and you still have a job to do. I was a photog at a wedding where I only had about an hour and a half to get all of the shots I needed. And that included the ceremony. (I did show up a bit early to get some “getting ready” photos). But after the ceremony and all of the congratulating by the guests for the happy couple, I was left with about 30 minutes. I had 30 minutes to get family photos (both sides), groomsmen and bridesmaids, the full wedding party, etc. At the end when I was trying to sneak in some portraits of just the bride and groom (how dare I do that), the groom stopped me after like 3 minutes, looked at his watch and said “That’s good. I think we got it.” In my mind, I was saying, “No. No, we haven’t got it yet.” But I had to keep in mind that it wasn’t all about me. Later when I delivered the photos, they were very happy with them. They received exactly what they wanted and were satisfied customers.
In summary, working with people is an important part of your work, even if you aren’t shooting portraits. The experience of working with you can be just as important as the quality of your shots. You should strive to establish relationships with your customers rather than just showing up for a job without saying much. Your confidence and professionalism can take you a long way towards creating your image. And finally, be flexible to your customers’ needs. Every job will be different so just go with it. In the end, it’s not about you. However, if you're an introvert like me, you'll learn to do what is needed on the people side of things, but really enjoy getting out in the solitude of nature and just taking pictures.
Next week we’ll discuss some more useful editing tricks in Photoshop Elements that might make your life a little easier.
Do you have any success or horror stories? Feel free to post your comments and questions to this post and I’ll be happy to discuss them. Happy shooting!
Bryan Rasmussen owns Chiseled Light Photography and is also a freelance photographer for a local newspaper. Follow him at www.facebook.com/ChiseledLight. He is also on Instagram, Flickr, and Fine Art America.