by Ron Pybus Published 01/08/2007
Part 6 on the business aspects of being a successful photographer by Ron Pybus MA ASWPP.
This particular article is based primarily at portrait photographers, although the same basics still apply to wedding photographers.
It is not sufficient in today's marketplace to offer purely a standard package, especially when you are shooting babies and families. Yet there are still photographers who stick to a standard format, no matter what is actually required and a few make a good living because of the exclusivity they have created. The majority appear to be on a downward decline.
Having a standard range of poses is fine in an 'in-store' situation where there is little space and no chance of variety and all you a catering for is families who want a photograph (any photograph) of their little one, for as little as possible.
If you are working from a studio, be that in the high street or as part of the home, you need to offer something different to your clientele. Firstly, they can get standard photos of the baby in the store for a fraction of the cost; secondly, a wide range of different poses sets you in a different league; and thirdly it makes a sitting fun rather than boring monotony.
Just as in today's wedding photography there has been a move towards reportage style in children's and family photography. At the higher end of the market you will probably have a pre-sitting meeting where you are able to discuss the customer's exact requirements over a coffee and advise them regarding clothing and agree a photographic style.
At the middle of the market, the planning is often done over the phone where customers are advised on what to wear and a style is ascertained. This is usually followed by a brief discussion when customers actually arrive for the shoot. I regularly use my website when chatting about a booking on the phone. I direct them to a page of hints and tips and also to my section on portraits at www.pybusstudios.co.uk so that they are clear on what to wear and my particular style of photography.
When customers arrive at my studio I always sit down with them, usually at child level if children are involved, and we go through a range of pictures of different styles in order to gain an impression of what they require rather than what I can offer. I use my actual camera room for this process so that they all become more familiar with the surroundings.
The walls of the room are also covered in photographs in a range of styles and these are used to give them ideas and to show them enlargements and framing, so they serve a multitude of purposes.
Only when we have looked at a range of images do we discuss what they want and more importantly whom they are for. If they are for Gran, for example, close-ups of the children and slightly more formal poses tend to be the order of the day, whereas if they are for a young couple, they usually want more relaxed images. If they are for his parents, he needs to be at the front, or for her parents she needs to be at the front of any family group.
If young children are involved, they do, to some extent, control the results. Much depends on how co-operative they are, but the aim should be to record the child as naturally as possible, rather than forcing them into a few set poses.
I recently had one couple who had been to another photographer previously and were somewhat horrified when the child was almost forced into holding its hands in a particular way, because the photographer claimed that this was the way that hands should be photographed. The child looked uncomfortable, miserable and tense, but the hands were perfect. They brought the picture along just to show what they did not want.
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