Not long ago, I was speaking with another photographer. She doesn’t shoot with a documentary approach, but she’s in awe of it. One sentence she said stuck with me: “I’d love to have a documentary session, but I don’t know what I’d do with the photos.”
‘Wait, what?,’ I thought.
She went on to say that other than an album, she wasn’t sure if she could display any of them.
In my head, I’m thinking, ‘photos of real memories are all I have on my walls.’
The difference in our perspectives surprised me, not because we were in disagreement, but because the thought of displaying an unposed, memory-driven photo hadn’t crossed her mind—which makes sense as she’s a talented studio, newborn photographer, so that’s where her mindset is.
My home is full of my own documentary imagery of my family and life’s adventures.
The stories on my walls are plentiful.
There’s no greater feeling than a quiet night at home and rounding the corner to see not only the beautiful faces of the ones I love most, but to recall THAT DAY with them, a small moment with them, or a piece of their personality that I adore.
Maybe you’re new to the Fearless and Framed community and need a little inspiration in how you can use your documentary photos…
But first, I want to share a little lesson to help you in marketing your family documentary approach with clients:
It’s not about convincing, it’s about influencing.
Photographers in our community have had similar experiences in recent years: clients are a baffled by the concept of paying for candid, unposed photos saying things like,
“The session sounds fun, but I want photos that are wall-worthy, not snapshots we can take ourselves.”
This has been a lightbulb moment. As a photographer, we can easily get sucked into the negativity, because sometimes it feels like rejection and we leave it at that. We turn into a salesman or we give up. Friend, rejection isn’t what’s happening here.
It’s a difference in perspective.
It’s our job to help potential clients understand our perspective in a way that draws on their heartstrings.
You and I know that the images we create are not “snapshots we can take ourselves.” (Though let’s face it, we all know Ellen Covey is the rock star of storytelling self-portraits and proves it can be done, but our clients don’t have this skill set).
You and I know that documentary photography is totally wall-worthy and beyond.
You and I know the impact of seeing our stories and the personalities of our loved ones in a tangible form and they’re also a bridge to our many phases in life – both past and present. They’re a reminder also of valuable lessons learned, even when at the time the photo was made we don’t understand the lesson.
But have your potential clients been introduced to THIS side of photography yet? Are they clear on the impact a single image or series of images, FULL OF MEMORY, can be on their walls, in a postcard that lands in a loved ones mailbox one day, or added to that box of photos that gets pulled out + paired with great conversation from time to time?
More importantly, are YOU doing your part as the professional to educate them about the experience or are you assuming they “get it” because they’ve seen your pictures?
What I’m getting at is this: our belief isn’t what matters. It’s about what our potential clients currently believe and then doing OUR part to meet them where THEY are and introduce them to a perspective they’ve never had experience with.
Ok, enough with my marketing message spiel… let’s get inspired.
15+ Ways To Display Documentary Photos Your Clients Will Obsess Over
1. In stand-alone frames or a series of frames.
Like this beauty from Mari Sierra.
Or this series of beach photos paired with nautical decor from Courtney Westendorf.
2. Hanging in rows on a string.
“I used a simple string (literally just a ball of cheap yarn from my yarn bin), tiny nails, and those little clothes pins from the craft store. Not fancy, but easy to switch out on a whim, and encourages me to order prints more often.” From Amy Bundy
3. Gallery Walls full of real stories.
Or this super beautiful and design-smart way to add height to a wall and let those eyes be led up above and beyond the tv as Courtney Westendorf did here:
And if you were working away in this space, wouldn’t you be surrounded by inspiration from all the things (and people) you love?! Loving this from Corrine Trively.
You can have colorful or multi-sized galleries like above, or you can have a sleek, cohesive look like these from Hannah of Point Four Photography.
3. A split photo display.
… like the one from Hannah Cross of Point Four Photography.
4. In an album or photo book, because your photos tell a story, after all…
as seen here by the talented, Hannah Cross of Point Four Photography. Here’s what she had to say on displaying storytelling, documentary-style imagery throughout her home: “Surrounding myself with images that show our everyday life and my family interacting together just makes me happy! Every time I glance at them I can’t help but smile a little. And *sometimes* they even affect the way I talk to my girls… I’m a little more patient with them or I decide to say yes instead of no to one of their inconvenient requests. Not only that, but my family loves them! All three of my girls will sit around together and quietly flip through our photo books. I make it a priority to create a book that is an overview of each year and these are the definite favorites!”
And these show-stopping albums + prints are from Jana Wiehahn of Lemon & Lime Photography. “I love them, because it makes the photos so accessible. I have found my kids paging through their, and our photobooks (and boxes) quite often. It sparks conversation and helps us all to remember so many more things than we would have if it weren’t for the prints and books.”
5. In spontaneous spaces that remind you of how blessed you are when you least expect it.
6. In an image box, small or large, to dig through every once in awhile when you need a little pick-me-up.
… like this box + set of photos is from Lauren Bodwell.
7. A large, singular photo (print or canvas) that tells a story in just one photo.
… like this printed memory from Marie McLean
or like this baby moment from my own home. I remember thinking when I shot this how his baby days were almost over and before I know it he’ll be a toddler (he was 9 months old here). Sure enough, he is now 2 and this photo takes me back to his slower, quieter days as the baby era is exiting the Masse house. Marie Masse
8. In a variety of frames on a shelf…
… with other well-designed elements to compliment the photos as you see here from P&W Photography.
9. As your computer backdrop.
Who doesn’t like to work with a recent or not-so-recent memory bringing joy to your day? This one is also from P&W Photography.
10. My new obsession: in a slideshow.
Show on your computer or with a USB on your tv, this is such a fun way to have some “background noise” in your everyday or next family event. People will stop and watch the show for sure! You can see a series of slideshows and fusion videos in this post here.
11. In a DIY cork-board collage of prints…
…like this insanely awesome display from Andrea Moffatt of Little Story Photo.
12. Easily swappable photos in clipboards…
… like this one from Danielle Hatcher.
13. In themed-displays, such as albums or wall prints that come out for the holidays…
… like this Deck the Halls session in an album from Marie Masse
14. On postcards like this Postcard Pack from Artifact Uprising
Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve been obsessed with sending handwritten letters and notes. I’m kind of a nerd in that way about sending + receiving mail. This product makes it all too easy – print a client’s session into a postcard pack as a gift and it’s becomes the gift that keeps on giving as they are encouraged to stay connected to loved ones beyond just holiday-time. (What a great bit of encouragement to do with our own photos for that matter.)
15. Photo Statuettes from Miller’s
Have you ever seen the movie Stepmom?! This product totally reminds me of the photo project inside of that movie. I’ve gifted these many times and here’s an example of my girl and our trip to Myrtle Beach… talk about making a memory come to life. This is another inexpensive & powerful idea for a client gift.
Homework: Create a page or blog post on your site, inspired by this one, using your own photos + client photos on display to help educate + inspire your future potential clients. Come back and post the link the comments so we can see!