A Session Spark: a little burst of life to jump start your photo shoot planning

I got tired of my vision being shot down by clients…. then that ah-ha photography moment happened.

I realized clients weren’t actually shooting down my photo session ideas like I thought. What was happening: they didn’t understand. They couldn’t envision what I could in the same manner, which is far from rejection. If you share this vision of photographing reality, then maybe this blog series can help you too.


How do we get our clients to see how we see?

We must give them a vision. You know how people learn differently? Some people learn easier by hearing. Some learn easier by seeing. Some learn easier by doing.

We can talk until we’re blue in the face, but chances are they aren’t going to 100% think like you. Why not start to put a picture in their brain. I don’t mean showing them dozens of session examples – then all they want is what the other people did.

We must give them a vision of themselves.



The big thing is to softly remind them why they hired you. They were attracted to your photos. They want what you produce. They have to let YOU do your thing. Otherwise, can you produce what they are asking for? Are they going to be happy with the results? Also, are you going to be happy with the results if you let them dictate the photos and you come unglued from your own vision, values, and mission?

The next time you have a client that wants you to rush over to their Pinterest board to check out their ideas and you’re thinking, “I don’t want to shoot like someone else,” stand up for yourself. Explain to them that you are going to start with a clean slate. You will build your session based on questions about their life, not some pose that looks cute.


Trigger Memories: Session Sparks

I found the best way for clients to see and understand how to prepare for a documentary style photo session is to show them. By triggering memories, you will draw out emotion. You will trigger ideas.

So what is a Session Spark?

When you’re on the spot and asked to think of your favorite memories, if you’re anything like me, your mind draws a blank. Think about what happens when you talk to your best girlfriends and you’re deep into listening to a story of a memory. Often it will trigger your own memory of a story and you’ll start sharing too. The conversation progresses from that one story and you’re lead into more memories and stories. 3 hours and 4 glasses of wine later you are in a state of nostalgia and longing to relive some of those stories! .

This is exactly what happened when the idea for a back-to-school shopping session was born. I was out for dinner with a girlfriend and the talk about back-to-school shopping with our own moms sparked the idea for this one of a kind session. The session took place with a mom and daughter and turned out to be a priceless piece of their history as art. They can look back at these photos to relive real life memories. The session had a far deeper meaning than one where they dress up and simply look pretty for the camera pose after pose.

A Session Spark is a little burst of life to jump start your photo shoot planning. It’s like your best girlfriend initiating a conversation of ‘remember when?’ and favorite memories. I’m sharing some of my own cherished memories and listening to reader submissions as well. I hope these Session Sparks trigger a memory of your own. These are great to get your wheels turning or to share with clients to help trigger their own memories. After all, if you are into the documentary style of shooting, this is the raw, real life stuff you want to photograph for them.

Make sure you use #sessionspark on your social media posts to submit them for the blog series. Let’s all help each other develop the documentary style sessions for our clients that we long to do! Here’s one to Pin:

photography session ideas

Author: MarieMasse
I help client documentary photographers fine-tune their workflow + marketing game, so their work is filled with sessions that represent their voice + client values while earning a living. I shoot undirected, off-beat stories that aren’t preserved often enough (like the story of couples before starting a fam or becoming empty-nesters – a dream project of mine), so my clients’ old box of photos is a meaningful, visual diary of their life + legacy to leave behind.

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  • I am so excited to have discovered this blog site!!! I read the main article and was like yes that’s so me! I love photography, but struggle with how to make my sessions different with dumb props and poses, and I have a love/hate relationship with pinterest. Thank you for giving me my Ah-Ha moment!! You have seriously relieved so much stress! My creative brain has been on overload for a long time, and I was just like you producing stuff I wasn’t 100% in love with at all.

    • I love hearing that, Marcy! There’s an old saying about our feelings being universal – there are no doubt clients out there that will appreciate what YOU want to deliver in photos <3