Clients Think They Can Take Family Photos Themselves? Ha!

Last week, I had a Mentor Me Monday question land in my inbox that I could not wait to answer! Sarah says that she has been getting the client objection, “I love your work, but it’s just family photos. We could take those ourselves!” Her question:

Do you ever hear this and how do you respond?

Actually, I hear this ALL the time. I also hear people say things like, “anyone with an iPhone can take photos like that.” It makes me want to shake them. You know how much work all of that studying and practice has taken you to get where you are for people to dumb it down. The truth is, yes, people can document their lives. They can even set a camera up with a self-timer or use a remote so they can be in them. But what they can’t do, is be fully present to live in the moment and be the outsider looking in.

Documentary photography by it’s true definition is simply documenting history. When you add a professional photographer to the equation, family photos turn into documentary art. A client isn’t going to have the ability to take a artful, documented photo of when her husband grabs her hand. A client isn’t going to have the ability to see that when she is looking at her son, that dad is looking at her. You see, when you are the outsider looking in, you have the upper hand. You become a biography writer with your camera. Clients need to understand this, so start the conversation with details like these.

I think where we often lose clients in this style of shooting is when we describe to them that we are capturing their real, everyday life. Yes, it is what we are doing, but it sounds so simple – simple enough that maybe they can even do it also. Try a different spin on your approach. Perhaps lure them into a mystery scene and ask them, “How would you like a photographer to tell the story of your family from an outsider’s perspective? A story that fills in the blanks with photos taken when no one is looking?” When you approach them with the answers to the objections before they have a chance to object, their whole perspective can change.

If you do get the objection, return the response asking them how they can be present and take the photos? Don’t be all smarty-pants about it, but ask them if it would mean something to them to have photos that showcase the connection between them those involved. Give them a challenge like our Double Dog Dare. I know they may think differently after taking that challenge!

Anyone can take a photo, but the question remains as to whether they end up feeling something from that photo later on? It’s argumentative, because some clients are blind to poor technicalities – like terrible skin tone or whatever. Accept that not all clients will be your client either – and that comes with any genre of photography. There are people that don’t appreciate the technicalities – like lighting, non-crooked photos, and perfect color. They aren’t your client. Your client, is one that can be completely fulfilled with a box of old photos, a glass of wine, and good conversation on a Saturday night. Those the clients you want to seek out.

One last tip, last year, I ran a contest giving away a documentary style session. People had to tell me their ideas from their real-life that they would be deeply touched to have on film in order to submit their entry. Once you create a buzz and get a few sessions under your belt with client testimonials, more clients will be willing to get on board with the idea. Here are some more ideas about introducing a new shooting style to your clients: read the post here.

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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