In my last three articles, I expressed my beliefs regarding the beauty of real life and I detailed ways to overcome client insecurity. With this philosophical platform under our feet, let’s discuss the session itself!
The only way these types of sessions can be effective is if the photographer believes the ‘Real Life is Beautiful’ mantra. Each session must be approached as an opportunity to capture something special, regardless of how mundane the subject matter may seem. If the photographer doesn’t truly believe that reality can be beautiful, he will be focused on all of the things that do not matter, rather than on capturing the things that do. To effectively orchestrate a true lifestyle session, a photographer must give up his desire to control and create, and allow himself to enjoy the opportunity to observe and document. With that in mind, I’ll share my approach to lifestyle sessions.
Prior to my sessions, I always ask a few questions via email. These questions are important to the process, as they allow me to understand what’s important to my clients. If this is my first session with a client, I ask all three of these questions. If it is a follow up session, I just ask the last question.
1. Introduce me to your family.
2. Tell me about your home. Where do you spend your time, and what do you do in those spaces?
3. What is it about your child/children at this stage that you NEVER want to forget.
I don’t give any additional instructions regarding how they should answer. Oftentimes, the way they answer gives me as much information about them as their actual answers do!
When I receive their answers, I do my best to commit the information to memory.
• I copy this information into the notes section of their calendar appointment, and I review it often.
• By the time I arrive at their home on the day of their session, I should be able to parrot their information back to them with ease!
• Armed with this knowledge, I ring their doorbell and excitedly greet them by name.
• The first part of each first session (after a big hug & exclamations about how adorable their child is!) is a walk-through.
• I always request that my clients give me a quick tour of their home before we begin our session.
• I refer to their responses to my email questions, and ask them to expound.
“Before we start, I’d love it if you would give me a quick house tour. I know that you mentioned that you do a lot of snuggling in the master bedroom, and she’s getting her bath in the kitchen sink, and you like to read to her in the nursery, so I’d just love to see all of those spaces so I can create a game plan for us to follow.”
As they are showing me their home, I mention the things that they’ve already told me. I want my clients to know that I listened to their responses, that they are important to me. On occasion, they mention something completely new during the tour. When this happens, I make mental notes, because this new addition is just as important as the list that I already committed to memory.
Once the house tour is complete, I tend to outline a “game plan” for my clients. This creates a flow for the session. I want to capture Real Life, and it can be hard to capture the nuances of my clients’ reality in just an hour and a half. The game plan allows me to set up expectations for the session, and helps us to be aware of what is coming next.
“Okay, awesome. This house is so adorable, and I’m excited about all of the places I get to shoot here! Since you said she just woke up from a nap, and is probably getting hungry, let’s start out nursing in the rocker. Then you guys can go ahead and give her a bath and change her, and we’ll do a bit of snuggling in the master bedroom. Then, as long as she’s still up for it, maybe we can go downstairs and read on the couch with the dogs for a bit. Does that sound like it will cover it all?”
Now there is no confusion about what might be going on. I am not dogmatic about this plan. It is a guideline rather than a strict directive, but having a plan in place helps create a sense of direction. When we’ve been in one place for awhile, and I’ve captured what I need from that activity, I can easily move the session along by referring back to the plan.
In order to stay true to the nature of Lifestyle Photography, I never pose my clients. In order to create flow during the session, I refer to our email questionnaire and to our game plan. I do not capture real life by telling Mom and Dad where to sit and what to do. Instead of putting myself in charge of the situation, I put my clients in charge. (It’s their life, after all. They know it best!) I ask them questions:
“If you three were just spending a few moments together in this room, where would you be?” When they answer, I say “Ok great. Go do that.” If they need additional encouragement, I say “Go snuggle in the bed with Baby. Pretend I’m not here.”
With a bit of guidance, parents will naturally fall into doing what they are most comfortable with, and it will simply be my job to capture it. With Lifestyle Photography, the focus isn’t on posing. Real Life isn’t poseable.
The keys to a successful lifestyle session are arriving armed with knowledge, creating a game plan, and allowing that information to guide the session. If clients are given the opportunity to interact with one another naturally, true emotions will emerge. My job is not to create moments for families, my job is to create an environment in which they feel comfortable interacting naturally. After I’ve done this successfully, the rest is simple. I merely point my camera in the direction of their love, and I capture it.
Written by Amber Holritz the lifestyle baby photographer
Amber is a wife, mom, and photographer based in Chattanooga, Tennessee. You can see more posts by Amber in the coming weeks here on the Pictage blog as well as at www.amberholritz.com.