Client appearance

Discussion in 'Wedding and Event' started by melissapapajphotography, Jun 26, 2011.

  1. Okay, so I am wondering - mostly from wedding photogs here, but it can apply to other sessions: How far do you go in helping the client with how they look (not the before stuff like suggestions but when they actually show up that way)? If a client shows up with messy hair, no makeup, unshaven or to tight/revealing clothes, do you tell them to do their hair/makeup/shave? I know it is different with fashion, but aren't weddings/portraits about capturing the look they present upon their arrival? Also, is it overstepping my bounds to tell a client that an expression/smile doesn't look good?
  2. Most of the people you shoot aren't going to feel very comfortable in front of the camera, or know what to do. Try to stay away from any negative language, or you may send them into self conscious black hole that you can't pull them out of. Try to be positive, supportive and helpful without getting patronizing. If an expression/smile doesn't look good, just suggest something else.
  3. Humour is the way to go I think - keep the session light hearted and I think you might be able to get away with some suggestions. Obviously though there is a difference between positing the idea of rhinoplasty and sponging some gloop off a tie.... :)
  4. I offer suggestions based upon the type of session and location, and season.
    Right now it's hot, so I try to get them to go casual if we are doing outdoor images. I give them ideas of solids vs prints based upon an urban or a natural setting, With most guys, their fiance wants them to dress up on a day they kind of dread, so I encourage them to let the guys pick out their clothes with only a few notable points, like no t-shirts with advertisements on them, no sports teams shirts for the majority of the picks, etc.
    For the women, I suggest manicures because the ring will be displayed, and pedi's if they are planning on open toed shoes.
    As for revealing clothing, I have met my clients before their session so I have a good idea for what they dress like, but if on the day of there is a loose fitting dress and they are going commando, I don't have any posing that would allow that to be noticed. Also I have women cross their feet at the ankle and angle away from the lens. For guys, always crossed legs when extended, and sandals with shorts (or docksiders) or sensible walking shoes.
    Makeup presents it's own difficulty, but again I go back to what I said before, I've met them and I know if they are a "makeup optional" kind of person, if that's the case I can tailor the shoot to their likes and personalities. A shave, I carry razors with me, if it's that bad I'll have them use it.
    Now I do try to coach with expressions by doing a before/after things like pulled in chins (jowly) or sort of pissed off expressions I counter with a different set of instructions, then go through the set very quickly with the client and say, "I think this one makes you look angry, what do you think?" and move on to the one I like and say, "here you look happy, but not a grinning fool, I like this better, how about you?"
    My clients pick me in a large part due to my personality, and insistence on communication. Open, straight forward and to the point, they respect me when I give them my opinion, I respect their opinions and ask for them as well.
    For me it works, of course your mileage may vary!
  5. I'm having a hard time with your premise when it comes to weddings. Since most people are pretty careful about how they look for their own wedding, I assume how they appear when they show up is how they intend to appear. So I say nothing.
    However, if it is an engagement session, I may say something if the topic isn't something deeply embarrassing to talk about regarding another person. Messy hair and no makeup up--yes, I might say something, couching the comment with humor or with just a slight tone of concern--as if they might have overlooked something, which anyone might do. Tight clothing or shaving--maybe. Tight clothing only if it is something that might have been overlooked--like maybe pointing out how clothing bunches up below the braline in back or something. Tight clothing that is obviously well put together probably means the person intended it to be that way. Shaving or not shaving is an intentional thing, I think.
    As for telling someone their expression doesn't look good, it depends on several things. First would be whether I felt I had a good relationship with that person and whether I was confident in my evaluation of that person. Second would be how it might affect the whole of the session. If that person just looks goofy no matter what, and you get that feeling that they are going to be unhappy if you shoot the entire session that way, I might open a conversation even not knowing that person well. For all you know, that's the way that person is, and if it were an engagement session, for instance, the other person finds the goofy expression cute.
    I guess I'd use my intuition in most cases.
  6. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    The gowns and dresses which are generally worn by Women, have an obvious characteristic and have an obvious (and unique) display when worn on that particular woman, So in regard to tight or revealing clothing (on women) I take the view that the woman choose the garment and choose to display herself in that garment. If for example, that means there is abundant cleavage – that is her choice and I would include that element, as well as all the other elements of the Subject. On the other hand, if the line of the dress is spoilt by it bunching around a bra strap or it remains ruffled after her sitting and then moving to standing pose, then I would correct that or draw attention to the ruffle such that it could be corrected. I think these two examples encapsulate the two categories which we might find at a Wedding.
    I apply the same logic to make up – if it is an hot day and the make-up is compromised because of that then I might draw attention to that – the same about make-up with a few tears – it just needs touch up. On the other hand if a Woman arrived with Goth Style Make-up, it is obvious that that is how she chose to make her face.
    For Men the same applies but there are two areas which I find need addressing more often: the tie and the cost buttons. For men who do not usually wear a tie the knot often does not sit correctly or the top button is undone at sometime during the Wedding. Usually I ask if the bloke would like to straighten the knot – pointing out that the bloody things always slip down – BUT as the fashion is also to wear neckties with an open top button, I have also, but only on a few of occasions asked how the man wants the tie to sit, open neck or top button done up – but I note: it is us usually obvious which way the man intended the tie to be worn.
    The coat buttons is an area which I find often needs addressing and that again is usually with men who don’t usually wear (suit) coats. They almost always button up all the buttons and that looks silly and often as well as the jacket not sitting correctly make me man appear even more uncomfortable. In 99% of these cases I see a “relief” when “permission is given” to undo the buttons – so I think a casual intervention like this actually promotes rapport and loosens up an otherwise potentially nervous Male Subject.
    I think understanding the interplay between and the general personalities of the B&G (and the Wedding Party) is very important and having good Rapport is integral to any message we wish to send or control we might wish to have over a particular situation.
    Another specific point about make up – I think Vail F mentioned it a few months ago – low cut dresses and the make-up (foundation) line ending at the neck: that’s a tricky one and I think I would nail that at the home, before the “getting ready” shots: but I have not had that happen to me but I do have a long chat before the event.
    As for men and shaving – I think it is possible for a man (in the turmoil of emotion) to forget to shave on the Wedding Morning: I think it is equally impossible to ask him to take a shave if that is noticed upon arriving at the Church ten minutes before the Bride walks down the Aisle. Again it is fashion not to be clean shaven so I don’t think I would necessarily be the first to suggest for him to have a shave, this reminds me of a scene in “The Dirty Dozen” .
    A “catastrophic” mistake which seemed to have plagued me from time to time is the Bra-strap line showing on the shoulders and below, when the Bride is wearing a strapless Wedding Gown. (from the Bride wearing a bra up to the time of getting dressed, into the gown). Even though I mention this before hand, it has been sometimes forgotten. If seen at the home, usually there is enough time to correct with the Bride or Bridesmaid providing a gentle massage to remove the indentation: but if the first Photographic engagement is at the Church, it can be a problem – which thank goodness now for Digital Post Production.
    Engagement / Portrait sittings are more relaxed in regard to time available to pose and develop ideas and get feedback about poses/clothing etc (for me anyway), and Portraits is what I now do.
    So in this regard, yes, I tend to have more commentary and involvement but the engagement and conversation tends to ask a question with an implied suggestion of alternatives available: “your blouse has three buttons to the bust-line and the blouse falls very nicely opened to there for the front on standing shots and the tight shots we did at the lake . . . for these shoots I will be shooting slightly above both of you and you will be reclining in James’ arms – I don’t think we will get the bra’s material in the shot, but there will be more breast revealed, would you like me to show you as test shot?”
    Regarding telling a Client that their expression or smile doesn’t look good – I would not do that.
    I have had conversations with people, where I have expressed my need to capture some different emotions from them, however: I think it is my job to find those emotions or to relax them enough for the emotions to rise more easily – telling them they don’t look good would not be a good start to that process.
  7. I am actually referring to engagements, not the wedding day - sorry. In meeting with my clients initially, I always tell them things to do and not do for engagements including - going a little heavier on the makeup. I don't mention brushing their hair because to me, that is just a given.
    I recently had a client that showed up at her engagement session with her hair quite messy, only base makeup and the groom unshaven and hair not brushed. Which is exactly how they looked when I initially met with them and signed contract. The engagement session was in a country/field setting so it was quite a bit more casual. I asked her if she needed to comb her hair at the beginning and she said no. So, I assumed that was their "look" - which is fine with me. I just delivered her engagements to her and she is unhappy with them because she feels like the groom has goofy expressions and their hair looks sloppy and unkept.
    I am just struggling because really - Is it my responsibility to make sure the client does their hair after giving them all of the advice/engagement checklist beforehand? If they are that worried about how they look, shouldn't they hire a stylist or something? I feel like her photographs are technically good and don't really feel like I could have done more to make them better unless I told her their appearance was in her words "sloppy" - but how far is too far when telling a client that they look bad? What if it is just their look?
  8. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    Well that frames my response in a different light: I don’t change much as I’ve already touched on this, but taking in to account your description of how they were dressed and groomed when they arrived for the Engagement Session, I think it probably one of two issues:
    • A case of people hearing the sound of their own recorded voice for the first time and not liking what they hear
    • Testy customers.
    My first thought would be the former.
    Sure you might ask how could that be? ? ? . . . as everyone has seen photos of themselves likely they have happy snaps of themselves and facebook pictures together etc . . . and in those they (she) reacts: “Oh that’s typical Ben” etc . . .
    But could it be that they thought that a “Professional” would make the magic of “everlasting” Photos, which depicted Ben in a different light?
    When they (the Bride to be) sees the final result she is disappointed because it is still just “goofy unkempt Ben” better lit and technically good nice poses and a great locale . . . but still capturing the “Goofy Unkempt Ben”, nonetheless.
    You (Melissa) would be in a better position to know the exact answer as to "Why" the Bride is unhappy - and I suggest you begin looking along what I have described.
    If I am correct, then I think you will need to sort out exactly what it is the Clients (she) requires of you (and also Ben), for the Wedding Portraits.
    but how far is too far when telling a client that they look bad? What if it is just their look?

    That’s a judgement call for each of us.
    It is predicated on the TYPE of service we each are providing and defined by what BUSINESS we each are in.
    If they were my customers I would need to know what exactly it is they require of me, for the Wedding and I would take this Engagement Sitting as a pathway to that – but that is why we did always did/suggested Engagement Sittings as doing same creates the Rapport necessary (for my style of business) to work more efficiently at the Wedding: some business styles do not need that.
    The first question for you to answer is: what is it that your business providing to your Clients?
  9. William - do you really talk about your client's breasts like that? Of course, I'm not a woman but I can't imagine how uncomfortable that would be. I prefer to ask kindly, "Could you button one more button on your shirt, please?" or "For these shots, why don't we button one more button on your shirt?" I've used this before and the client is well aware of why I'm asking and is probably thankful that I'm not making a big point of it.
  10. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    John, In general terms that is how I converse when shooting, yes.
    The actual words might vary, but generally that is how I interact on a shoot: simple, direct and polite.
    I would NOT ask a question phrased as you described.
    Both give soft DIRECTION premised upon an ASSUMPTION that she does not want her cleavage shown and / or that the photographer considers same, inappropriate.
    Making value judgements of what the Client wants and / or censorship decisions is not my job.
    As to the words used when conversing: “Breast”; “Bust-line”; “Bra Strap”, never received negative feedback, when I have used these words, with Clients.
    Cultures and what is “acceptable” are different throughout the world – mostly all of my Portraits (& Weddings) have been of White Anglo-Saxon or second generation European People, raised near or on the East Coast of Australia living in the large Cities there.
  11. Melissa, I'm laughing a little bit, and I hope you are, too, though maybe it's a little too soon for you. :)
    How much control do you have over the soon-to-be-groom's "goofy expressions"? Guys are generally tougher nuts to crack than are girls when it comes to getting them to pose patiently for the camera. His facial expressions are partially a result of 1) his personality, and 2) his attitude that day.
    But you of course also influence his facial expressions through 3) your interaction with him, and 4) your interaction with the bride-to-be, and 5) the extent to which he is aware of how he appears.
    I assume you have an approach to interacting with your clients that suits your personality, so I won't dwell on those interactions except to say that, the more you know the clients and the more they know and trust you, the greater your ability to control their expressions and make them look good. But you know this -- I see plenty of evidence of it in your work.
    But sometimes we photographers forget or overlook that fifth element: making the client aware of how he looks. That little screen on the back of the camera can show enough detail to persuade all but the most reticent clients that they're not doing themselves any favors by holding this or that expression. Sometimes, a client simply isn't aware of how he or she looks.
    So, just showing the back of the camera to the client throughout the shoot is very useful -- not just when the client looks great (which helps subjects loosen up and enjoy the shoot), but also when they look goofy. A jovial "okay, you're gonna knock this off, right now, or I'm going to post THIS photo on facebook and mock you without mercy" might work for you, depending on your personality and relationship to the client.
    Showing an image every so often helps me get to know my clients. If I show the couple a few images in which the bride thinks the groom looks goofy, she'll probably say so. In that case, I 1) learn what "goofy" looks like, to her, even if it didn't look goofy to me, and 2) enlist her help in imposing some discipline during the shoot. I call it a win when I can get the bride to start smacking the groom on the chest (lovingly, of course, but still reprovingly) for not cooperating. :) This usually energizes the shoot.
    Showing images also helps avoid the problem with the bride's "sloppy" hair. Sometimes we just flash a quick glance to get a client excited. But there's a lot of value in stopping for a minute and looking at a few details. This gives you a chance to ask questions like, "Do you like how your hair looks here? How about your expression? How about his? I think this looks cute, what do you think?" ... and so on.
    Not only does this give your client a reason and a chance to stop and fix a problem, but it also grounds the client in shots he or she approves on site. If she later says, "I think my hair looks sloppy," and you have the right relationship, saying, "Wait a minute, you loved that shot when I showed it to you on site!" can help a lot. Sometimes, on the reveal day, the client is just having a bad day, and, seeing the photos, is harder on herself than normal. If you can remind her that she liked her look previously, this sometimes allows her to relax and appreciate what she liked about it when she first saw it.
  12. I like to take care of surprises in the first meeting or phone call...
    I suggest bringing touch up makeup and a brush to spruce up before the shoot. If a woman says she wears no makeup - I may suggest "how about just a touch of mascara and blush?" If she says she doesn't use any.. well, that's how she looks and she knows how she looks and is obviously happy with it. I don't push it.
    I ask the couple or client - what are the things you hate the most in photos of yourself. They know if they have a crooked smile or blink a lot or hate their profile and so on.. Then when we're shooting - I can let them know they are doing that 'thing' they hate in photos and say it with humor... I had a guy once that smiled real wide and fake and stiff looking. I'd just say - Ok - Let's try some without big smiles and show him how to smile with his eyes and relax the mouth. No one is offended because all this was discussed in advance.
    As to the shaving thing. Wow - I would imagine the guy likes the look or doesn't care. I might say to him that he may love the way the photos turn out but just in case - maybe we can do some with and some without? That, of course, would be a problem if we were meeting on location. If it looked really scraggly and horrible I might ask him if he was going for a certain look? I might ask if this was his 'normal' look or if he sometimes shaves? I wouldn't do it in a judgmental way. Some young guys (like my nephew) always have that sloppy look and they actually like it. If the guy says something like - "I just didn't have time" I might reschedule or find a way he can shave. If he says - Yup - this is my normal look... then I just shoot away.
    Just popped in while doing some research on possibly buying a 5D. Yup - digital.. Imagine that. And just for fun - I'm retired though I still do the odd small wedding and a bit of real estate stuff. Good to see familiar people and Nadine - who is doing a great job!
  13. You might approach the sloppy hair situation by describing how agonizing it is to retouch those small stray hairs out of the photos and ask if they would mind touching up their hair before you start shooting to save you time processing their photos.

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