ow, go in for a kiss!”
It’s something I say pretty commonly during engagement shoots. I always try to change the way I speak to my clients depending on their individual personalities — so for a relaxed couple, “go in for a kiss” may be about as crazy as it gets.
But about a month ago, I was on an engagement shoot with a terrific couple of ours. They’re really fun, they joke with each other a lot, and there were a lot of good vibes coming from them in general. So for them, the old “go in for a kiss” line wasn’t what I was looking for — that would be far too vanilla.
We were walking down this shaded path lined by 40 foot trees, and the lighting was perfect. When the timing was just right I yelled “go in for the kill!” Our future groom reacted just as I had hoped… he grabbed her, brought her in close, and really laid one down on her… and for a moment, I thought we were going to capture a really romantic moment between the two. And then, this happened.
My first instinct was to make sure they were okay (other than a bruised ego, they were fine). But what happened next was pure magic.
They finally loosened up! It was probably the greatest thing that could’ve happened during the shoot.
They laughed together, she lovingly yelled at him, he was embarrassed — it was a whole slue of emotions that came out. We now had something to bond over, something to make fun of. It was our own personal inside joke. And with everything now out in the open, our couple was able to relax more in front of our cameras.
The result was pure magic. Their shots would have come out great regardless, but with an ice-breaker like that behind us, we were able to capture scene after scene with natural, smiling individuals who were proud of who they were together.
While it would be ideal for every client to fall down like this, it’s certainly important for every photographer to help their clients feel comfortable with you (and more importantly, in front of the cameras). With that, here’s a short list of things I do to help my clients loosen up:
- I joke about awkwardness: this is probably the very first thing that I do. “So here’s the thing guys, sometimes I’m going to ask you to do things that make you feel awkward, and that’s okay. Don’t hold it in — laugh, do what feels natural during that time.” By letting them know that there will be moments where they feel a bit uncomfortable, and that there’s a purpose to it, they’re more likely to OWN it. And that turns a cold moment into a magical one.
- I make fun of myself: if your client sees that you’re calling out your own imperfections, they’re less likely to feel uncomfortable about theirs.
- Lots of positive reinforcement: clients love to hear that they’re doing a good job (even if they aren’t). Often times when my camera is up to my eye and I’m clicking away, I’ll talk to them and be a bit over the top about how amazing the shots look. As you do this, you’ll see any stress or inhibitions melt right away.
- I find commonality: the shoes he’s wearing, the color of her eyes, something they said — there’s always ways to find things in common with your clients — and if you point them out, they’ll feel more comfortable with you and ultimately, the situation.
- I joke about the groom doing a great job: let’s face it, these engagement shoots are mostly about the girls. The guys are generally there because they have to be — and while they’re happy about it, having a professional photo shoot is probably not at the top of their bucket list. And with most poses and scenes, a lot of attention is put on the girls and making them feel beautiful. So after a minute or two of adjusting and getting things just right with her, I’ll often comment to the guy that he’s doing a great job (even though he’s basically doing nothing), which always gets a solid laugh.
For more great ideas, our CloudSpot Facebook Community chimed in on how they break the ice on photo shoots. Ultimately, your couples booked you for YOU. Don't be afraid to be real and take the opportunity to break the ice during a time with your clients that usually always starts out a big rocky!