The importance of the pre-portrait consultation

It’s a wonderful feeling when we book our first client ì we get off the phone and realize that someone actually hired us to photograph their family, for money! It’s such an exciting feeling to know that we’re now earning something for our work.

On the arranged date and time, we arrive at the photography session and then reality sets in with a sickening thud.

Picture this: everyone’s wearing the wrong clothes; there are more kids than we thought and they seem grumpy; there might be one or more pets; dad’s ticked off because he’s missing his tee time with his friends; and mom’s stressed out trying to keep it all together. Then the horror of it all really starts when she looks at you and says, “Thank goodness we’ve got a professional to do this quickly and properly. By the way, how much is a 5 x 7 going to cost?”

Sound familiar? It’s amazing how quickly excitement can turn into sheer panic. But there’s an easy way to avoid this horror story.

The pre-portrait consultation

Leading clients through the hiring process, being photographed and purchasing portraits with is a series of baby steps. If we expect them to take too large a step at any of these points, we’re asking for trouble.

When they call to ask about photography, the goal should be for them to visit you for a consultation about what you can do. This is the perfect opportunity to:

  • Ask about the family
  • Discover any potential problems
  • Meet the children if possible
  • Find out what pets they want to include
  • Advise them on clothing
  • Let them know what to bring
  • Educate them on finished portrait options
  • Talk about the session itself
  • Decide if the assignment is still a good fit for your business
  • Collect the session fee
  • Reassure her that everything will go smoothly

The consultation is a critical step

I can’t stress how important this has been to the success of my portrait sessions. There have been many occasions where I’m sure the session would have gone very badly had I not met with the client beforehand.

Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that it’s a waste of time, or that you’ll sort it all out on the day. A pre-portrait consultation adds to your professionalism, and your portraits and sales will improve drastically as a result.

Nigel Merrick

Picture: Nigel Merrick Nigel Merrick is a full-time professional photographer and founder of the Zenologue Blog, dedicated to helping other photographers improve their businesses and to the preservation of the professional photography industry as a whole. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

Written by

Kain is a co-founder, creative and marketing director at Fotomerchant. You've probably seen his template designs, blog posts and video content. His photography website is home to a collection of lomography, instagram and experimental photography.

  • I had the funniest session just recently, with a pre-shoot consultation too, where I met the family at the beach. The kid started crying, and the mother said, oh I forgot to tell you yesterday, she absolutely just hates the water. Ok we will stay on the sandy area ….kid still crying…the mother said, oh and another thing she is scared of sand. Why the beach then? We go to the park all the time, thought a change of scenery would be nice. Doh! Images came out fine though so all was ok in the end!

  • Kha Nyiso Photography

    When a client asked me; “How do your consultations go”, I drew a blank for 2 seconds and had to quickly improvise, I answered “I only do consultations when dealing with more than 4 subjects in one session”, which was a lie. That’s when I realized that it needed to hop on the Consultation band wagon.

  • Trudeau Photography

    Can anyone give there two cents on “Mini-Sessions”? This doesn’t generally involve pre-consultations. Mainly the clients sign up for a short session where they come at there given time and that’s it. I would at least meet for 15 mins before hand to discuss a few things if I were to do this. Any recommendations?