If you're not familiar with the term custom photographer, hang tight. I'm going to explain what it means, why it's important, and why I chose this style for myself.
It all pertains to a photographer's method of workflow with the client. A custom photographer is the difference between a photographer that streamlines clients and has an exact formula for each shoot, and a photographer that tailors their sessions to each client. It's the difference between going to a photographer's studio and sitting in front of a backdrop, and having the photographer come to your home or client's location of choice for the shoot. It's the difference between asking clients to look at the camera and smile, and getting to know the personality of the subjects and allowing that personality to show through in the photos.
The most important feature for a custom photographer—in my opinion—is truly getting to know the clients. Hearing their story, understanding who they are, what their personality is. It's about communicating enough with them prior to the session, to understand what their needs are. What are they hoping to get from their time with you? It's important to know this.
My process of working with families entails many steps. One of the first—and most important steps, when I sign on a new client is the process of getting to know them. Typically what I do, outside of conversing with them quite a bit about the process, is send them a questionnaire that I use as a tool to understand the dynamic of their family.
I ask questions like:
• What are some of your favourite things to do as a family?
• How did you and your partner meet?
• What is something that might bug you about your kids now, but you know one day you'll miss?
• What are some of your favourite things about being a parent?
• What is your favourite spot in your home, and why?
• What is a funny story or memory that makes you and your family laugh?
• What is something special about your kids now, that you know you'll want to remember?
• What is favourite quality of each member of your family?
And most importantly:
• What are you hoping to get from our session together?
• What type of memory(s) are you hoping to document?
The reason for asking these questions is not only to try to understand the personalities and dynamic of the family, but it also allows them to feel comfortable with me. They will likely be inviting me to invite me into their home, and spend a good chunk of time with me (usually about 3–4 hours). I'm about to observe them in their most natural and intimate state. It's important for the whole family to feel like they can trust me.
I understand that can feel a little weird, and make people nervous. More often than not, it takes about an hour for everyone (including myself) to really start to let loose and feel comfortable enough to just be themselves. The intention of the 'getting to know your family' questionnaire is to help this process along, and break the ice. And hopefully we'll all be new friend when the process is all said and done!
The second important reason for getting to know the family before a shoot, is so that I can portray each family member in the most accurate way through my film and photo footage. The reason I chose the documentary photography approach to begin with, is because I have an obsession with other people's stories. I love hearing other's stories, and love having the ability to tell their story through my work. I want to document families in the most accurate way possible. They are meant to look at their film and photo collection as an accurate depiction of them at that moment in time. It's a memory for them, to have for their entire lifetime. It's critical for it to be documented accurately.
It's unbelievably rewarding to look back on the the footage from a family session, and observe those intimate moments that were captured. It tells me that the family was comfortable enough to be themselves, and that's the best kind of memory to have.
If you any questions about my method or process, always feel free to reach out and say hi.
I love chatting with families, and I'm always happy to connect.
Happy Friday! xx
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