The one thing that seems to turn off a client on-location is hearing the photographer say, “I’ve never shot this before but we’ll see how it goes”. I am guilty of this on a few separate occasions but I’ve recently started shooting portraits and not had a problem. Why? Because I always take self-portraits, so it’s not technically lying if I don’t admit that I haven’t done a real portrait shoot for someone.
My point is, even if you’re trying to create new work, no one likes hearing that you haven’t shot something before when they’re standing in front of the camera. For me, there wasn’t really much of a transition from self-portraits to portraits of others, I just had to cut back on the photoshopping. It’s almost as if you have to go out and shoot the things you haven’t shot before you even shoot them for the first time for a client.
I’ll give an example, I’ve done commissioned work for a local museum pretty frequently throughout the past year. On jobs I get asked for a business card and/or a website. In my opinion, one is no good without the other, I want both. However, because of copyrights by the museum’s artists and also running the risk getting pigeonholed into shooting copy work I thought it’d be a good idea to make a website that advertises for something I haven’t gotten paid to shoot yet in conjunction with some of the copy work save the actual images because of copyrights and other things. One of the guys I worked with put it perfectly, “Do you need a photographer? Alex is great, he shoots chairs and wooden things for the museum but he’d be great to photograph your kid”. That doesn’t compute right? I can’t get paid for portraits if I don’t have any portraits.
I went ahead and got a few friends and friends of friends together to take some photographs for my upcoming website consisting mostly of portraiture. This way, I would get some experience photographing people in the studio and outside while creating the images that could get me started with commissioned work. The most important thing to me is getting those initial portraits done, so I made all the shoots for August free of charge. I’ve since shot all the portraits I wanted to shoot and I’m down to the last two dozen images to edit. Once those are finished I will have the portrait section of my upcoming website done. Now at least I can say, “Yes I have done a portrait shoot, yes I can do your portrait shoot, awesome” instead of the former, “I do mostly furniture but I can do your portraits”. The first statement sounds much stronger and from a potential client’s perspective I think I would pick that guy over the second guy.
The other section of my website is going to be more conceptual type self-portrait work, coming up with an idea, shooting, editing. Ideally I’d like to be able to photograph others with a concept in mind for the shoot but right now I’m happy with the giant leap forward I’ve made in the past month alone.
I can’t wait for you to see some of the portraits I’ve done.
I’ll keep you posted