I won’t beat around the bush – I cringe a little bit every time I see someone post images of thin, beautiful subjects, captioned with a comment like “They were so easy to photograph!!”
I cringe because I know that there are potential clients out there who read that and say “Sure, they’re easy to photograph, they’re stick thin and gorgeous! I’m not photogenic, I’d just look horrible. No way will I be photographed until I lose at least 15 pounds.” And their frostiness toward booking a session chills even further.
I’ve been guilty of this type of post too, so I know firsthand – what the exuberant photographer probably meant was that the subjects were nice, fun to be with, cooperative, etc. That’s why they were easy to photograph. Unfortunately –
On the Internet, as in politics, it never matters what you meant. It only matters how people read it.
As we discussed earlier this week, negative body image can keep people from buying even beautiful images. Unfortunately, negative body image also keeps people from booking a session altogether.
As photographers, like it or not, the way we present and narrate our images can affect how potential clients feel about themselves. There’s a boatload of research indicating that when people leaf through magazines full of idealized images and corresponding language, they have an increased opinion that “thin” or “muscular” means “ideal,” and experience more body dissatisfaction. Thus, it’s worth your time to be aware of how you’re blogging, not only to contribute to a wider understanding of ‘beauty’ in this world, but so that shy or self-conscious potential clients know that they can come to you and feel accepted.
Writing is personal. It represents your brand. Thus, I’m not here to tell you how you ‘should’ blog, but I will tell you how I write my own blog:
1) People get excited to hire us when they see our work and say “I want that for me.” It’s a whole lot easier to accomplish that if they can relate to the people on their screen in some way.
Everyone can have loving relationships. Everyone can adore their children, flirt with their spouse, and/or giggle when doing silly and fun things. That’s what I focus on in blogging each session. Tragically, not everyone relates well to the idea of simply “being beautiful,” but everyone can relate to feeling happy, connected, content (which to me is beautiful). I try to be sure to blog about things that are accessible to everyone, so all my readers know that a satisfying session – and the resulting images – are within everyone’s reach, no matter how they feel about their appearance.
Sue Bryce photographs gorgeous portraits – but she also has a “before and after” gallery to show what the women looked like when they walked in the door. If all Sue did was post the “after” shots, I think a lot of people would be scared off because they’d feel they couldn’t ever look like that. But every woman can relate to her “before” shots. Brilliant. You don’t have to use the same approach, but it nicely illustrates the power of making your images relatable to your audience.
2) I purposely stay away from dwelling on how the family or individuals look, and spend more time telling the story of the day.
I describe the scene in rich detail. I weave a story about the relationships, the quirks, the funny accidents. I’m still complimentary, but try to keep mentions of beauty within a list of positive attributes (“smart, beautiful, and hilarious”) so that it’s not the focus.
I have a model-gorgeous friend who once told me that it sometimes makes her feel bad when all people talk about is how beautiful she is. She said – rightfully so – “There’s a lot more to who I am than just my face.” Even though we may mean well in talking effusively about someone’s beauty, they may actually appreciate more you talking about how you admire their compassion, their ambition, their awesome dancing skills.
Let me be clear – I’m not saying that you should never use the words ‘beautiful,’ ‘gorgeous,’ etc. I do all the time. People love hearing those words applied to themselves! By all means, use away. But as in all things, context matters. I work to never make it the focal point of the post or session.
3) I talk regularly about how the ‘best’ photos have very little to do with how you look.
Body image totally aside – I try to make it a regular point to say that photos aren’t just a historical document of what you looked like in 2012. They’re a record of your life, your passions, your values, your priorities. They’re visual history, yes – but as much as I love the typical face-forward portraits of my ancestors, the ones I treasure the most are those that show what their life was like. My grandfather in his university office with chemistry equations scribbled on the blackboard behind him. My great-grandma standing on her back porch with a baby on her hip, looking tired but happy. That’s who they were, that’s what their life was like. What a precious window in time. Do I care what they actually look like? No! The point is that it’s them. I feel emotional just writing about it. That’s what I’m trying to achieve with each client.
Look, I get it. The way people look matters to them. A lot.
Having a great image of yourself makes you feel fabulous. There’s nothing quite like it! It’s a huge reason why I became a photographer in the first place – to give people that amazing feeling. And pictures are now, more than ever, how people represent themselves to the world. (I have friends who I talk to regularly who I’ve never actually met in person – they’ve only ever seen pictures!) I understand the desire for people to look good, and feel good about that.
And yet, I feel that a major part of my job is to help people focus on the other valuable parts of a photo experience, and to not make “looks” a stumbling block that gets in their way.
When people worry less about how they look, they’re more likely to book in the first place. They’re more relaxed in the session, so the images turn out better. They’re happier. I’m happier. Everyone wins.
Worth considering as you open up WordPress or Blogger, no?