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There are some branches in this industry where not having a pre-production meeting with a client would seem taken from a stupid comedy about how to fail. In fashion and commercial photography, where there are impressive amounts of money involved, these meetings are a given.
But for the other fields in photography, this doesn’t always seem so important. I know that not every type of photographer makes the same money, but history should have proven by now that not meeting the client before the actual event or photo shoot could lead to disastrous outcomes.
Let’s say you are a portrait photographer and you are contacted by a client via email or phone. It’s very easy to make an offer and for them to say yes or no. You can also decide the time or the place on the phone. So it’s no big deal. But what about the rest? What rest? Well, let’s just say there are a few other solid reasons why you should want to meet with a client before you pick up the camera. Here they are.
Type of work expected
You have no idea what that client really wants from you. You are probably saying to yourself that he has chosen you because of your online portfolio. Maybe, but it could also be that he thinks you are a professional who can take the kind of photos he wants. It could be something seen in the past and described from memory, or a full scale reproduction of a famous photo. You have to sit down with your client and hear what he needs. Only then can you decide if the job suits you or not.
Study your client
If you are a portrait or wedding photographer, the first thing that should naturally come to mind when talking about or with a new model, is what kind of interesting traits you can see in that person. It’s obviously not something you can tell from an email conversation, and talking on the phone might not reveal as much as you would hope. Meeting someone in person and having a real life conversation is the best way to make a few mental notes about what you can bring out in the future photographs.
No matter what anyone thinks, the end result is your responsibility. Even if the model has the expressive potential of a chair, it’ still your fault if they are not satisfied. And this takes us to the wardrobe. You have to be in control of what the client wears on the day of the shoot and you have to be diplomatic about it. Obviously, again, the best approach is a live one. Have a discussion with your client about the clothes that are intended for wearing that day and set your own rules, in polite way. As a guideline example, bright colors can be very distracting and unless the clothes have to stand out in the images, it’s best to keep things simpler.