When a client says “I trust you”, it can be both a blessing and a curse – which sounds weird, I get it.
This past week, a client said those very words to me: “I trust you.” Full, honest transparency? In this case it was a curse. I’ll talk about the blessings a little bit, too, but I need to unburden myself first.
This was a lifestyle newborn client who contacted me back in August when she was still pregnant (#thankyou). Her family had recently moved to the state of Maryland and, after doing much research, she found me. She told me she loves natural light photography and she had the hardest time finding someone in her neighborhood whose portfolio looked like mine. She had to search pretty hard to find me because of the distance (I live an hour away from her) but she reached out because she loved what she saw of my work 😍
In this particular moment, the moment of booking, her trust in me was a blessing. She could’ve hired someone who lived around the corner but that wasn’t what she wanted. She chose me because she loved what I produce and that trust matters A Lot. Somebody saying “I trust you” enough to hire you even when it’s inconvenient. Wow.
Ok, so a little backstory. When I accept a lifestyle session (of any kind: newborn, maternity, family, whatever), the process is the same. During our consult phone call, we discuss the amount of natural light that comes into your windows and I ask about your wall colors and decor. This information is really important for a light and airy natural light photographer. Let me tell you a bit more about why…
I don’t strive for a “posed” outcome at a lifestyle session…I’m there for the REAL. For awhile, I doubted myself when I saw other photographers go into people’s homes, sight unseen, and shoot a session. I wondered why it was so easy for some…why the interview beforehand didn’t seem to be a requirement, why they never seemed to turn down clients when I, sadly, have –> due to their home not being an ideal setting for my brand of lifestyle photography.
But here’s the thing: I don’t just come to your home and pose you next to windows. My style of photography isn’t like that. There’s nothing wrong with posing clients next to windows – it’s perfectly acceptable and a lot of clients are completely happy with that. But I do things differently. When a client asks me to come into their home and do a lifestyle session – one of those “I trust you” moments – they are asking me to capture snapshots of their Actual Life at that time.
See, I don’t do a lot of “posed” photography in a lifestyle session. Yes, I will help you find the most comfortable and attractive “poses” but it really is lifestyle. My goal is to capture you living in that moment. Being home with your brand new baby, adapting to life with both a newborn and a toddler, handling the 2-year-old meltdowns, changing a dirty diaper, laughing with your Person about how this is now your life…those are the moments that I strive to capture in a lifestyle session. Real moments. Organic moments. Authentic moments…the “I trust you” moments.
Posing a client in front of a window – it’s not my style. I’ll do it for a couple of shots but I won’t fill a gallery with perfectly posed, window images. No, I want to memorialize your life right now, as messy and beautiful and brutiful as it is…and those moments aren’t captured in a posed window shot.
That’s why the interview beforehand is so important. I’ve spent a lot of time refining my brand and honing in on the aesthetic that I love so that I can recreate it time and again for like-minded clients. If your home has dark walls, heavy dark furniture and windows that let in a minimal amount of light, I’m not your photographer 😭 – at least not for a lifestyle setting. I will not be able to recreate what you saw in my portfolio in that type of environment. If you presented me with that background and said “I trust you to create light and airy photos”, I would fail you every time.
That is NOT what I want to do. When you say, “I trust you”, that Means Something To Me. I take your trust seriously.
So. What happens when I’ve done my homework? When I’ve quizzed you on your home environment, asked for pictures to validate that everything is ideal for the style that you’re coming to me for, and everything seems great…and then I arrive at your home on a cloudy day (boooooo) and find that I really am going to struggle to create what I promised you I would create??
Well. Here’s what happens. I show up at your home. I walk around assessing lighting. I internally FREAK OUT because I’m here now (potentially after an hour’s drive) and, come hell or high water, we’re doing these photos today. You trust me to give you what you asked for and, heaven help me, I’m going to deliver.
My professional-grade camera is up to the task. I adjust my camera settings to the max, in order to let the greatest amount of light come through, even though that may mean some grain in your photos (grain can be beautiful – it’s what the film photographers live for). I pull out my trusty, dusty off-camera flash and set it up and we go to work. No, conditions are not ideal. No, I’m am not loving my life in this moment. No, I do not feel competent or worthy of the job I’m undertaking. And no, in that moment I’m not at all sure that I will be giving you what you asked for…(The truth is not always pretty, guys, but real is what you come to me for and real is what you’re going to get.)
And then you, the client, look at me and say, “I trust you”. And I vow again, to make these photos the magic that you want them to be, even if it means hours more work and all the editing prowess I can muster. “I trust you” means a lot to me and my client’s 100% satisfaction is all I came for.
I trust you. A blessing and a curse. I’m still going to do my homework. I’m still going to accept the ideal homes (light, neutral decor/wall colors, LOTS of natural light coming through the windows) and turn down the not-so-ideal homes. I’m still going to sometimes show up on cloudy days when the natural light is garbage and my best laid plans are wrecked. I’m still going to give you my ALL because you said, “I trust you” and, if I’m not a person of my word, then who am I?
Liz Viernes Photography is based near Potomac, Maryland, and specializes in maternity, fresh 48, posed and lifestyle newborns and first year milestone portraits.