Professional Photography – Portraits – Shoot From the Heart
Emotion first, logic second. A marketing fact: Consumers are emotional beings who make purchasing decisions based on feelings. Logic, in the end may be used only to justify what one likes. Successful photographic portrait studios over the years have recognized that they were in the “emotion business.” Portrait photographers captured emotion; and when needed, took the time to create emotion. The portrait selling process emphasized how the photographer captured emotions unique to each client and how their portraits would be enjoyed for decades to come.
A good receptionist asked the necessary fact finding questions to determine what made the subject unique. When done properly, such information was invaluable in the camera room. Simple words or phrases elicited genuine smiles and that all important sparkle in the eye. The person’s true self (soul) was then captured. With the aide of a proof book, each client enthusiastically engaged in the “show and tell” process proudly showing their images to friends and relatives. Word of mouth combined with the visual aspect of proof books was a sure way to build business. The subject’s enthusiasm blended well with the selling process. Portrait sitting averages were commonly high because wall portraits were usually ordered. That was the way it was.
Today, digital photography has created a new culture based on “speed” which has led to far too many “turn style” studios. As a result, those photographers in many cases may have lost sight of what portrait photography with emotion is all about. Low sitting averages are not always attributed to the economy. Missing the heart in the camera room can often lead to minimal orders, plus making the selling process very difficult. Many times, relying on the “8×10 package” formula saves the day, but the profitable wall portrait and frame sale then becomes more of a rarity. In the end, each subject (senior) or family may become a clone of all other sessions: lacking in soul.
Also, when one is forced to become a technician and software specialist overnight, losing sight of the emotional aspects of good portraiture can easily happen to the best of photographers. A good photo lab can easily take on the “technology” burden to free up valuable time needed in the camera room where revenue is actually generated.
Ignoring the heart results in lost revenue. Losing sight of the fact that the lens must be “shooting for the heart” can be detrimental to the livelihood of any studio. Simply stated: A professional portrait photographer must connect with the subject whether an adult, senior or baby. The photographer’s persona and personality are also crucial and critical factors to a successful and profitable photo studio, but only when combined with the ability to elicit emotions from the subject. This combination will 9 out of 10 times produce more revenue. And this process can be totally natural and need not be staged. Emotions do matter when building or maintaining a successful studio. Good portraiture capturing the true essence of the human being is still in demand.
Note: Adopting the “department/box store” format for taking pictures will lead a professional studio into uncharted waters filled with potential, economical disasters. Remember, there is a significant difference between a portrait and a picture. Professionals need to sell portraits complete with passion and emotion, not “say cheese” pictures.