October 31, 2022
What to expect in this article?
What types of poses or workflows do you need to have a successful session that is not only great for the client but is simple for you as the photographer?
I don’t know about you, but whenever I have a plan, I start to feel a little bit less nervous. I don’t go in quite as anxious because I actually have an idea of what’s going to happen and I guess it gives me a little sense of control whether or not that’s accurate. So, I am bringing my experience photographing hundreds of babies the last decade to share my exact session workflow tips today, so that you have a streamlined process to get images that you and your clients are obsessed with.
Early in my business (even later in my business), I would get super nervous during sessions and right before sessions – What if it doesn’t go well? What if I don’t know what I’m doing? What if I can’t figure out how to guide the session?
I thought I should just know what to do in the session. Like I should just know a professional photographer just knows, right? I thought that if I needed ideas or inspiration or a plan before the session started, I thought that meant I’m like a newbie or I didn’t know what I was doing.
Have you ever felt that way? During the session, you’re not exactly sure what to do next with the client – they’re just standing there staring at you, waiting for you to tell them what to do next and you freeze? I used to make that mean that I wasn’t a good photographer.
But the truth is, now I realize that creating a session workflow for each type of session that I offer is professional. It’s not something a newbie does because they don’t know what they’re doing. It’s something that a committed, reliable, professional, and organized photographer does.
So today, walking into a newborn session, for example, I know the exact flow that I want to use for the session. I come in with a consistent, reliable plan, so that I can get the best photos in the shortest amount of time.
Does it always work out perfectly? Of course not. These are newborns and babies that we’re talking about, they always have their own plan! So, it doesn’t always work out perfectly, but coming in with a plan is what makes the difference.
And I want you to hear me on this because I think that for some reason as photographers, and maybe even clients think this too, they think that when the session lasts longer, they’re going to get better or more images, or overall, their experience is going to be better, right?
But listen to me on this: taking longer to photograph the session does not mean that your client is going to be happier or that your photos are going to be better.
Because I promise you, if you were to ask your client, “Okay, so we’re about to start your session and I can get you 50 incredible, unique custom images for your session, and I can do that in one hour, or I can do that in three hours – which would you prefer?” If the result is the same, I would much rather get it done in an hour than three hours!
So why do we think and why do sometimes our clients think that a longer session is going to equal better photos or a better experience? Why not instead focus on how to get the best photos in the shortest amount of time?
And what I’m not saying is to create a cookie-cutter, Target-portrait type experience where you’re just walking people through the exact same thing and everybody is getting images that look exactly the same.
First, I want to share that I put together a session workflow checklist from one of my baby sessions. So, in addition to birth and newborn, we do six-month and one-year sessions and beyond. We do family sessions for our clients that have booked a birth or newborn. And I put together a checklist of the workflow that I use for one of these sitter sessions so that you can see the exact workflow that I personally use.
Is that a little bit different every time? Sure. Do I customize it? Yes. And we’re going to talk about that, but if you want to see the checklist, head over to taviaredburn.com/workflow. It’s totally free, and I hope that it will give you some pointers after you listen to this episode.
I want to define a photography session workflow as basically what sets or poses that you’re going to use for a particular session. And it’s going to be different for different types of sessions.
For example, for a newborn session, my workflow might look like:
So, when I say workflow, that’s an example of what a workflow would be I have in my head how I want this session to go as far as locations and props and sets. And this works for newborn sessions, baby sessions, one-year sessions, family sessions – it really works for any type of session that you’re photographing, having a general idea of what the workflow is going to be.
So if you’re like, “Okay, Tavia, that sounds like a lot of stuff to remember because I have all these sets, not to mention the poses and the different things I want to do. Do I need to memorize this?”
Basically, I have our newborn workflow memorized because I’ve done it so many times, but for a long time, I would write down the flow with words or photos and keep it in my notes app on my phone, and I would just reference it when I got stuck or forgot what to do next.
I’ve actually never done this, but I think it’s a really good idea. Photographers sometimes will put the image workflow on their memory card before the session so that it’s right there on their camera if they forget what’s next.
If you’re like, “Okay, but if I’m doing the same thing for all my sessions, won’t this make my images boring and monotonous? I want my clients to have a unique experience.”
If that’s you, that is such a great point. And it’s one that I used to worry about, I don’t want everyone’s images to look exactly the same. But now I actually do want their images to look similar. This shows my potential clients what they can expect from me.
Imagine if I had a portfolio with images that used light, bright backgrounds and airy editing, and then I decided, “Eh, I don’t want to be boring and monotonous. I kind of want to mix it up,” so I’m going to change it up for this client and use a moody edit and some darker backdrops and lots of shadow.
That client came to me for a specific look and vibe, and they could be rightly so upset if I, all of a sudden, changed it up because I got bored.
Listen, for us creatives, if we do the same thing over and over, it’s easy for us to get bored. But I say this sometimes to my students very lovingly, and I’ll say it to you too:
I want you to have fun with photography, and I want you to be creative, but as a business owner, it makes good business sense for your clients to know what to expect from you in terms of your art.
Now, if they’re hiring you, knowing that you’re somebody who flies by the seat of your pants and has an idea and goes with it and you don’t have any particular look or style, and they know that coming into it, that’s one thing. But that’s a very small percentage of you listening to this, maybe none of you.
For the most part, our clients want to know what types of images they’re going to get, and they want to know that before they hire us.
So, I want to teach you some ways to make your sessions unique but similar, customizing it to the client, but still have your same workflow that you use for each and every client.
Because honestly, we’re going to use some of these tips, but I want you to think about the fact that each of your clients is unique. They have unique families and a unique story, so they’re naturally going to look a little different. So, I wouldn’t worry too much about them looking the same.
If you think about all the different session types that you offer, this could start to overwhelm you. How can you create workflows for all of your different session types and at the same time, make them unique for your clients?
I don’t want you to start spinning into overwhelm, okay? I want you to just choose. When you start spinning into overwhelm, it usually means no action is going to be taken.
Note: So choose one session type to start with, that you want to create a workflow for using this process I’m about to line out for you, and then come back and listen and do it again and again for all the different session types.
This is where a little customization comes in with just some minor tweaks to your workflow. Think of this customization as what’s important to your clients in three different buckets:
Just a reminder, I put together a session workflow checklist from one of my baby sessions so that you can see my exact workflow, and you can download it for free at taviaredburn.com/workflow
Now I want you to answer these questions:
How many images do I want for the client or how many do you promise that they’re going to have in their final gallery? How many images do you take per set or per pose? So now you know how many sets or poses to do.
For example: If you promise 40 images for a sitter session and you show 10 images per set, for example, you have 4 different colors of backdrops, then you’re going to do 10 images for each of those sets to equal 40 images, right?
So then you just need to plan on those four sets, simple enough. During each set, you’re looking for ways to make each of those 10 images unique. Because obviously, baby sitting in front of a blue backdrop, you’re not going to shoot 10 images of the baby looking the exact same. So now that you have it narrowed down, how can you make each image unique by adding in a new angle, adding in a perspective, adding in a certain look, adding a macro shot, or adding in a little prop, or taking away props, or having them lay on their tummy, or giving them a special or their favorite toy.
So hopefully you can see how that starts to make the sessions so much easier and less intimidating when you break it down by “Okay, I know for my sitter sessions I have these sets or these poses, this is what I’m going to do.” And you have this loose workflow in your head, adding in those buckets of customization, those butterflies and nervous feelings that you might have before a session will go away.
And so the last thing I would say when you’re creating these workflows is to re-evaluate every six months or so to decide: Is this working? Is this something I want to keep? Do I need to add in a new prop? Do I want to change it up a little bit?
Just re-evaluate every six months to decide if it’s still working for you.
By following this simple workflow for each session type, you can minimize the wasted time and get the best photos in the shortest amount of time.
Start with one session type and use the three buckets we talked about to customize the workflow for each client slightly. You’re starting with the base of the sets and the way that you’re doing it, and then you’re customizing it with those buckets.
Make your session workflow plan, and like I said, don’t be afraid to write it down on your phone or keep a set of images on your memory card for reference during the session.
And don’t forget to download my baby session workflow checklist totally for free. If you’re like me and most photographers, and you’re visual and you’re like, “Okay, it was just really help me to see this visually, to get an idea of how I want to create it for myself,” head over to taviaredburn.com/workflow.
Thank you for making it to the end of another episode. I appreciate you being here so much. I hope that you’re finding value every time you show up for yourself in one of these episodes.
And remember, if you have a passion, it’s not an accident because not everyone loves the thing that you love. So if you have a passion for baby photography, newborn photography, birth photography, that passion is there for a reason. So I hope that you will get out there and pursue that passion.
Have a great week!