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As a photographer who captures rare and priceless moments, you can’t afford to have disasters during photo sessions. However, sometimes things go wrong regardless.
If you have a recovery plan in action before anything goes wrong, you’ll never have to freeze up and panic at that moment. You’ll never have to fear a photo session getting ruined.
If you psychologically prepare yourself for disasters in advance and rehearse the crisis in your mind, then you can switch to autopilot when it happens.
Let me walk you through what to do when cameras fail, families fight, or photos fall short of your vision.
If you show up to a session with only one camera and one lens, you’re asking for a disaster to happen. You should always have a backup camera with you. Even if you have no intention of using it during the session, you need to have something to fall back on.
I heard of a wedding photographer who showed up with one camera and one dead battery. The wedding was delayed for an hour while she searched around for somebody to help her find a battery. Don’t let that be you!
However, I keep a Nikon with an ultra-wide 10-24mm lens tucked in my camera bag (from before I switched to Fuji). It’s there in case I want a unique wide-angle photo. It’s also there in case of disaster.
Last spring, I timed a maternity session for the golden hour. If you’ve ever photographed during the golden hour, then you know how quickly the time passes. When the family arrived, I pulled out my camera, dialed in my settings, and then noticed with surprise that the battery was dead. ‘That’s strange; I always charge my batteries,’ I thought. I reached into my camera bag to pull out a spare battery and panicked when I realized I hadn’t brought any!
Decide right now what you’ll do when your camera stops working, or you make a foolish mistake as I did. Decide right now what your backup plan is so that when it happens, you can switch to autopilot and get the job done.
Most likely, you’ll reach for your second camera. That’s what I did.
I had no choice but to shoot the whole session with an ultra wide angle lens! It’s the last lens I would ever choose to photograph portraits.
Beyond technology, other disasters can happen during your photo session.
How about a family that arrives at the photo session in miserable moods and arguing? They probably found it stressful getting ready for the photo session.
It’s uncomfortable for the photographer and might even lead to the family completely blowing up at each other.
You can get upset and stressed out (how dare they treat me like this as a professional photographer?), or you can diffuse the situation.
These scenarios can be tricky to figure out. Try to get them focusing on something else by asking questions and bringing up topics they love. Focus more on the kids first. If you can cheer them up, their excitement becomes contagious. You’ll find the moment that the tension is released, the scene turns to laughter.
Once in a while, families bring me very challenging kids. One mom came with her non-verbal child. He didn’t take direction at all, and immediately ran off into the woods! All of the photos from that session were candid because the child didn’t sit long enough to pose. It wasn’t until he rested with exhaustion that I finally got a photo of him and his mom.
It was the first session where I thought I had failed. However, upon reviewing the photos, I discovered many wonderful moments, and the mom loved them.
You need to begin every tough situation by telling yourself, ‘there is a way.’ I now know that completely candid photo sessions are possible.
I remember one little guy who was terrified of cameras. Just the sight of one sent him into hysterical tears. Beginning with the phrase, ‘there is a way,’ I built a trusting relationship with the child. It naturally led to smiles and no fear of my camera. It took a while, but it worked.
Every master was once a disaster – T. Harv Eker
You may feel like some photo sessions were a disaster because you weren’t happy with how the photos turned out. It is perfectly reasonable for creative photographers struggling with their vision. It’s part of how you grow as a photographer. Allow that dissatisfaction to push you harder next time. Learn from your mistakes and let them prepare you to avoid future disasters.
Technology, people, and our lack of creativity threaten our photo sessions all the time. But if you create and rehearse your backup plan in advance, you’ve got much less to actually worry about.
What’s your biggest fear about a photo session going wrong? Let me know in the comments and see if we can figure out your backup plan in advance.