If you haven’t been following this 6-part series, I’ve been chatting about how to create a kick-ass client experience! We’ve already talked about how to do that by means of your website and your inquiry and booking communications in past months. Today we’re going to chat about how to make your client’s boudoir experience with you extra fabulous DURING the shoot itself.
First thing’s first: They’ve already arrived 5-10 minutes early, had no problem whatsoever with parking, and are fresh-faced and prepped just the way you like them because you’ve already followed all of the steps to educate your client on what to expect, right!? If not…go back and re-read the first two parts of the series! Go ahead. I’ll wait.
1. Set the Scene
You should be prepared early. If you have a studio, light your signature studio scented candles (I actually learned this trick from Cate Scaglione!). Pick ONE scent for your studio and let that be your signature smell. People associate emotions with smells, so be strategic. Let the smell reflect your brand! If your brand is fresh and fun, go with something light and citrusy. If your brand is moody and seductive, choose something more sensual like Tobacco + Vanilla.
Start up some music! Your client may have their own play list with them (if you’ve instructed them to), but you’ll still want to have something soothing playing for when they walk in.
If you are traveling on location to them, you can still have a signature scent! Just be sure to ask them if it’s ok for you to light a candle in their home, and leave it as a souvenir when you’re done!
Also … clean up. This sounds like a given, but apparently it’s not. Your studio or hotel room should be spotless! If you are a traveling photographer, you should advise the client in the prep guide to be sure their room is de-cluttered and ready for photos! An orderly shoot space will ease anxiety. It’s science.
Just before you meet her, review your email correspondence, mood boards, and questionnaires so it is fresh in your mind exactly why she said she was doing the shoot, what she has envisioned, what her style is, etc. You want her to feel like she is your only client and remembering these details is such a great touch.
2. The Welcome
When your client walks in, welcome them warmly and personally! If you’ve got a makeup artist or studio manager, don’t send THEM to welcome your client. It should be you. If you’re a hugger, give them a hug! Be enthusiastic! Ask them if they’re excited! Never ask if they’re nervous…because if they weren’t before, they will start thinking about it as soon as you ask! All of these things still apply if you are meeting the client on location or at their house.
3. Their prep
After I’ve greeted my client and chatted them up for a few minutes, I lead them over to another part of the studio to show me what they’ve brought. I allow them to just leave it lying out and let them know that I will put together complete looks on hangers in the order we will shoot them.
I introduce the client to my hair and makeup artist and let them know that she is one of the BEST in the business. My HMUA is trained to ask all the right questions to achieve the perfect look AND client satisfaction. At this point I show the client the restroom and ask them to go get into their robe. I ask if I can get them anything to drink for while they’re in makeup. I offer an array of drinks including hot teas, water, champagne or white wine (one glass only!), and a few different mimosa options.
I also keep a little dish of truffles on the makeup table. Nobody eats those but me and my assistant … but it still adds to the overall atmosphere.
As the client is in hair and makeup, I will then pull together her looks on hangers. I put everything together for each outfit down to the jewelry, shoes, and stockings, so that there is no “deciding” what to wear next. I don’t want to waste any shoot time fiddling with which necklace looks better!
Towards the end of her makeup application I check back in and let her know how amazing it’s looking! I explain that when she’s done, we’ll have her take a look and make sure it’s on point with what she had in mind, and then we’ll get to shooting! If she has a playlist for her shoot, I’ll also get that fired up at this point.
I already have her first complete outfit in the bathroom for her to change into when she’s done with makeup.
I put my phone away and on SILENT. She is the ONLY ONE in my world for the next hour to hour and a half.
It’s all about being efficient AND doting on your client. Don’t make her run and fetch things. She’s here for the EXPERIENCE…give her an outstanding one! Fluff her hair, help her put her shoes and garter belt on, and offer her sips of water throughout her session.
4. While you’re shooting.
Now that she’s all glamorous and standing there like a deer in headlights waiting for instruction, give her instruction! I verbally prep her on everything that is about to happen. Clients are so much more at ease when they know what’s next. I let her know that I will ALWAYS demonstrate poses/movements first so there’s no guess work, and that it’s ok if she needs reminders. I give her lots of tips before we even begin so that when I ask her to push her face forward and chin down, she already knows what I mean by that … AND she knows that it’s a common direction for all clients and not just one that I’m suggesting to her because she has a double chin or something.
I let her know that I will likely adjust her hair, clothing, and sometimes even limbs … and ask if it’s ok for me to do that throughout the shoot. They always seem kind of surprised that I’m even asking, but I can tell they always appreciate the fact that I did. It makes me stand out as professional.
I coach her on breathing and expression and assure her that we are about to have SO much fun and it will be SO much easier than she thinks it’s going to be.
We flow through pretty effortlessly at this point. I give a ton of encouragement and really let her know when she’s doing something right. If she’s doing something not exactly the way I envisioned it, I shoot anyways and never let her know! A woman’s confidence is SO easily deflated, so I do absolutely everything in my power to let her know that she is doing FANTASTIC.
If she’s particularly nervous (or even if she isn’t), I will show her a back-of-camera image that sings so she can rest-assured that the images are turning out amazing.
While she is changing outfits, if I’m feeling a little creatively challenged, I will run through my mental checklist of poses and re-visit her questionnaire where she describes her favorite features. That will give me a little creative boost to challenge myself to get the BEST butt/leg/eyes shot ever.
5. The wrap-up
When we are drawing near the end of the session (I usually do this about 10 minutes out), I will say “We’re doing GREAT on time. I’d like to shoot you for another 10 minutes or so, if you’re ok with that! Are you good to keep going for a grand finale set?”. This lets them know that their time is almost up, but without making them feel rushed or like you are just trying to get them out of there. It also gives them the opportunity to tell you how much fun their having! I love that part.
When I take the final shot, I put my camera down, make eye contact, and tell her what an outstanding job she did and how fabulous the photos are. I say “SEE?! That wasn’t scary at ALL, was it?!”. And then she gushes for a little bit. I hand her a robe and let her know she can go get changed!
When she comes out of the restroom, I have already helped to pack up her lingerie and accessories for her, and I have a few after-shoot chocolates and a bottle of water for the road sitting on her bag.
I also ask if she’ll take a selfie with me for the client board! This is a new-ish installation in the studio that has a whole bunch of prints, magazine ads and quotes, and instax prints of client selfies! This really makes them feel like a part of a “club”, which further establishes the client/photographer bond. We’ll take 2 so that they can keep one as a souvenir!
6. The pre-exit education
If you’ve done your job correctly, your client has just had a fabulous time and they already want to shoot again! Even if your prep guide and pre-shoot client materials explained all of this in-depth, they will have forgotten. Reminding them again will prevent any confusion or miscommunications (for example if they don’t remember reading about your turnaround time and then they send you an email 2 days later looking for all of their images!).
This is my opportunity to walk them through the process from this point forward. We schedule their photo reveal appointment right then, I let them know my process of selecting the best images, retouching them, and having them ready for viewing and ordering at their appointment. I let them know that they will have the opportunity to look through all of our products at the photo viewing, but if they’d like a sneak peek, they can most definitely take a look now!
THEN, I give them the biggest hug ever, walk them down to their vehicle while helping carry their bags, and send them on their way with a little pep in their step.
I realize that everyone has different ways of doing business. Maybe you don’t have a studio and maybe you don’t offer a photo reveal. My methods are obviously customizable! The bottom line is, over communicate, encourage, pamper, educate, and make them feel as special as possible. They deserve it.
There you have it! That is how I give my clients an outstanding boudoir experience during their shoot! In the next part of this series, we will talk about the photo reveal and ordering process.