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Qualifying Your Photographer Beyond Their Portfolio and Price Tag.

I felt left at the altar all by myself, with no one to console me as I painfully stared out into the distance with no help in sight — ::sigh::

Okay, that’s a bit dramatic, but, you know, it sucks to hear a “no” once you’ve already assumed that a “yes” was a mere formality.

A couple years ago, a friend of mine, Joseph, referred me to one of his colleagues, Sarah, for a portrait session.  He mentioned that she checked out my website and really liked my work.  She also saw my rates and didn’t bat an eyelash. All that was left for us to do was have a pre-session, strategy conversation.

Or, so I thought...

Rather than have a phone conversation, Sarah opted for the three of us to meet at a bar for drinks.  

From the moment we started chatting, I immediately realized that this was far from a done deal.  Sarah immediately started peppering me with questions that had nothing to do with the types of portraits she needs.  The majority of what she was concerned with was me — why I shoot portraits, how I direct my clients, how do I handle clients who are very direct and to the point. I was puzzled at how interested she was in my temperament behind the camera.  

I had never been asked these types of questions before, so, it kinda threw me off, and my uncomfortable reaction apparently shined right through.

After an hour, Sarah had to run, but she basically told me that although she really enjoys my work, she didn’t think that I’d be a good fit to work with her. She didn’t think our personalities would mesh well together during the session.

Ouch.

Of course I was disappointed, sure, but more importantly, I didn’t really understand what happened.  I mean, she respected my work, what exactly was the problem?  

The problem was that I had discounted how important rapport is in contributing to a successful, lifestyle portrait session.  Sarah obviously did and realized that she wouldn’t have set herself up for success had she worked with me, because she didn’t feel she’d respond well to the way I would direct her during the session.  

When on the same page, the best portrait sessions flow like a well-timed dance that moves and sways with ease;  the photographer leads and the subject follows with grace. If you’re not comfortable with the person behind the camera, it will constantly feel like you're stepping on each others toes and muttering not-so-nice things under your breath the whole time.  In other words, you can toss all of those portraits into the garbage since you will look like you just went through a horrible experience.  

So, before you ever step in front of a camera, make sure that you feel good about the person behind it — qualify their personality as much you do their portfolio and price tag.

Have you ever been in a position where you thought you connected with someone, but they didn't agree?

Please tell me about it in the comment section below, :)