What an experience it is for me to be in front of the camera instead of behind it. This one is a big story, but the moral of the story is that I highly recommend that every photographer have professional portraits taken to put yourself in your clients shoes. I had my family portraits done this year with Dana from Urban Vision Studios, who is nothing short of brilliant.
Anyone who has ever had a Portrait Session with me at Pet’ographique knows that I’m an easy going, patient and calm person. Well that may be true when I’m the one taking the pictures, but I was reminded that it can be a different story when I’m the one being photographed.
The planning started a couple weeks in advance. Once we set a date, time and location, I shopped for 3 days to find our outfits. On the third day of shopping my husband called:
John: “Where are you?”
Arica: “At the mall”
John: “Again? I thought we were just wearing white shirts for our portraits?”
Arica: “Well yeah but it can’t be just any white shirt. It needs to fit right and be flattering. This portrait is going to hang on our wall for the next 20 years so I want to be happy with what I’m wearing”.
The day of our Portrait Session, my husband left work early, I closed the studio early and the dogs were walked and bathed. We get dressed, I’m having a decent hair day, we get the dogs in the car, so far so good. Then my husband says “Seriously, you forgot to fill gas today? We’re driving all the way to Red Rock and we’re almost on empty”. Keep in mind my husband reminds me weekly “half is the new empty”. So we stop to get gas – whoops back up – driving out of our neighborhood I forgot mascara – turn around and pull back into the drive way – set back 5 minutes. Stop to fill gas – set back another 10 minutes.
Okay so we are a few minutes late to meet Dana, no big deal. It’s a beautiful evening with perfect temperature and no wind. The dogs are happy running around off leash as we walk into the canyon about 10 minutes to our first location. Dana sets up the first shot, which ended up being our Gallery Wrap Canvas, and everything is going great. Duke and Drake continue to explore and start to munch on a bit of grass. No biggie, dogs eat grass all the time. We continue walking and looking for a good spot for our next shot. Okay I won’t drag it out… can you see how long the grass is in our family portrait… long enough to get stuck in Drakes throat. So Drake starts coughing, then gagging, then dry heaving. What do dogs do when they don’t feel good? Answer: they eat grass! So as Drake is coughing, gagging and dry heaving, he continues eating grass trying to make himself feel better. He’s not the brightest star in the sky, bless his heart.
I try and give Drake treats and water to wash down the grass, but he’s too stressed to eat or drink. I try and stick my fingers down his throat to pull out the grass, but that doesn’t do anything but turn my hand into a slobbery mess. Drake runs off and proceeds to eat more grass. So on top of coughing, gagging and dry heaving, we’re yelling at him to “stop eating grass!”.
We decide, lets give Drake a break and just do portraits with Duke.
We yell at Drake “go lay down!”. He gets even more stressed because we’re raising our voices that he comes crawling over and lays at our feet. “Drake get out of the portrait!”. He runs off and eats more grass. We had leashes with us but we’re trying to make the most of our Portrait Session and holding Drake on a leash as he’s gagging wasn’t what I had envisioned for my family wall portrait.
Duke gets his time in the spotlight and Drake has been gagging now for a good 20 minutes. Time to head to the vet? No way! Suck it up Drakey! Didn’t you get the memo? It’s family portrait day.
After a few more shots (this shot below is one of my other favs) we decide to head to another location while we still had good light.
We jump in our car and guess who decides it’s time to get rid of the grass he swallowed… yup there’s now a huge pile of throw up in the car. Awesome. This is where our session took a turn for the worse. Let me prep my husbands quote by informing you that we’re dealing with someone who got a flat tire on his truck and instead of fixing the tire, he bought a new truck. If a watch gets scratched or a shirt gets stained, you might as well throw it away because he’ll never use it again. In short, he likes his stuff nice and there’s dog throw up in our car. So here we go… “Are you kidding me right now! First we’re late and now this. All of this stress is so unnecessary! I don’t even know why we’re doing this!”. So here’s my dramatic Oscar winning reply with crocodile tears running down my face… “How can you say this is unnecessary? This is our family! If you died tomorrow these portraits are all I have!” (I added some voice cracking for extra effect).
So we pull into the parking lot of the next location and cute, smiling Dana jumps out of her car ready to capture more great images. I get out of the car crying and start cleaning up throw up, John walks away to cool off and Drake is just happy as a peach and feeling SO much better now that there’s no more long grass stuck in his throat!
The next day John calmly pointed out that “Drake waited until he got in the car to throw up because dogs don’t want to show their weaknesses in front of people they don’t know. When it was just us in the car he knew it was okay to be vulnerable.” That’s nice John, just wish you could have realized that yesterday. Have you ever noticed that your dog might have a limp but when new dogs come around they aren’t limping any more? I learned recently that animals instinctively do this to not show their weaknesses to the unfamiliar animal. Like I mentioned before, my sweet Drakey isn’t the brightest guy, so we might be giving him too much credit with the whole instinct theory.
Anyway, John came around and was a good sport for the remainder of the session. Dana still managed to capture some wonderful images even after I untruthfully promised John “Fine! I will never make you do this ever again!”.
Oh I almost forgot the best part – when I got out of the car and we were all a big mess, I told Dana “I’m so sorry, we’re never like this. I’m always so easy going and we never argue and Drake is usually a mini mess but never a major mess like this”. Of course Dana assured me that it was all fine and everything was okay. Meanwhile I’m reading Dana’s mind and although she’s saying “It’s fine” she’s probably really thinking “Sure crazy lady I’m sure you’re never like this and you guys are just happy clams at home”. No really we’re NEVER like this!
So again, the moral of the story is that every photographer should put themselves in their clients shoes occasionally. It’s so easy to get into the laid back routine of shooting. Although we as photographers know that we are going to capture great images and everything is going to be fine, clients aren’t sure of that. Remember all of the work that goes into each portrait session. People had to coordinate their busy schedules, they are making a financial investment, they spend at least 1 entire day at the mall finding the ‘perfect’ outfit, they possibly took the day off of work and you are capturing a moment in their families life that will be displayed on their wall for possibly the rest of their lives. It’s okay to be a laid back photographer, but if you’re clients seem a bit crazy or stressed out or anxious, remember that it’s only because their family portraits mean so much to them.
The one thing that Dana made me feel horrible about, was that I make my clients wait an entire week to see their images. I could barely wait the 24 hours for Dana to post my sneak peak on her blog! I had tears of joy when I saw how our images turned out.
In the end, I am THRILLED with my family portraits and my Gallery Wrap Canvas puts a smile on my face every time I walk into our living room. I couldn’t wait to share the images, so everyone has now seen the portrait that will grace the front of our 2011 holiday card and our parents all know what their Christmas gift looks like this year.
Whew! To keep my blood pressure down, I am going to stick to hanging out behind the camera until it’s time for family portraits again next year. Thank you again Dana. I will treasure these images forever. – Arica