I AM INVISIBLE
This is going to be a hard pill for some of you to swallow. But it is nonetheless a truism of photography. Your goal, especially in commercial photography, is to focus wholeheartedly on your customer’s needs, wants and wishes. And not your own. Your job is to make the photographic experience about your product…not about your personality (even though you actually need both).
I see so many photographers in the blogosphere talk about their behind-the-scenes videos and blog posts like a client wasn’t even there. It’s not about you. It’s about them.
Your key role, as a shooter, should be to remain as invisible as possible. For those of you with larger-than-life personalities, this will be a struggle. But the lesson is worth struggling through.
Photographers, by mistake and very naively, get the notion that their shoots are more about personality than portfolio. More about the process than the product. More about the capturer than the customer. More about the context than the content. Sometimes this is true. And I’ve written about that before. But, as a general rule, you must feature and highlight your customers success and not your own. Make your processes and successes as invisible as possible.
Most customers are happy that you own a lot of gear, have staff, boast tons of high-tech equipment, understand lighting ratios and all that stuff. But when the shoot starts…it’s all about the customer. It’s fine to talk tech to other photographers and trade colleagues, but don’t talk the same way to your customers. This is true whether you are shooting an elaborate studio set up or a simple, available-light portrait. Make the session, regardless of how long or how complicated, about the client. Keep the technical side as invisible as possible. So that your tech stuff is more background rather than foreground. More of a supporting role rather than lead actor. Don’t get duped into thinking photography is primarily showmanship and salesmanship. It’s not. It’s craftsmanship. Be invisible. Be unnoticed. Be out of sight. Don’t bring undue or unnecessary attention to your talent or techniques. Be the customer!
I also think that you’ll find that playing a more inconspicuous role on the shoot relaxes the client more. And why wouldn’t it? Since you are making the photographic experience about them and not about yourself.
I’m sure you’ve been in plenty of one-way conversations where there was a lot of talking going on, but very little listening. Don’t let that happen on your shoots. Make the experience of production about the customer’s goals, desires, and dreams.
Being invisible is not the same as being non-descript. You still need to be strong, take charge, be assertive, have fun, and maintain control. But do it is such a soft and subtle way that the attention and energy is more reflected on the customer. You will never be disappointed in the results of a shoot when you subjugate and subdue your interests to that of the client. Especially if you have the self-confidence and self-assurance to pull it off. Be invisible!