Last night I spoke as part of an online workshop and a photographer asked me if I show every photo shoot. She also asked how to move away from shooting things she doesn't find inspiring. I briefly answered the question on the webinar, but I wanted to follow up and share, exactly, how I feel.
At some point in the course of a photographer's career, you will face a situation where the client's taste or requests don't align with yours. However, there are two main things I want to address: 1. missing a marketing opportunity; and 2. not finding your voice in the noise.
Firstly, your clients hired you because they liked you. Something about your work made them excited to work with you. They trusted you'd be able to document everything they like about themselves…and then some. The fact they are happy reflects on your skill as a photographer, but I want to challenge the idea of your creative entrepreneurism.
Yes, there have been shoots when the couple and I have nothing in common (stylistically, tastefully, artistically), but it's my job to find beautiful connections where it might not at first seem apparent. If you shoot the session just to do a job, then of course you'll simply fulfill your responsibilities and call it a day. But you're missing the chance to define your workmanship…and marketing potential.
My rule of thumb is to shoot 90% for the clients, and 10% for me (and, ideally, they love my 10% making their session 100% of happiness). Once a photographer emailed me and said the clients were too country for her portfolio and she didn't want to share her photos online. If I were her, I'd shoot the heck out of the tractors, turquoise crosses, and camo hats…then I'd carefully curate a few shots of just the couple (away from their signature looks) to ensure I pushed myself creatively and dialed into the shoot in the best way I know how. These photos–the carefully curated photos that reflect my style–would be the ones I shared online as a representation of my brand.
Why should a photographer work this hard? Because clients feel left out if their photographer does not share their photos on Facebook, blog, or social media. Not only would a photographer miss a marketing opportunity for sharing the curated photos from the shoot, he'd run the risk of making his clients unworthy. These two elements could hurt your business, so please know that if your clients hired you, they believe you can make their ideas come to life, so own it.
Shoot for them, shoot for you, and shoot to make them feel a part of your business pride.