Guest post by Erin Costa of Erin Costa Photography:
It’s that time of year again. You know, that time of year when you break out the khaki shorts and white shirts for the annual family photo at the beach. Ok, maybe not so much the khaki and white shirts anymore (I won’t say never), but if your studio is like ours and located near a popular beach, you are probably in full blown beach family portrait season.
I know most photographers cringe when they think about doing beach portraits all summer long, but we have embraced it wholly at our studio and really enjoy meeting the amazing families that visit us each year.
Beach portraiture, in my experience, is pretty different from a regular family session. We never get to meet our clients before their session, since they are often visiting from out of town. Many of our clients find us on Google, so providing them with an amazing experience is a must. Building up that review base online is what keeps them inquiring (along with beautiful photography, of course).
Here are some basic tips that we have implemented in our studio that have helped to not only streamline our shoots, but also our sales sessions as well:
1. Conduct a pre-booking consult and client questionnaire.
We always try to chat with our clients over the phone and have them complete a questionnaire before their session date. Since we've never met them before, we use this time to get to know the personalities of any children being photographed, if there will be any pets joining the session, and more about the family dynamic (which is even more important when we photograph groups of 20 plus).
2. Consult on wardrobe styling.
One of the first things we get asked about is wardrobe, and if they should just wear khaki and white for the ease of coordinating larger groups. We try to provide them with color pallets that work well together and provide them with images from past shoots for inspiration.
You can easily set up a Pinterest board of these types of images, or create a styling guide PDF using your own images. Even though we try to steer them away from the "all white look," we sometimes do see it on occasion - and it can really be beautiful.
3. Map out your shoot and take control.
During our beach sessions, we have just under an hour around sunset to build a rapport with our clients and capture some great photos. Whether we're photographing 30 people or 4 people, we try to structure every shoot the same way. We start out with the larger group photos, then photograph the smaller groups, and then end with another large group photo in a different location.
We then move on to what we call "play time" with the kids. The success of this part of the shoot boils down to the pre-booking consultation. We let the parents know if they are OK with it, we are more than happy to jump in the water with the kids. I don’t think any of our clients have ever said no to this.
4. Create an inclement weather plan.
Summer storms here are quite common, so we make sure our clients are aware of this, and we keep a back up rain date open during the week of their visit, just in case.
5. Don’t be afraid to get wet.
I know, the thought of the ocean and the sand near your camera stresses you out - I get it. But some of my favorite images have been captured when I have just gone for it and jumped in the water with the families and kids. Yes, I let them splash and even let them kick water at me. Some of the biggest genuine smiles you will get will be when you just let the kids be themselves, covered in sand and soaking wet from head to toe.
6. Respect the dunes.
I cannot stress this enough. I see more and more photographers trampling all over the dunes and posting those photos on social media. It’s not good for business, especially when you rely on goodwill from the town, so I implore you to resist the urge to walk into the dunes (even if that light is calling to you)!
7. Set up the sale during your shoot.
Whenever we get that coveted group photo where everyone is actually looking at the camera and smiling (no head swaps required), we mention things like, “This will look great as a canvas in your home,” and start planting those seeds for the sale. From their initial consult with us, we make it abundantly clear that we do not just sell digital files, and then do everything we can to reinforce this as we move towards the viewing session (sales session).
8. Schedule your viewing session before they leave the beach.
After a few years of doing beach portraits, we have figured out what works for our studio. This might not work for everyone, but with our visiting clients, we only schedule shoots for Monday or Tuesday nights, and then have them back into the studio on Thursday or Friday before they leave for their viewing session.
If you are sitting here thinking, “There is no way my client will come into the studio during their vacation time," I implore you to give it a try. Our clients are so excited to see their proofs, and really value the experience of the big reveal. We do try to schedule these sessions first thing in the morning, however, so that they do not miss too much beach time.
9. Thank your clients.
This may seem like something simple, but it is so often overlooked. Thank your clients for choosing you to photograph their session. Whenever our clients leave, we make sure they know how much we appreciate them and thank them.
10. Ask for the review.
After everything has settled and our clients have received their beautiful albums, prints, or wall art, we ask for the review. As I mentioned before, most of our out of town clients find via search engines, so having a strong review base from past clients is imperative (plus, it helps your SEO).
Erin Costa is an award-winning professional wedding and portrait photographer based in Wilmington, NC. Her work can be found in a variety of online wedding publications such as The Knot.com, Huffington Post, Borrowed and Blue, Artfully Wed, as well as print publications including Endurance Magazine and Woodmen Living Magazine.