Do Families Prefer a Photographer Who Styles Them?
Or Is It Really Any of my Business What They Wear?
I know many, many family photographers believe firmly in being heavily involved in the clothing choices of their clients'. I get it, you want clothes that are cohesive, flattering, and in line with your aesthetic- makes sense. But my question is, is it really up to me? After all, these are the client's pictures and I want them to look and feel themselves- whatever that might be. They don't always wear clothes I find pleasing, or clothes that align with my brand, but that's ok so long as they're happy with the end result. Not everyone I shoot winds up on my social media or website and that's perfectly fine by me. It doesn't mean I enjoyed their shoot any less, or disliked the pictures. It simply means they're vibe didn't quite align with mine but we can still be friends!
What happens though when you do get involved because the person you're photographing is a dear friend? Let me tell you a little story about that.
This friend payed for my services, so unless otherwise indicated or asked, I stay out of all clothing selections. If I've asked you to model for me, then yes, bet your cutie patootie, I'm going to have an opinion- otherwise you're on your own. If you want an opinion on some things you've selected, I'm happy to offer honest thoughts and suggestions- but don't ask and I won't tell!
Now this friend has a major problem with making decisions to begin with- any and all decisions. She and her husband have talked about getting new carpet upstairs for the 12 years I've known them and they still haven't settled on anything- so the old carpet lives on. Get the drift? She especially can't be bothered with the decision to clothe every single member of her family- make them coordinate and everyone happy to wear what she's chosen. This is precisely why she hasn't done family photos in about seven years. A task such as this sets her anxiety on high alert. So when a few weeks had gone by after selecting a date and she hasn't said a word to me about clothes, I thought, damn, she's got this all under control! Wrong! Sunday before our Friday shoot I get the text- "hey, LMK if you have any time this week to look at clothes". My response was of course I have time, thinking in the back of my mind that she's shopped, there are lots of options and I just have to help whittle down the final selections- easy peasy. Nope, wrong again!
I show up on Monday and she has two dresses laid out for the youngest daughter. Both cute, but one is black and she says she wants "summer" photos. The other meets the summer standard, but looks like it's been through the wash a few hundred times- least of my worries at this point so let's see what goes with this dress. We head into the master closet and friend starts to say something about capris and a shirt...not sure what exactly cause I started to tune her out. I was busy looking for the shopping bags- the new stuff! Surely she has shopped. After all, the shoot is less than five days away. Where are the bags? I see none! She wants me to pick from the stuff she's had in there for the last 15 years...say what? I asked, "where's the dresses?". Eight year old says "right here" and pulls out a peach colored, gingham dress that is surely 15 sizes too big for my friend. Friend says "not my Laura Ingles Wilder dress. I wore that when I was pregnant and I've had it since college". Excuse me, since college? That was like 30 years ago! Why is it even still in here and what in the world size is it cause it looks like a tent?!?! I proceed to look at the tag out of nothing but shear curiosity- what size is this thing? No telling cause the tag is so old, frayed and worn off you can't even make out what it says anymore. Oh well, no matter cause she's wearing that over both of our dead bodies anyway! At this point I know there's nothing in this closet we can use and Amazon is our fastest option. I grab my phone from my back pocket and start scrolling. In minutes, I've screenshot five different dress options for her, tell her to start her own search as well- get the stuff here and we'll reconvene. In the meantime, we're stuck!
I knew that going back and forth with her over Amazon options was going to be time consuming for both of us, so I went home and ordered $300 worth of clothes for the entire family. Something had to stick. She ordered equally as much and when it all arrived we got to trying! I swear people must have thought she was running a laundry service with the amount of clothes I came over with every day- armfuls. After two or three try-on sessions we had the selections made and we were ready to roll.
We landed on clothes that coordinated, were flattering and comfortable for everyone, and would photograph well. While I knew my friend was stressed to the max, I never doubted we'd get it done. She didn't think it possible, but I knew we'd do it!
So what did I learn from all this? I now know how time consuming it can be to help clients select clothes and I fully understand why their prices should reflect as such. I know that I don't have any desire to be that fully invested again, but would do it for my friend over and over again if needed. I find great pleasure in shopping for clothes, choosing what goes together and what would look best on whom. It's fun for me, but I know that's not the case for everyone. So if you hire me, know that I'm game to offer opinions about things you have chosen or I'm happy to stay oblivious to it all with my head buried in the sand. Should you need my help, however, do not call me over on Monday for a Friday shoot and expect me to pick something out of your closet from 1992- no mam!