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When Is It Time For Photographers To Get Bossy?

When Is It Time For Photographers To Get Bossy?

Often, when a client requests a shoot from a photographer, be it for a product or portrait shoot, you will exchange a few words about what is needed exactly. But even after they have agreed over the price and the direction of the shoot, the photographer may still be at risk of having a disagreement with the client or even his team on the shooting day. Whatever the initial plan was, the client can change his mind. Sometimes, the ideas proposed can challenge you and lead to fantastic photos, but they can also be disastrous and as a photographer, you need to learn to get bossy and speak with experience to get the job done.

Using the Authoritative Tone to Get the Job Done

Last week, I shot a wedding where the 12 very young bridesmaids were being quite unruly and uncooperative while I shot the newlyweds. I have never been shy of telling my clients what needed to be done about disruptive guests. It’s in my contract and I always mention it during pre-wedding meetings. During that last wedding, I started off very politely asking the 12 girls that I needed them to back away because I could see them in my picture. After numerous attempts, my clients tried to make their bridesmaids understand I needed the space. But it was all in vain. I then put my camera down and started using a very authoritative but polite tone with the little girls in hopes they would understand. They badmouthed me (yeah they did!) but walked away. I got to do my work albeit losing 10 minutes on the 30 minutes allocated for those shots.


Snapshot of a guest photographer intruding


I must admit, at photoshoots things can get out of control even if you have planned everything. At unplugged weddings, guests (the Uncle Bobs) might still bring their cameras and ruin your photos. But as photographers, we have to adjust and keep on shooting, and very often, we only get to tackle the problem after it has occurred. But at weddings, do not let relatives get in your way whenever you can. Impose your way of working from the beginning. At photoshoots where you are working on a tight schedule, make your team work and ask the clients not to lose time over unnecessary things when you have clearly said a cliché image won’t work. Always set a quick but good pace to work efficiently by voicing your needs sharply.

Using the Authoritative Tone to Impose the Best Solution

In most cases, your clients have no knowledge about professional photography, and they rely mostly on ideas they have seen in magazines or online, to tell you what they want you to do. I hardly mind it now because it is not worth our time as photographers to be offended. But when a client insists on the unrealistic idea he has for a shoot, it is definitely the time for you to change the tone.

However, being bossy does not mean that you have make your client shut up by being rude. Being bossy means that you can be polite and sharp while explaining and looking for a solution. For example, explain why it is not possible to have all areas of a product in focus when they asked for a "soft blurry background" (they rarely know the term DOF). Then, you may try focus-stacking and compromise on the blurry background as the solution to the issue perhaps. But in all circumstances, never belittle your client for his lack of knowledge. You know your field, they don't, and that’s why they hired you.



Using the Authoritative Tone to Impose Your Signature

Every photographer has got his way of working, and that is how they can create signature photographs that are easily recognizable. Famous photographers have no trouble in establishing their pace and signature on a shoot. But what about us, the other photographers, who often work with clients who think highly of themselves because they pay you, and who care little about what your style is?

Personally, I take time to filter emails of clients and I will always ask for the maximum information possible to determine the potential client’s vision and idea, before sending out my quote. Some will tell you it’s all up to you; others will tell you they have an inkling; and then there are those who will tell you that they want this exact photo (followed by multiple attachments from Pinterest boards). I tend to refuse such shoots because I just know those clients do not want me for what I offer. They need a photographer and hey, to them any photographer should do!


We went from mirror-mirror on the wall this concept


But when I don’t refuse such shoots because actually some ideas might be worth exploring and because I need the money, I tell the clients that I am not here to reproduce a photo. I find that being sharp and tactful from the start works. But best tell them that you will do something in the same spirit, but visually different. I always steer those clients away from their initial idea because I believe that a photographer does not need to confine himself to imitating far-fetched or odd ideas that do not align with his style. If you just do what the client asks, you can bet that all you will want to do would be to bury those pictures, very deep. There would be no pride in the job done as the aesthetics simply would not reflect you.

Showing a firm attitude and imposing your rules will make your client have more respect for you, but just make sure you don’t scare them away. You want the job and the money, don’t forget.


Keeping your signature through all your work is a necessity and photographers should not let clients dictate their way of working.


Using the Authoritative Tone to Say No

When you are a new photographer just starting out, it is very easy to let clients take over during a photoshoot. They want to dictate the way you should shoot, therefore limiting you (“I look better from this side”); they want you shoot some gross ideas or poses, denoting their bad taste, and they want all the photos, even the bad ones. And often you just know they will select the worse picture in the lot.

After having done many shoots, a photographer will learn how to distinguish those moments when he needs to stand firm and say no. No, you do not look better from this side. I need to shoot you from all angles I deem right because ultimately, I only want you to look best. No, I will not try this idea because these poses and ideas do not flatter your models or put your products in the best light. And no, I won’t show you all the photos, but I will do a rigorous selection and then show you the best.


Whatever you shoot, look at each picture, do a rigorous selection for your client and advise on the best.


There are many situations where you will see that as a photographer you must choose to assert your authority for the benefit of a shoot. Being bossy is not a negative trait. You can be bossy and get the job done while still retaining your team and clients’ respect. If you got any insight on the subject that you could share, please do so!

Khatleen Minerve's picture

Khatleen Minerve is portrait photographer based in Mauritius. She harbours a big love for street photography and her dogs. When she is not working, she can be found sipping tea and baking in the dead of the night.

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These are great points and something not often discussed. It's so important to be authoritative, confident, but friendly.

If all else fails, I remind wedding parties that cocktail hour runs through me. That always gets their attention lol

Good on you!