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Portrait Experience: Breaking Down Walls & Building Trust

Let me ask you the same question I asked Brianna during our first phone conversation: “It’s 5, 10, 15 years later - we bump into each other, and decide to grab coffee and catch up! You tell me every time you look at your daughter’s 1 year portraits, you’re still totally in love with them and extremely happy - what would have to happen for that to be the case?!”

Brianna’s answer was that they’d have to look "natural, and show her unique personality - that she’s generally a really happy baby." She also mentioned that they’d have to be “real” photos in some way, perhaps a framed portrait! I totally agreed - a framed portrait would be a lovely keepsake and potential family heirloom to pass down! What an awesome way to help build their legacy!

I’m going to ask you the right questions - and then,

ask you if I’ve asked the right questions!

Whatever feels the most important to you and your family, I want to hear it. When we ask each other the right kind of questions, we can easily break down walls, build trust, and really get to know and respect each other.

Having a creative vision for your family portraits, customized to exactly who you are, is extremely validating, and super important for your family’s sense of self! Having a reflection of your core beliefs and values, up on the wall, is an amazing daily reminder of what you and your family stand for.

How would you describe your family in only 3 words? At our in-home portrait planning meeting Brianna told me that they’re adventurous, down to earth, and very supportive of each other. I had a great time getting to know them that evening; the stories they told me about the cottage that they go to, their daughter having already dipped her toes in the ocean in Mexico (before she even turned 1!), and Dad being the silly one (he loves to dip their little one upside down!) painted an awesome picture for me of what to express with their portraits.

And, what if we didn’t do this? What if we just showed up on the day of the shoot, having never met or even spoken to each other over the phone? There are lots of photographers who operate this way, and there is 100% nothing wrong with that! There are some extremely talented photographers out there that can make absolute magic with total strangers!

I want you to become more than a client though, before we even shoot. I want you to know, with absolute certainty, that you are heard and understood. Because, if we just show up and meet for the first time at the shoot, there is a chance we’d hit it off right away, totally “get” each other instantly, and create really authentic portraits. But, there is also a chance that you might forget to explain to me that your daughter doesn’t love when new people give her attention right away, or that your husband needs clear direction or else he’ll feel anxious and uneasy about what he’s “supposed” to do. Heck, you might even forget to acknowledge that your own anxiety about being in front of the camera is more real than you remembered, and all of a sudden a stranger is photographing you, and it’s horrifying!😂

I’m going to let you in on something kind of top secret, in the spirit of really knowing each other, and building goes...A BIG part of why I require phone conversations, and in person meetings before the shoot, is not just because it makes my clients more comfortable - it also makes me more comfortable! I know myself well, and I know that I do my very best work when I’m going into a shoot comfortable and confident. So it’s totally a win-win. You get the peace of mind that I’m on your side, 100% ready to do whatever it takes to put you and your family at ease during your shoot. And, you get a photographer who will remain focused on the detailed plan and creative vision that you inspired for the shoot.

[Intel from the inside: photographers are people too. Just like a pro athlete, a public speaker, or a surgeon - we are professionals at what we do, but we still have those voices in our heads that cause worry or doubt at times. I’m just the one being okay with admitting that, and taking the appropriate steps to overcome worry or doubt for both myself and my clients, so we can focus on the good parts!]

I’d like to open up the comments here for an "ask-me-anything" convo - ask me anything, I'm ready! And, I’d like to ask you: What feels really big to your family? What matters deeply to you? If a stranger could instantly “get” you, what would they know? Let me know in the comments, or send a message. Your story will serve as my inspiration for the artistic vision built around your shoot.

And a couple more for the road!

All the love,

Hillary West

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