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Jasmine Star on the Photographer-Client Relationship and Staying Inspired

by Hillary Grigonis
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The best photographs are when the perfect moment unfolds in front of the lens—but the best photographers don’t always wait for that moment. Sometimes, they have to create it.

Before Jasmine Star become one of the best wedding photographers out there and before her images lined the pages of top wedding magazines, she found herself looking at images from her first few sessions in 2006 that were, well, simply lackluster. “I realized my pictures were lackluster because my subjects were lackluster…but it wasn’t their fault, it was mine,” she said. “It was almost as if I was looking, watching, and waiting for the right moments.”

That waiting often meant the right moment wasn’t captured at all. Cameras tend to make most people nervous, and they’ll look nervous in the photos if nothing changes. How do you change that? Jasmine shares a bit of what needs to happen to create an atmosphere between the photographer and the client to create those perfect moments.

What should the photographer do to create a dynamic with the client?

Some photographers naturally have an outgoing personality and find it easy to put their subjects at ease. For others, it’s a difficult step outside their comfort zone. Jasmine, a self-describe wall flower gardener, would rather sit back and watch the scene unfold than become the center of attention. But when she realized she wanted to be a wedding photographer at age 25, she quickly recognized that things needed to change.

I quickly learned that if I wasn’t capturing the type of photos I wanted, it was because I wasn’t giving my subjects anything to do, or even encouragement or a transfer of energy,” she said. “My subjects usually show up to a shoot nervous, shy, intimidated and it’s my job to be in control, take charge, and make them feel like they’re the center of the universe.”

So can a shy photographer be successful? Yes, but it will mean some difficult changes. “Let me save you some time from my experiences: The best photographers don’t wait for a photo, they make a photo. And by “make” I mean as elaborate as a staged shot or simply take one step to the right to compose the picture in a stronger fashion,” she said.

Taking a step outside the comfort zone and making a photo can be rough for shy photographers, but preparation can help. Each photographer’s pre-shoot routine may be a little different, but Jasmine’s starts with listening to her favorite music and pre-visualizing the shot’s she’d like to capture. She focuses on articulating her thoughts ahead of time, so she can put the photos that she has in her head into words for the client to understand. She says a little prayer, and heads to the location early, mapping out the session. By the time the clients arrive, she’s ready not to just take pictures, but to make them.

Jasmine stresses that it is possible for a shy photographer to do well. “If you’re anything like me, please know success doesn’t hinge on your shyness, but, rather, your ability to move past your innate characteristics and put forth the type of photographer you want to be.”

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What should the client do to enhance the photographer-client relationship?

Of course, there’s another side to the equation—the client. A client should love a photographer’s portfolio, but it’s also a good idea to meet and ensure they love the photographer just as much as they love the photographs.

Jasmine said brides often ask her a list of typical questions, like date availability and if it’s okay for other people to take pictures too. While they’re good questions, they don’t help to build a relationship between the client and the photographer.

Here’s what Jasmine wishes her clients would ask:

  • How do you spend your free time?
  • What’s your most favorite memory at a wedding?
  • What’s the worst thing that’s happened to you on a wedding day?
  • What are you most proud of?
  • Why did you become a wedding photographer?

By asking questions like these, the bride can get to know the photographer better before the big day. “These questions yield wildly different answers and yet they offer clear insight into the soul of the person documenting your wedding day,” Jasmine says. “I started as a photographer, but the business has since grown into many areas, with each experience changing my perspective. I’d love to share what makes me unique–as would most photographers–so if you’re a bride looking for the best photographer for your wedding day, the best way is to ask questions that reveal the vision inside the visionary.”

A big part of creating that photography-client dynamic is previsualizing the photos and preparing to articulate those ideas ahead of time—but that’s hard to do when the photographer isn’t feeling inspired. What then?

During the peak of wedding season, I run the risk of getting burnt out,” Jasmine says. “As any creative can attest, working with such frequency and being required to think-create-produce…think-create-produce can take a toll when it comes to approaching a new photo shoot, canvas, writing project, etc.”

The busier any creative professional is, the more essential it is to carve out some time to recalibrate. The client will benefit too when the photographer takes a break to generate some inspiration, so photographers shouldn’t feel bad for needing—and taking—a moment for themselves. It’s so easy to get hung up on the details, like which lens to use for the wedding shoot, that this often gets overlooked. 

Jasmine likes to read and practice yoga everyday to recharge—she’ll also head to a shoot location early for time to reflect or watch an independent film. Each photographer may have a different way of recharging, but if you have’t found yours yet, Jasmine recommends taking a walk, or lying with your eyes closed and doing absolutely nothing for ten minutes. Volunteer, go to a museum, build something, eat dinner with friends, paint a picture or call your mother—whatever it is, find a way to take a break and recharge.

The busier you are, the more it’s necessary to take a step back and recalibrate,” Jasmine says.

Without a genuine moment to capture, photos simple don’t have that spark. A great photographer doesn’t sit back and wait for those moments, but creates them through a dynamic relationship with the client, even when that means stepping out of that comfort zone. While building a relationship between the client and photographer is essential, staying inspired is key—which means taking a step back sometimes to recharge.

Be sure to watch Jasmine’s course on wedding photography to learn more.

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Hillary Grigonis

Hillary K. Grigonis is a web content writer and lifestyle photographer from Michigan. After working as a photojournalist for several years, she made the leap and started her own business and now enjoys sharing tips and tricks with emerging photographers.