cox1As I packed my truck for the shoot, the ominous skies were dumping rain. My client, a lovely and affluent mom, called me and was obviously quite stressed. Her large family had come especially for this event and she was worried about postponing. But even still, I myself don’t like postponing shoots, especially for bad weather. It’s always wiser to go ahead and get what images you can when you can.

I reassured her, “The shoot will go off beautifully. Rainy days are great and we’ll make it work.” I imagined shooting during a drizzly lull, or worst case I could use the magnificent home’s interior.

Photographic artists are called upon to be problem-solving creatives, and this was a day I’d have to employ that skill in spades. Still, creativity must not surpass technical skill. The pro must capture life beautifully in the camera instead of the hit-or-miss exercise, which forces one to over-use Photoshop to patch up problems. Technical ability also makes for a faster workflow, and educated high-end clients often see through the lack of technical skills.

The Importance of Being Prepared


Finally we must all learn to sell. Artistic praise is seductive and often overpowers the need to get adequate compensation, but selling success can be learned and creative people are especially great at sales with the right help.

My week-long photography workshop at Texas School is hands-on for beginners to pros, and we focus hard on those three areas – creativity, technical knowhow, and business/sales. All three were especially needed to conquer this rainy shoot.

During the storm I arrived at the client’s home and staked out a location in their front driveway using their house as background despite hearing some grumblings. I metered the stormy sky and home, and set up each light and piece of gear manually. I don’t like worrying about output. I want the assurance of manual control so that things work perfectly. Then I covered my gear and hoped for a lull.

The wet ground necessitated standing poses, so when the rain slowed to a drizzle I called everyone outside and began grouping people together. I take a second to visualize so the posing goes faster. Many times for speed of composition and as an icebreaker with kids, I just pick up children and place them where I want them. I also have a rule for posing larger groups: individual families must be placed together – kids can never be separated from parents to fill in visual holes somewhere else.

Photographic artists are called upon to be problem-solving creatives,
and this was a day I’d have to employ that skill in spades.

cox5Once set up, I uncovered my gear and began my silly
puppet show routine that’s evolved over the years. I
stopped being embarrassing years ago because it works.
Kids and adults relax and give me real smiles, letting go of their phony, practiced grins. It is especially gratifying when little babies that can’t talk, laugh the hardest, and the sound of babies laughing makes everyone’s smiles more genuine.

I only shoot 3-5 images of any set and then move on to something different, and that goes for groups too. This simplifies the whole process, makes it easier to pick a
favorite, and also helps the shoot move quickly. That’s critical for keeping kids and stressed clients happy, and is extra handy for rainstorms.

After taking five images of the big group, I shot breakdowns, starting with the biggest family to the smallest, again only taking about 3-5 images of each family. It may seem risky to shoot so little, but it gets easier as creativity and technical prowess become ingrained in your habits and procedures.

cox6Still, as fast as I moved, I only got two smaller families finished before the sky fell! The rain hammered down. Amidst screams everyone ran for cover, but I still had
more groups to shoot. I could have set up in their home where it was warm and dry, but I wanted all their images to work together visually. I imagined selling them wall collages and albums where all the colors matched, and I wasn’t giving up on that.

So I stayed outside and set up under the home’s atrium that can be seen behind the earlier groups. It blocked the falling rain enough that I could finish the shoot outside though I had to adjust my ISO and shutter speeds to keep the darkening night from going black.

No matter how quickly you work, kids hit a wall and run out of steam and no trick or puppet show will get them to smile. And that point is usually when mom wants a shot with all her grandkids. But even a mix of crying and happy kids makes for a great portrait when their attention is toward the camera.

With the shoot over, I knew I had solved the first big obstacle, but the sales appointment brought another tough hurdle, the kind that kills a big sale. However,
by employing a creative sales technique, I sold a 7-foot wide canvas.

cox3In my class at the Texas School of Professional Photography, we discuss those sales techniques and much more. These are fun classes packed with specifics where you’ll see lighting in new ways, become more technically savvy, and learn my course on the Psychology of Pricing and Sales… skills that saved this sale.

So until then, happy shooting and until next time,America