As wedding Photographers, we are almost always contacted to do family photography after the wedding as our couple family grows. Because of this, we need to learn from those best at family photography. Dana Pugh is at the top of her game and has the credentials behind her to back her work up (NAPCP 2010).
Her 2015 CPC topic is all about how to get authentic connections from your family clients. Her personal story is a lot like other mom photographers. She started documenting her own kids in an authentic way and was asked to document other kids. From the get go, she was always photographing families in their own natural element.
As the years have progressed, her work has really changed and her love of authentic moments has grown. In the past 8 years she has been shooting, the challenge that has come to the forefront is convincing the consumer what they want. She is a firm believer of showing only what you want to shoot (a theme prevalent in CPC 2014). Despite the more natural approach she craves, she still gets families coming to a session to just sit there and smile at the camera.
Her approach is as follows: to walk in and control the session. Through communication and direction, she gets the results she wants and because of this, most client are repeat clients. She attempts to get everyone on her side. She arrives with the goal of taking those perfect pictures to get people to realize what they really want. Is it difficult? Yes. What grandma wants and what the family wants and what the photographer wants can be vastly different and at odds with each other. In the end, because she showcases what she wants to shoot on her website, the client’s expectations are set from the beginning.
She once talked to a client and found out they were married in a small western town. They said “we need to go back to this town with the kids”. Had she not spent 5 minutes talking to them, she never would have discovered that. Because of these conversations with clients, the locations do not have to be complicated but can be as simple as going to an ice-cream shop that the couple always goes to. Let life be simple because quite often, the simple things are more impactful and there is less possibility of things going wrong. Due to this experience, Dana cannot stress enough communicating and talking to your clients prior to the session about what matters to them.
In the end, she wants to show the kids personality and the family dynamics. Essentially, it is the beauty of imperfection she is after. This is what the family craves to see in the end; their kids being themselves and showcasing what they are like in everyday settings.
Because of some of the “perfect” images on the web these days and within magazines, some clients may think “my house is not perfect” etc. It doesn’t matter. In the end, you as the photographer just have to calm them down. Because of some of these preconceived notions, she approaches new clients differently. She starts with a pre-session consult – locations and clothing to wear are actually not discussed. It is more about what they do on a Sunday. She gets them to describe their family and what their kids are like, etc. She attempts to deflect on the idea of trying to achieve perfection.
Dana has spent the last couple of years getting to know the people in her industry. As a result, she has realized there are differences between her industry and the wedding industry. For one thing, many photographers are around her age (low 40s) which differs from from wedding industry on the whole which is typically younger.
Personally, she feels the family photography industry is moving in a positive manner. However, there is still a division, but she feels there is a change in the atmosphere. While, there are traditional photographers working (ie look at the camera and smile) she is seeing more photographs of families on a more natural scale.
If you are a wedding photographer who wishes to jump into the world of family photography because your wedding clients beg you to or if you are a family photographer wanting to improve, there are many reasons to listen to her talk at CPC 2015.
To see more of Dana’s work, check out her website here.
Article by Barbara Cameron.