Olga Levien
New Zealand Artist | Mentor | Mum

Olga Levien wedding | documentary family photographers Blog

Personal projects and documentary-lifestyle photographs taken by Olga Levien photography artist - wedding and family photographer in Auckland, New Zealand and international.

How to deal with flat session - find inspiration {Photography education | tutorials for photographers}

How to deal with flat session and find inspiration

Photography education | Tutorials for photographers

We all been there - you all ready to go, arrive at the session, giving your best, but something just not feels right. What it is and how to work with it?

I decided to put together a few tips that help to survive when you have a "flat" session!

First of all let find out why it feels flat, what is wrong, what going on. Can you do anything about it right at this moment while you are shooting, or should you prevent it beforehand, or maybe you can do something afterwards? Let's switch to problem-solving which including a few leading steps {according to Google}

- Define the problem. Diagnose the situation so that your focus is on the problem, not just its symptoms. ... 
- Generate alternative solutions. ... 
- Evaluate and select an alternative. ... 
- Implement and follow up on the solution.
In other words, find out what the problem, then think what can you do with it now,  action, reflection and think what can you do better next time.

Ok, less smart words and more action.

Let our list of reasons for "flat sessions"  begin:

1. The Light. 

You expect beautiful sunset, but you find cloudy weather. Or you pray for clouds but there bright sun in the middle of the day or even rain. Find out the solution, make it works! Cloudy weather- go dark and moody, watch for the direction of light and make it work! Bright and sunny - find an open shade, use a backlight, shoot in direct light. Rainy weather - shoot inside, get umbrellas and go for adventure {don't forget to protect your camera gear!!!} You can also get an OCF and get creative!

Also, work with your clients, tell its the best weather ever {my tips - cloudy: "clouds just perfect, working like a giant softbox!", sunny - "such a wonderful day for a session/wedding, look at this sky!", rainy - "you know, in many countries around the world rain on the wedding day is a symbol of happy future life together!" Get creative and get a positive vibe, experiment and find the LIGHT!

Example - wedding under the rain:

2. Wardrobe choice. 

You gave your main recommendations and wardrobe tips beforehand {including Pinterest board}, but client comes to the session in the ridiculous outfit that not suits them, your vision for a session, and your brand. Solutions: 

- shoot half body {if bottom part looks not the best: wrong shoes, shorts, dress/skirt fit or absence of any}

- shoot from behind {avoid big logos etc.}

- shoot close to shoot faces with emotional expression and avoid to show their outfits

- kill the bright colours in post-processing {reduce the saturation of certain colour or part of the frame using eye-dropper or brush}

Last but not least, just not share images that not speak to your Voice, Style and your Brand, to your Ideal Client.

Thats how dress my ideal client:


and this outfit just not make my heart sing {nothing wrong with this, just not a right fit for location}:

couple-levien-5 copy.jpg

Solutions: shoot half body from far, shoot from the back, faces, movement and black and white {I also switched the location and move couple from the dark rainy forest to the lake - 15 min drive - don't be afraid to be in charge}: Not my fave session, don't even want to share, but couple loved the photos

3. Location. 

You arrived at the location that client chose and it's just not that you imagine or that you like the {future recommendation - try to educate your client about best photo location, offer suggestions based on your experience and their preferences}. Maybe, you chose a location, but something just not right - different light, crowded spot, road works and anything else that on your way.

Solutions - change the location {see example above, or work it out - change angles, composition and lenses choice to not include distractions in the frame {also use tele lenses, not wide ones} that allow hiding any part of locations that not beneficial for your frame. Change perspective {shoot from above, shoot up on a subject to avoid destruction}. Change our position to allow your subject to cover distraction with their body {as posts, rubbish bins, road works signs etc.} Simply watch your background and work out the ways to avoid it, hide it or shoot around it.

4. Clients Emotions.

The session does not feel exciting, something just not click. Of course, we can't be a best friend to each client, but it's our call to talk through the session, make clients relaxed, feel on ease and ready to go with the flow. Your communication jokes when needed can break ice and make the session more enjoyable for you and them.

You can find sometimes people just can't relax in front of the camera, they feel awkward, don't know what to do and their feelings make you feel same uncomfortable and realise you are not getting what you aim for.  Then my main tip - just tell them how amazing they look, how great they doing {you can even show them back on the camera screen if there any worthy image}. It make them believe they are beautiful, and finally relax and let you capture the moment. My other tip that - give them props as walking, talking and more. People always look and feel natural when they are moving around {not just standing in stiff position}. Movement can save any awkward situation!


5.  Your emotions. 

You tired, you so busy, you have kids at home, family, endless list of things to do, maybe even other jobs and responsibilities. We all been there. You arrive at the session trying remember clients names, anything about them from the questionnaire and shoot it out. You just not feel like shooting, you do not feel inspired or motivated. What the solution? Get over it!

- Find inspiration before the session {listen music in the car on the way to the session, or even take it with you to the shoot; read the book, watch some movie or TV program, browse Pinterest for ideas, go to museum or art gallery, do yoga etc} - find something that works perfectly just for you! I am always trying to find inspiration in music, nature or even views and quiet atmosphere on location.

- Find your mojo during the session - talk with people, get to know them, find something that makes you and them excited, something common {i always finds these connections in little things and its make them feel comfortable and me interested in their stories and personalities}, shoot what you love to shoot! I love to shoot details {flying hair, eyes with emotions, dress details, texture etc.} - these little details helping me to find my mojo, something that conned tot me and what I see in the world;

- push and shoot it through!  - you have no idea how many times I thought the session was a disaster, I just not felt it, just did my routine with finding composition, changing perspective and different type of light, only "standard", but then opening images at my computer I found a treasures, been amazed of some pictures that genuinely speak to my soul, later I found my mojo and inspiration, it makes me feel ALIVE, breath again an believe everything is possible if you want it to happen. 

Then I went to another session, inspired and get even better images, or fall flat again. Shoot it through, and again and again! You will be there, you will love some of your work {not all, but something, not every time, but sometime}. You can come back to your images over the time, let it cool down and be amazed again how good you are or grow along and see how perfectly unperfect your photographs. It's a steady process, just understand yourself, your clients, find your solutions and

GO WITH THE FLOW! - Expect the unexpected and be ready to change and adjust to the situation. You need it!

If you get something unexpected in your session, you need to work with your fears. The client just doesn't know any better; it's potentially their first photo shoot. Then it's your turn to make it all works. {Play in post-processing as well, have fun!}

Good luck!

Please share your stories with "flat sessions" and how you survived. I look forward to it!

Let me know if you have any questions! Thank you for your attention!

Happy New Year! Can't wait to see what adventures it bring!