Sometimes the best lessons come from being on
the business end of another photographer’s lens
e were in the Mirage Hotel in
Las Vegas as part of a week-
long trip to celebrate my
50th birthday. My wife
Sarah and I had been
here before for our
honeymoon, and I’d
always wanted to return
with the kids. On this
evening we were looking
forward to Love, the Cirque
du Soleil show based on the
Beatles’ music. First though, we
were fuelling up with a hot meal, and
were midway through the main course
when the hotel photographer drew up to
the table next to ours.
I’ve never been a fan of this approach.
When I photograph weddings, I actively
recommend to clients that the
photography pauses during the main
meal. That’s partly because I don’t want
to interrupt the food, but mainly it’s
particularly good images.
But I’m a sucker for photos of my
family. Like most people, I don’t like
having my photo taken, but still, the
result is worth it: to me, family photos
are the most valuable thing I have.
Despite this, I felt an increasing sense
the photographer a few times before he
demeanour. I had the strong impression
he didn’t really want to be there.
coldness of his body language, and the
disinterest in his eyes. I wanted the photo
with my family, but I didn’t want him to
take one picture and leave it at that.
he relented and took a single image
before moving on. Half-an-hour later,
client’s printed images, hoping they
would choose to buy them.
For us, he had a single, matted print,
and was unable to up-sell anything extra.
It wasn’t a great shot, but I bought it
anyway, as a record of us being together.
Canyon a day or two later.
An opposite experience
I have always wanted to do the Skywalk
your shoes – revealing every detail of the
4000-foot drop below.
For safety reasons, you aren’t allowed
to take anything with you on the
Skywalk: no wallets, coins, cameras or
smartphones. This creates a perfect
business opportunity, as you are a
captive customer who can’t create your
own record of the experience. Indeed, as
we stepped out onto the Skywalk, there
were a row of professional photographers
waiting. One of them, Justin, came over
and introduced himself to us.
I immediately felt my energy levels
increase as he began interacting with us.
He was practically bouncing with
humour and enthusiasm, and
gentle teasing of Sarah for her strong
aversion to heights.
I could see that all the photographers
were going through a set series of images
with every group of clients. I also knew
that Justin’s employer would be trying to
sucker us when we reached the other
side, and pressure us to spend as much
money as possible. I didn’t care. I was
there with my family and we were all
laughing. So we followed Justin’s
directions for about 15 minutes and
performed all the cheesy poses.
He didn’t slow down once, and his
spirit drew us through the shoot in what
felt like only a couple of minutes. At the
end, he shook our hands, turned the
sun, repeating the same thing over and
over. He was so upbeat that I never
would’ve guessed it had probably been
screens to see the photos, and bought
every single one. Again, the shots aren’t
that wonderful, or original, but I love
them. Whenever I look back at the
photographs from our holiday,
images were taken. I remember the two
awkwardness of one transaction and the
who does this: when our clients attend
what was happening at the time a picture
was taken. That’s why a great customer
I wanted the photo with
my family, but I didn’t want
the photographer to spoil
our meal. I decided to insist
he just take one picture
and leave it at that
Paul Wilkinson FMPA FBIPP FSWPP is a multi-
award-winning international photographer and
co-author of the best-selling book Mastering
Portrait Photography, and shares his skills
through the free companion site
MasteringPortraitPhotography.com. In this
monthly series he shares his experiences and
stories as he talks about the trials and
tribulations of becoming a pro photographer.