Patrick and Cassie McBride own Pat + Cassie Portrait Design in Crown Point, Indiana. Recently, Cassie shared how they run their style appointments at their studio.
At our studio each client is scheduled for an in person style appointment 1-2 weeks prior to their session. If the client is from out of town then we create a style board for them and communicate via text, email, and face time and hold a virtual style appointment to finalize all of their looks.
Styling is so important; we won’t shoot anyone we haven’t consulted with about their wardrobe ahead of time. Each outfit has to match their personality, the location where we will be shooting that look, and the season. All of our hair and makeup artists also receive a style board with images of the client’s outfits prior to their session as well. Having them aware of the looks, locations, and seasons helps form the cohesiveness that you see in the images.
From start to finish we meet with each of our clients at least 5 times. We do all in person consultations followed by their style appointment, their session, their in person sales appointment, and the final order delivery. By doing this we truly set ourselves apart in our area, and it is a key element of our studio’s success in everything from marketing all the way through to our sales. And another thing to note, if they do 2 sessions then they get 2 separate style appointments.
We have a physical studio, which allows us the ability to hold in person style appointments there. Also, I am the one who does the wardrobe consultations, not Patrick. We run our entire studio together – one hand feeds the other – so by dividing and conquering it allows each of us to focus on the things that we need to do in the business. I know that most people do not have this benefit, and that not everyone can meet with each client in person. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t incorporate styling into your sessions!
For those who don’t have a physical studio space, additional hands on deck, or available time (Renee Bowen and Amy Reinert are examples of one woman shows, and I totally get it!), there are still many options for incorporating this into your own business. For example, creating style boards for your clients and consistently communicating back and forth to ensure you have well put together looks for their locations can have a big impact on your marketing, your images, and also your sales. Not to mention that it makes your job easier and your clients happier.
I use the Stylebook app to create style boards for our clients. Here are a few reasons why I really like it:
- You can shop thousands of looks and sort by color, price, etc.
- You can create as many looks as you want (I create multiple looks per senior).
- You can create individual looks and save piece by piece or create a themed image that you can then share with your client.
- You can add clothing from their own closet, which is a huge benefit! This allows them to see the entire look come to life with their own items while following the idea put in motion for the location where they are shooting.
- You can add items from Pinterest or other blogs for additional inspiration.
- The app has calendar integration, allowing you to link items/looks to a specific date. So when I need to remember what looks are supposed to be photographed that day, it’s all right there in front of me (no digging through your camera roll or text messages).
- You can also add notes to each look, such as ‘wear this with sleeves rolled,’ ‘use hat as prop,’ ‘jeans are for graffiti,’ ‘barefoot on the beach,’ and so on.
- There is a ‘packing’ feature that you can tweak for your sessions if you like. You save each item that the client is supposed to bring and it creates a checklist they can use so they know they have everything they need.
- You can send looks to your client via the share option. As you collaborate, you can update the look and continually keep your client in the loop as well.
These are looks I created for inspiration for a client who comes in next week for her styling (she has this board right now to use as inspiration for her looks). Once I see her own items I will then update these looks to be ‘real life.’ Her grandpa owns a 58 Vette and a WW2 plane (incredible, right?!), so for her first session we wanted to incorporate those items and make this an unforgettable shoot for her. We have access to the local airport and will be photographing her at sunset. I point all this out because location matters! It entirely sets the mood for the images and the story, and everything else follows.
The process starts at their in person consultation. In order for us to best be able to portray their story, and what it is they want to relay in their senior pictures, I start off by asking them where they want to go, what they want to accomplish, and what ideas they have. I also ask them their favorite place to shop – such as H&M, Forever 21, Free People, Urban Outfitters, etc.
By asking this simple question I can tell a lot about their personality, as well as their personal style, and get an idea of what location would best match those. By the end of the consultation I have a pretty good idea of what their style is and what location will work well with it, whether it’s the beach, an urban location, the studio, a garden, and so on. Once I nail that down, then I go to work on their wardrobe styling.
This client booked a mini destination session in Saugatuck, Michigan. We have been to Saugatuck several times, so I know what the vibe is like and what elements are around that we can work with. We are going to be shooing on the beach, in the downtown environment (think Abbot Kinney meets New York in the Midwest), and in the marina. Knowing what these three locations are like, and what they have there, I then create the style boards for her to use as inspiration for her looks (if I didn’t know the area I would do this research beforehand). I do the exact same thing for all of our clients, regardless of whether they are doing a destination session or a local session.
The client’s session is scheduled the middle of the month. I created an overall moodboard for the shoot and went over this with them in person at their style appointment. By using some pieces that she already owned and some of what she was going to buy, we narrowed the board down to 4 different looks.
- 2 looks will be photographed downtown: the skirt and bodysuit, and the white demin with the black top.
- 1 look will be photographed in a marina/harbor area: the navy or pinstripe jumpsuit.
- 1 look will be for sunset on the beach: the white lace maxi.
Once they finish shopping for the remaining pieces I then completely finalize the look using everything that they now have in hand. This also creates a checklist for them on what to bring for each location for her session!