Managing Headshot Client Expectations

Jun 9, 2023 | Business Headshots

– How We Manage Headshot Client Expectations –

As a professional headshot photographer, managing client expectations is a key aspect for a successful shoot. To achieve this, we have developed a recipe consisting of a combination of communication, preparation, studio experience and professionalism. Each client is different and each session requires a tailored approach but all of these ingredients help manage expectations and deliver quality headshot results.

Let’s Talk: Communication Sets Expectations

Emails are great, but in order to accurately set client expectations there should be a phone call or a face to face meeting. Having a thorough conversation before the shoot is essential. During the discussion, the preferences and expectations of the client should be covered in detail. The style and approach they prefer should also be considered. This will give a clear understanding of the client’s needs and how to customize the work to meet those needs.

Moreover, this is a great opportunity for us to go in to detail about the entire process. From backdrop and lighting selection to post production, our initial conversation will provide the client with an understanding of what’s going to happen in the studio. If they are inexperienced in being photographed, this is very helpful to give them a sense of what’s to come. We can discuss hair, makeup, wardrobe, posing and the message we want to convey.

Prepare For Success

Beyond this conversation, we provide emails with detailed instructions on how to prepare for their headshot session. Not only is this helpful for the client, but it’s essential for us as photographers. We want our portrait sessions to go smoothly and provide excellent service along with amazing results. From our experience, preparation is the key to managing headshot client expectations.

The direction of any portrait session needs to be targeted or it could lead to wasted time and energy.  Again, this is a two way street and preparation obviously extends to us as photographers. Knowing what the client wants ahead of time, gives us the chance to make a plan for the session and set the studio accordingly. 


Professionalism goes beyond showing a dynamic portfolio. Of course, providing examples of past work is important but equally important is providing an easy experience. As we’ve previously discussed, it’s not always easy to be photographed. That’s why we schedule enough time for each session and allow the client to arrive and get settled before jumping into the action. Before we begin we will again discuss the client’s preferred images, talk about wardrobe, posing background, etc. This allows the client to be able to interject with any ideas, additional information or concerns. Continually keeping our clients informed in the process gives them agency and makes the session more collaborative.

Skill, talent and vision contribute to a photographer’s ability, but one thing exceeds all when photographing portraits; demeanor. Kindness, empathy and controlled confidence allows the subject to feel at ease during their portrait session. Therefore, we use a lot of positive reinforcement and encouragement to bring out the best in our subjects. During a portrait session there is an exchange of energy that takes place, so any apprehension, discomfort or negativity can come out in the portraits. That’s why we have a good vibes only policy.

Studio Experience 

During the session, it is important to be flexible and adaptable. Clients may change their minds or want to try something new, so the photographer needs to be able to pivot and change tactics and techniques quickly. The client’s preferences should be respected, even if they differ from the photographer’s own. Moreover, treating the session as a collaboration allows for honest dialogue to take place during the shoot. This further helps manage expectations. 

In regards to our creativity, we always make sure that we have nailed the necessary images before trying anything that was outside of the shot list. Experimenting with different poses, angles, and lighting can result in some dynamic results but it’s best to do this towards the end of the session. Therefore, sticking with the plan and managing expectations, but also showing something different.

For most studio sessions, we like to shoot into the monitor and allow the client to proof the images as the session progresses. Although these images will be straight out of camera with no post processing, they are able to view the style, pose and energy conveyed in the images. Out of everything we’ve discussed, on site proofing firmly sets headshot client expectations. We always help them choose the best image, but allow them to be the deciding voice, giving them 100% agency in the process. 

In conclusion, good communication before and during the shoot, preparation on both parties, professionalism and experience all play a role in managing headshot client expectations. It’s our goal to provide an excellent experience to match results of the session. 

If you’d like to see some photos of from previous headshot session, visit our portfolio page

“Recently, we had a client express that she wanted a bright white, high key background for her headshot. She had shown us a photo from our portfolio that she liked and we set up the studio accordingly. Within minutes of shooting, she looked at the monitor and did not like the look. Quickly we talked about options, changed things up and ended up exceeding her expectations”