How to Be Inclusive as a Photographer

Inclusivity means making sure that everyone feels welcome & respected, no matter who they are or where they come from. It’s about treating everyone fairly & giving them all the same opportunities. As a small business owner, when you can create an inclusive place, people can be themselves without being judged. This is important whether you are creating an inclusive space for clients or an inclusive space for other people you work with. Inclusivity is about celebrating everyone, even though there can be many differences between everyone.

As photographers, we photograph all sorts of people. Being inclusive toward everyone is important to ensure your clients feel comfortable in front of your camera. If your clients feel like they may be getting judged or thought of in a certain way, how are they going to relax when they are being photographed? If your clients can know that you are inclusive in every way, they can chill & you can create the best photos for them.

What Does Inclusivity Encompass?

In today’s world, many people think about being inclusive in relating towards the LGBTQIA+ community. However, that is a limited view of the subject. Yes, it is so important to be inclusive towards more marginalized groups, but it means more than that. To me, I want to be inclusive towards everyone. Whether couples are gay or straight, whether they have strong religious beliefs or no religious beliefs, or people with or without disabilities. Everyone regardless of skin color, ethnicity, sexuality, religion, culture, political belief, or disability is welcome to work with me. I also understand that not everyone may be in a “traditional” relationship or have a “traditional” family. (I put “traditional” in quotes here because I don’t always like what that word implies.)

Having a Diverse Photography Portfolio

What makes us so special as humans is that we can celebrate all of our differences. Be sure to show that through your photography portfolio! (I personally know I need to do better in this area.) A diverse photography portfolio is one of the best ways to show that you are inclusive. When you are able to show images of all sorts of people that others can then see themselves in those photos, it makes it obvious that you are a safe space.

Use Inclusive Language in Your Business

Even if you’re newer or for whatever reason you don’t have a more inclusive portfolio, using inclusive wording & language allllll throughout your business is a great practice. For example, don’t always talk about brides, not every couple has a bride. For myself in my own relationship, I am excited about the thought of planning a wedding! But it can get old when everything is so bride-focused. Use gender neutral language. If you’re a family photographer, a family may not always include a mom & a dad, maybe it’s a single-parent household, don’t inadvertently make them feel left out.

If you’re an elopement photographer, you could even talk about how you could help find accessible locations for people who may have a disability, whether that is the couple or some of their guests. When talking about guests at weddings, some people may not have family that they are close to or talk with, so talk about wedding guests instead of always referring to family as they may just be inviting friends. Don’t always have bride & groom on your contact form or in contracts, use something like “partner” or “significant other” instead. There is so much to think about & no one is saying you have to be perfect in every aspect, but every little effort you put in will be noticed by people.

“Diversity is a fact, but inclusion is a choice we make every day. As leaders, we have to put out the message that we embrace & not just tolerate diversity.”

–Nellie Borrero

Learn About Your Clients & Understand What They Are Comfortable With

Be careful of getting certain stereotypical ideas stuck in your head. For example, when taking photos, the groom doesn’t always need to lead the bride. Instead, use what my friend Maddie Mae calls “permission posing”. Basically, you don’t assume the stereotypical gender norms for anyone, even cisgender heterosexual relationships. This way, your clients will always end up with images that truly capture who they are. With permission posing, you would not say “Jack, take Jill & lead her in front of this mountain view.” Instead, you would say, “When the two of you are walking together, does one of you lead the other sometimes?” You could also say, “I want one of you to lead the other here. One of you can lead or we can have you walk back & forth to get more photos & you can both take turns leading.”

Another thing I notice a lot when it comes to posing your clients & making sure the images really scream “THIS IS US!” is to make sure your own ideas don’t cloud your head on how something “should be”. For example, my boyfriend & I love to cuddle, laugh together, touch each other & be all over each other, showing affection, etc. Sometimes photographers get stuck in posing certain couples (like masculine couples) in a certain way. So don’t be afraid to ask questions so they can pose themselves & so you can help them look & feel their best. For example, you could ask a couple, “When you go in for a hug or when you cuddle together, is there a way that you guys really ‘fit’ into each other?”

Kaleb & I love doing fun self portraits of ourselves!

By continuing to work with all sorts of clients, you’re going to become more & more comfortable on how to pose all sorts of people & just by putting in effort to educate yourself & show that you embrace diversity you will catch the eyes of even more people who will be excited to work with you!

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