A client-centered approach

Luxury portrait photographer Jai Mayhew has built her business around empathy. She knows what it’s like not to feel confident or comfortable in her own skin, and she’s made it her mission to photograph women in a way that makes them feel beautiful but, more importantly, seen.

“Portraits have power,” she said during the interview, “we are telling people, ‘this is what you look like, this is your image, this is your likeness.’ There is power and responsibility in that. I will get on a soapbox about this, I am passionate about this. It’s like a calling for me to have women stand in front of me and reflect beauty back at them.”

Mayhew left her PR job in politics and built a six-figure business almost entirely on word-of-mouth advertising because she does just that. “When I shoot my clients, I very much put myself in her place,” she said, “because, as a woman, most of us are used to having our insecurities validated. We’re used to seeing the worst parts of us reflected back. And I know for myself that’s typically the case.”

Her empathy and vulnerability combined with the experience she provides for her customers is what has her clients raving about her service. For portrait photographers, the goal is often the end state: a beautiful photograph. But for Mayhew, it’s much deeper than that, and she recognizes that the photograph is part of an overall experience where her clients feel, many for the first time, like they’re valued.

She spares no expense, holding their hands through the entire process from consultation to hair and makeup, refreshments, and post-session gifts. She even includes them in the culling process so they get to choose their favorite images and have control over the outcome of their session. 

Many photographers want the creative control of choosing which images to retouch and present to their clients, but Mayhew finds her customers become invested in choosing their own portraits and often choose images she would have discarded. Rather than showing them a portrait gallery of her choosing, Mayhew sits down with clients after their portrait session and goes through the culling process with them.

She says they see things in themselves she would have missed, being focused on her vision, and allowing them to choose their own images ensures they’re happy with their purchase. Building her business structure from a client-centered perspective isn’t just good for her clients, but for her soul.

“I think the act of creating is an almost spiritual thing. We are the only life form on earth that truly creates. We are able to create true art, and I think it is a reflection of the soul and a reflection of something so much greater than us.

We are given a gift, and I think we are supposed to give it back. […] There is a lot of things I cannot do, but I can see beauty in women. That’s my gift. And when I give it back to women, I feel like I am doing what I am supposed to do.”

If you want to learn more about how Jai approaches business and how this client-centered approach has led to a successful business, her tutorial with PRO EDU Luxe Portraiture and Retouching will be released April 6th, 2021.