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What’s in a Name? {Guest Writer}

Let me first admit that I know the image is not print competition worthy! But I met Kalli at WPPI last year and when she didn’t send over a self pic I remembered I had this one. It’s actually a really funny story on how she finally came up and introduced herself. We didn’t get to talk very long but we took a minute and handed the camera over to get someone to snap a pic and well… beggars can’t be choosy even when you are at a professional photographer’s convention.

Okay, mom.  Stand over here.  And dad, I want you to come over here and put your hand like this.  Good.  Now sister…no, other sister.  Okay, um…big sister.  Yeah, you.  Come stand right here….”

I used to do this.  We’re busy.  We’ve got lots of clients, and a LOT running through our heads.  Especially when I was faced with a larger sized family, I wouldn’t even TRY to remember names.  I tried to give them little nick-names, (though not very endearing), such as “Brother-in-law” and “middle sister”, “curly, short hair”, and “blue shirt”.  I thought somehow that masked the fact that I couldn’t remember their names, and I was still able to get my job done.  *Cringe.*

I did my job, but not very well.  I’ve learned.  And changed.  I now realize how important it is to remember names.  Jeff Beals really emphasizes this quality in his book, “Self Marketing Power.”  (Read it.)  He says, “If you use a person’s first name, he or she instantly has a more positive opinion of you” (pg. 86).  And as Jasmine Star says, you want a person to like your photos “before they even see them.” You do this with your clients because of the way you treat them and interact with them. Because of the experience they’ve already had with you.  Remembering a name can go a long way and can be insanely powerful.

When I first started out my business, I set up a session and then showed up to the session—blind.  Not knowing anything about the family.  One way that I can remember names is to study them in advance.  I now send out a questionnaire (and am working on setting up a phone consultation) where I get the names and ages of the family members, as well as some likes and interests.  Now when I show up to a photoshoot I can go right up to sister, get on her level, shake her hand and say, “Hi, Brooke!  It’s so nice to meet you!  I hear you are in swimming lessons.  How do you like it?”  Or I can say, “Hi, Gavin.  I LOVE Elmo.  Do you?”  Oh, and by the way, mother’s swoon and dads seem to show a much higher respect for you right off the bat.    You can tell in their demeanor and mood that they know they are in good hands and will have a good time.  Because I know their names, and I’m interested in them as a person.

It’s important!  Don’t underestimate the power of remembering a name.  Think of how it makes you feel when someone remembers your name.  And think about what it’s like when people don’t.  There’s a big difference there.

So now on to some beneficial skills.  Have you ever said, “I’m terrible at remembering names.”  Well, there is no one who just “can’t” remember names.  They have just found a really nice excuse from trying, and they haven’t practiced.  Practice!  You can practice certain techniques, and become a wiz at remembering names.  Yes, you.

Try some of these techniques:

#1: Name association.  Associate the person you want to remember with someone you already know that has the same name.  (I also use names from tv shows or movies as well.)  I had a client with a daughter named Brooke.  Growing up I knew a girl who had a huge crush on my brother.  Her name was Brooke.  I remember her long, blonde hair.  I also knew it would never curl, not even perm.  My client, Brooke, had long, straight, blonde hair, too.  Since my two “Brooke’s” have something in common, I can remember little Brooke’s name by looking at her hair.  Done.

#2: Make a story.  If you don’t know anyone with the same name, break down the name to create a story in your imagination.  The more vivid and complex, the better.  I just met a girl named Marycel Spots.  To remember her name I thought of a woman named Mary selling spots.  She does summer sales, like pest control or alarm systems, and goes door-to-door, with a flier in one hand and a box in the other, trying to sell her spots.  Mary Sells Spots.  Marycel Spots. In college during my Cognitive Psychology class, where remembering names was part of the curriculum, my teacher used an example of his own.  To remember the general contractor who was building his house, he thought of a port-a-potty on a mound of dirt.  John Hill.

#3: Alliteration or Rhyming.  These two concepts create words that seem to naturally go together.  At Creative Live last week, Jasmine Star could remember all the names of the people in the bridal party.  Not just bride and groom, but all the bridesmaids and groomsmen.  Wow.  How?  (Note that I still remember this.)  When she was introduced to Amanda, immediately in her head she started singing, “Amanda-manda, bo-banda, fanana-hana, fo foanna…”  My name is Kalli.  It is not Kelli, or Kaylie.  When introducing myself and I notice the person having a hard time pronouncing or remembering my name, I say, “Kalli.  As in California…but not.”  No matter how stupid it sounds, when I say that, people don’t forget.

Try it.  Practice it.  Make it silly or weird.  The person who’s name your’e remembering doesn’t have to know in your mind you are thinking of a toilet and dirt.  (John Hill.)  And the more vivid and outlandish it is, the more you remember it.  Remember, the more you practice these techniques, the faster you will become, and the easier it will be to remember people’s names.  Which in turn will help people to think more positively of you, and remember you.  Driving business, and friends.

Kalli Barker is currently growing her photography business, Kalli Barker Photography, in the Dallas, TX area, focusing on children and families.  Kalli graduated from Brigham Young University-Idaho with a bachelors in Psychology, and loves being a photographer and mom to two crazy kids.  Check out Kalli’s blog at:



  1. brooke V says:

    I really need to work on this!!!!! I just did a shoot with my own sister-in-law and neice so I know their names. I still used mom and sweetie. UGH!!!

  2. Spanki Mills says:

    oh my goodness… totally hit a sensitive spot with me! i am sooo bad at remembering names, then so fearful that i will call them the wrong name! my name being spanki… so many people don’t think they heard what i said and call me whatever…and me being the people pleaser that i am… i go with it! i will answer to anything! so i should REALLY know how important it is to get it right! thanks for the reminder!!!!

  3. This is great info! I try to remember all of my clients names and it makes a huge impact to them that I’m even trying. A few weeks ago, I had an extended family with 11 people and I remembered them all. I was pretty proud. And they were pretty impressed! And I’ll soon be doing my 3rd session with them this year.
    I have a pretty uncommon name and I know that when people remember how to say it correctly, it means a lot.

  4. Kathy says:

    This is SO true! Names are vital…they add that extra “oomph” that a studio chain store don’t have. They don’t care who you are as long as you pay them.

    I’m a very physical learner. I’ve found that if I write someones name at least 5 times, I can remember them. Now, matching them up with a face is a bit more difficult for me, but I certainly will soon enough!

    Thank you Kalli!

  5. Krystal says:

    This is so true! When someone takes the time to learn and remember your name, as well as some information about your life, it proves that they care about you. Not the you that is bringing them the almighty $, but who you are a person and your lives. As I am getting ready to start my own bus. I am thinking about what my style is, what I have to offer and so on. It is this area of care and concern for my clients that I want to spend a lot of energy on. I am not the joke teller, life of the party kind of gal. I do care for others and I know I can find a ways to make people feel special, beautiful and just plain remembered.

  6. Kalli says:

    You know, I wrote this after reading the book “Self Marketing Power” by Jeff Beals. And TOTALLY got the importance of remembering a name and what it can truly do for you and your business. But I was nervous for this article to publish because I wasn’t sure if I’d get any comments! 🙂

    I think it’s also important to remember names of other photographers and business owners. If a photographer has people to refer, who should they go to? If a small boutique shop needs someone to photograph her clothing, who is she going to call? You can really put a positive image in people’s minds when you remember their names and use them!

    Thanks for the love! To all of you, and especially Leah for the great opportunity!

    • Leah Remillet says:

      You are very welcome Kalli… And thank you!

      And I’d just like to say in regards to the whole comment thing, every guest writer has expressed the same concerns to me. And I completely understand because the not guest writer *uh-hem* feels the same way sometimes. So just remember that just like a name shows that you care and appreciate someone… In the blogging world, a comment is the equivalent.

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