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Five Things To Know If You're New To Working With Queer Clients

So, you're a photographer who hasn't worked with many queer families or couples, but you want to make sure you're representing all types of love. You just don't want to seem insincere or say the wrong thing or slide into tokenism. Well, I'm here to help!

If we don't know each other, I'm Abigail, and I've been Publicly Queer for five years now. As someone who specializes in queer love stories, I am passionate about showcasing all kinds of love, and I also know it can be intimidating at first. I've seen a lot of posts in photo groups that ask for posing or prompts for queer couples, and there are always several responses that say something like, "the same way you'd pose a straight couple." And though they're well-meaning, I think it's a tone deaf answer. It feels a lot like, "I don't see color."

The fact is, you should be treating your LGBTQ+ clients differently. It's important to make sure they feel 100% comfortable and authentic in front of your lens, to feel seen and heard. This isn't difficult. Here are a few considerations to keep in mind when working with queer clients.

two marriers hold orange and yellow smoke bombs while smiling at each other


Here's a disclaimer off the top: I feel comfortable using the term "queer" for myself and as an umbrella term for the LGBTQ+ community, but I like to check in with other folks. Most younger clients know "queer" to be a reclaimed slur and find it easier to use, but older clients may not use or like the term. If you're a straight ally, be especially mindful of how you use this language.

Ask what verbiage your clients are comfortable with, and if they want to share their pronouns. Most importantly, make sure their pronouns are safe to use around others. (Ex. 1: a wedding environment where one marrier uses they/them pronouns with their partner and wedding party, but doesn't feel safe using those pronouns around family. Ex 2: A graduating senior who feels most comfortable using she/they pronouns, but since their mother will be present during the session, they'd prefer you use he/him pronouns.)

Beyond a parent, sibling, or partner, we’re human first. When in doubt, use names instead of roles.


Check the language you use in all client-facing text: website, inquiry forms, social media, guides, email templates, etc. This is one of the first things that will signal to queer clients that your business is inclusive. You can skip out on gendering things like "bridal party," "bachelor trip," or "maid of honor." Some singular gender-neutral terms include: parent, sibling, child, partner, marrier, spouse, VIP. Some plural gender-neutral terms include: folks, friends, y'all, guests, chosen family, everyone.

Include other symbols on your website and profiles that show you’re trustworthy, such as pride flags, providing your pronouns, and diverse portfolios.


Whenever possible, show inclusion in your brand instead of telling viewers that you’re inclusive (see above). If you’re looking for more queer families in your portfolio, model calls should be authentic and ethical. There is no one "look" for a queer person.

NEVER pose straight people as a queer couple - this would completely contradict the point of supporting the LGBTQ+ community.

Cass and Alexa, a lesbian couple, cuddle together on a padded chair inside a greenhouse


Moving clients during a session should allow them to feel comfortable and authentic. The easiest way to avoid gendered roles is to ask them to decide who takes what action when explaining a prompt. (Ex. instead of "now Person A kisses Person B on the forehead," you could say, "Can one of you kiss the other on the forehead?") Allow your session to be a time for them to explore their own expression.


Queer people notice when you’re not advocating for them. You cannot support and love your queer clients without understanding what’s at stake. Gay marriage has only been legal nationwide since 2015. Many states are currently battling over laws on gender affirming care. There are a lot of family structures that still aren't safe, and/or have many legal hoops to jump through. Acknowledging this can go a long way.

Just as you’re attracting the clients you want to work with, you are equally repelling those who don’t align with your values. That's what we want! Be outspoken. The right people will show up.

At the end of the day, even the most well intentioned people make mistakes. The most important thing is that you're willing to learn from them.


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