s,”I didn’t know I was so pretty,” the young lady said as she flipped through the proof book of her senior pictures. Her eyes welled up with tears.

That was the best compliment I ever received as a photographer.

For nearly a decade before the digital revolution, I owned a successful photography studio. I grew a successful business based upon two fundamental principles of my philosophy:

  1. Everyone is beautiful.
  2. My job, as an artist, was to capture their beauty in a print.

I will confess, to capture the beauty of some people took a lot more work than others. One story in particular comes to mind of a young man who arrived for his senior pictures. By society’s standards, he would not have been deemed as handsome.

“I don’t want to be here,” he growled. “I’m only here because my Mom made me. Just take one picture and I’ll be gone.”

I like a good challenge.

As I led him into the studio, the first thing I did was compliment him.

“Oh, this will be easy, then,” I laughed. “You’re one of those guys that obviously work out lot; you’re easy to photograph so you’ll make my work easy.”

I saw a little bit of tension leave his face.

“But here’s the deal,” I told him. “You’re Mom paid for an hour’s worth of studio time so I have to hold my end of the deal up or I won’t get paid. How about we do this: I’ll take one photo but, as I do it, I’ll explain how all these lights and this $10,000 camera works. Most people are curious how we do this. You okay with that?”

A bit more tension left his face.

“Do I have a choice,” he grumbled.

I was right; most people are curious about how things work (How Stuff Works is one of the most successful podcasts ever).

As I began to explain how a camera works and what each of the lights were for, I began to ask him about his favorite topic; himself. I soon found out he played guitar and had just started bodybuilding.

“Why don’t you run home and grab your guitars and a few dumbbells,” I suggested. “That would be kind of fun to photography you with.”

“Will you charge extra,” he asked. “If Mom paid for only an hour, I don’t want her to have to pay more.”

“Nah,” I replied. “No extra charge. Go home and come back at 5. I have some free time then.”

A few minutes before five, my assistant let me know the young man had returned and was carrying in all of his stuff.

“And you won’t be believe it,” she said. “He brought his Mom with him! That almost never happens with high school boys!”

They bought a lot of photos from me after that day. A little bit of caring, a well placed compliment and the power of suggestion turned a growly young man into a happy customer.

What can you do today to make someone beautiful?