Your Super-Savvy Strategy for Better Bookings & Happy Clients

From Myers-Briggs to 16 Personalities to “What Kind of Dog Are You?”, the internet is chock-full of personality quizzes designed to define us.

But when Unchong and Craig Obrist attended the Healthy Oates marriage retreat, they were introduced to a new approach to personality that turned their steady little photography biz into a booming powerhouse of successful bookings and impactful client relationships.

The approach was called GEMS™, a personality system designed by author and entrepreneur Dani Johnson. More than a personality test, GEMS™ was crafted to uncover common ground between wildly different personality types.


Unchong and Craig wondered, could thoughtful attention to their clients’ personality types build better photographer-client bonds? Could it make booking easier? Could it smoothe the sales process?

They answer, they discovered, was yes.

Why Does Personality Matter So Much?

Compare the challenge of buying a gift for a complete stranger with the ease of purchasing a present for a close friend. With a stranger, you’re guessing, and hoping to blindly hit the mark. When you shop for someone you know well, however, you buy and give with confidence, because you understand your friend’s needs and preferences.

By identifying the key personality styles they see in their prospective clients, Unchong and Craig are able to give each client a gift he or she really wants – i.e., they customize each client’s experience to suit their unique tastes.


Pro Tip: Customizing the client experience is NOT about changing your photography! Your style is your style, and it’s silly to think you could shoot like this photographer on Saturday and that photographer on Sunday. Rather, a custom client experience is about a finely tailored communication style. Think about the different ways you communicate with your mother, your best friend, your spouse, and your doctor. You tailor their experience based on what you know about them. When you understand your clients, you can approach them with the same level of care!


You, too, can be a GEM!

Before they began analyzing their clients, the Obrists asked themselves one simple question: “What inspires you?” The answer guided them toward their GEMS™ personality type. (As it turns out, Unchong is an absolute RUBY, while Craig is most definitely a SAPPHIRE!)

Now you try. What inspires you? What gets you up in the morning and keeps you going late at night? What drives you and gives you purpose?


If you said “Competing!” – you’re a RUBY.

RUBIES like to achieve, accomplish, and win. RUBIES are decisive, efficient, and effective – and they like those traits in others! RUBIES don’t much like being told what to do.

“When a RUBY contacts you, they already know that they want you as their photographer. Don’t waste time being a “salesperson,” because you can’t sell anything to a RUBY. RUBIES will buy when they’re ready. Just answer their questions, and tell them where to sign and how to pay. Show them the highlights of what’s to come. Do what you say you’re going to do, and a RUBY will be happy.” – Unchong Obrist

Identifying a RUBY

RUBY emails tend to be short and to the point. Remember: RUBIES know what they want!

“Your photographs are beautiful and I’d like to book you! What’s the next step?”
“You photographed my friend’s wedding and I loved his pictures! Are you available for my date?”

RUBIES ask straightforward questions – and they want straightforward answers!
“Does my package include an engagement session?”
“How much does that cost?”
“How many hours are included?”
RUBIES don’t want lengthy explanations. They want the information they’ve requested so they can move on to the next thing.

“Because RUBIES know exactly what they want, they’ll likely be the easiest clients you book. A RUBY would never waste a moment of their precious day to meet with you otherwise! RUBIES don’t shop around; they know what they want!” – Unchong Obrist


RUBY Challenges

Some RUBIES are so blunt and direct, they may seem rude! Don’t take offense. They’re just getting to the point. Keep your response equally clear and brief. “Maybe” and “I don’t know” are bad responses to use with RUBIES, but if you must, follow up with, “but I’ll find out for you!”

RUBY Advantages

RUBIES don’t want their own time wasted, so they won’t waste yours! RUBIES are prompt, reliable, and loyal. If a RUBY senses that something could be done more efficiently or effectively, they won’t hesitate to change course and take the smoother route!

Booking a RUBY

Unchong estimates that a RUBY’s Love Language is most commonly Words of Affirmation. They love to be recognized for their hard work. Take a moment to acknowledge your RUBY client’s accomplishments, no matter how small. A simple, “Great choice of coffee shop!” goes a long way with a RUBY!


If you said “Fun!” – you’re a SAPPHIRE.

SAPPHIRES like adventure and excitement. SAPPHIRES want to laugh and experience new things, and they’re often extreme extroverts – being around people keeps them motivated!

Identifying a SAPPHIRE

SAPPHIRES are all about fun, and their email correspondence will demonstrate that from the start!
“That photo you took is so cool; I want one just like it!”
“I love the pictures you took at my friend’s wedding! I can’t wait to see what you do at mine!”
“We’re getting married at the coolest venue ever! I just know you’ll take amazing pictures!”

“Money isn’t that big of a deal to a SAPPHIRE. If a SAPPHIRE believes the FUN they will have is worth the investment, they’ll buy! When it’s time to talk money with a SAPPHIRE, keep the conversation simple and short. Say, “I know this isn’t the fun part, but we have to get it done, so let’s discuss money real quick!” and briefly provide the info your SAPPHIRE client needs.” – Unchong Obrist

When a SAPPHIRE asks questions, don’t bore them with deep, heartfelt responses or complicated replies. Hone in on the cool products, the gorgeous location, and the exciting poses you’re dreaming up, and you’ll be speaking a SAPPHIRE’s language!


SAPPHIRE Challenges

Hardcore SAPPHIRES are easily distracted by whatever is new and shiny, and may be bored by details. Thankfully, most SAPPHIRES are paired with more logical gems who can navigate the fine print for them! Meanwhile, keep any serious talk brief, and respond with enthusiasm to your SAPPHIRE client’s fun-loving energy!

“My husband, Craig Obrist, is a definite SAPPHIRE! We are total opposites! Learning this helped me understand my husband in ways I never thought possible. I sometimes used to think something was wrong with my husband – haha! Turns out – he’s just a SAPPHIRE!” – Unchong Obrist

SAPPHIRE Advantages

Because SAPPHIRES love fun, they’ll be up for just about anything when you photograph them! Wild locations? Hilarious outfits? Energetic poses? Your SAPPHIRE client will be all-in!

Booking a SAPPHIRE

SAPPHIRES aren’t bothered by chaos! Meet your SAPPHIRE client somewhere new and interesting, and bring lots of photographs to look at – but don’t be offended if they’re too busy telling stories about their recent vacation to the Amazon to look at them!

“Lighten the mood and have FUN with SAPPHIRES! Ask them questions like, ‘What are some FUN things you have planned for your wedding?’ or ‘Let me tell you how much FUN we’re going to have on your wedding day!’ or ‘Here’s what I was thinking for your engagement shoot!’ The experience you give a SAPPHIRE in person means everything!” – Unchong Obrist

Pro Tip: If you’re not a SAPPHIRE yourself, working with a SAPPHIRE may feel a bit intimidating. Their energy and enthusiasm may outpace your own, and you could find yourself worried that you’re not fun enough! Don’t pressure yourself to be someone you aren’t. Just stay focused on the lighter side of what you do. Steer clear of deeper topics, and enjoy some carefree conversation. Your SAPPHIRE client will love you for it!


If you said “Planning!” – you’re an EMERALD.

EMERALDS love details! They make lists for their lists, and spreadsheets are their Love Language. EMERALDS are excellent checkbook balancers and calendar-keepers. If your client emails her proposed wedding timeline six months before her celebration, she’s probably an EMERALD!

“At an in-person consultation, the bride walked in with a notebook. I knew immediately that she was an EMERALD. I mentally prepared myself to go over every single detail in the contract, then answer numerous questions after that. Sure enough, the bride wrote everything I said down in her notebook. After the consultation, she followed up with an email detailing even more questions. I spent an hour answering all of them, promptly and with details – and she booked us!” – Unchong Obrist

Identifying an EMERALD

EMERALDS are put at ease by detailed information and thorough planning. An EMERALD’s email will look something like this:

“I’m getting married next year at 6pm at The Middleton Ballroom. We’re expecting 180 guests, and would love to book a photographer for 6-7 hours. What are your rates? Do you offer albums? Are engagement shoots included in your packages? I’d also love to know what kind of camera you use. I have a few more questions, but we can save those for when we meet in person…”

Don’t blow off your EMERALD client’s questions! Careful attention to these queries will make an EMERALD feel cared-for and connected. Questions that seem silly to you are very important to an EMERALD. Give them the information they ask for, and don’t spare the details!


EMERALD Challenges

EMERALDS may require more hand-holding that the other gems, so take a breath and prepare to spend a little extra time with your EMERALD client.

“EMERALDS can be quite inflexible. If they planned to eat at 6:32pm and that doesn’t happen, they feel like complete failures. And if you were the cause of the delay, an EMERALD will not trust you again. There are typically no second chances with EMERALDS.” – Unchong Obrist

EMERALD Advantages

Because EMERALDS are such excellent planners, no detail is overlooked! You’ll never find yourself driving to the wrong address or without a vendor meal. EMERALDS are the people who always have a lint-roller, gum, bandages, and a cough drop on hand. An EMERALD bride’s broken zipper will cause her no shortage of stress – but she will also have a sewing kit handy to repair the damage.

Booking an EMERALD

Communicate, communicate, communicate. Then communicate some more. Be prompt, and follow through on agreed-upon plans. If plans need to be changed, discuss the changes clearly with your EMERALD client as soon as possible, and honor the distress it will cause your client by offering alternative solutions and working hard to amend any inconveniences.

“EMERALDS are the brides you could probably give a manual to. They would LOVE it! They would receive it like a gift! If you give a RUBY something like that, it will go in the trash. To a RUBY, that much information is a waste of time. And SAPPHIRES won’t read it because it’s not fun!” – Unchong Obrist

Pro Tip: Not ALL your marketing materials are meant for ALL of your clients! Some clients love printed brochures and detailed booklets. Others prefer simple email communication with bullet-points and minimal pleasantries. Recognize and respect your clients’ communication styles, and be open to adapting your message to better suit an individual client’s needs.


If you said “Helping!” – you’re a PEARL.

PEARLS are more comfortable behind the scenes than on the stage. Caring and sympathetic, PEARLS want their lives to have meaning, and strive to find purpose in all that they do.

If your inquiry phone call begins with, “Hi, I’m getting married to the love of my life next year, and I’d love to talk to you about your beautiful photography if you have time…” you’ve probably been called by a PEARL. PEARLS are sentimental and feel deeply, so don’t hesitate to show emotion with your PEARL clients. They appreciate well-thought-out responses that take into account more than just the details.

“Meet your PEARL client in a place with a cozy, quiet atmosphere – not somewhere with LOUD music and tons of people everywhere. PEARLS thrive and come alive in a one-on-one, small setting.” – Unchong Obrist

Identifying a PEARL

An email from a PEARL will likely be long and full of nostalgic detail about who they are and why they want to hire you. PEARLS are deeply connected to their feelings, and aren’t afraid to show it!

“My PEARL emails often begin with an apology, saying, ‘I know you’re very busy and I hate to bother you, but I was wondering…’ After sharing their story, a PEARL may end the message with, ‘…and if you have time – ONLY if you have time – maybe we could meet and get to know one another?’ PEARLS never want to be in the way!” – Unchong Obrist

PEARLS relish connection, and prefer to work with a photographer who will relate to them on a personal level – not just as another client. You’ll know you’ve met a PEARL when your in-person interview lasts for two or three hours because they’re so warm and eager to connect with you as a person.


PEARL Challenges

Because PEARLS want others to be happy and comfortable, they often allow their own needs to take a back seat, and hesitate to express what they really want. You’ll need to pay close attention to your PEARL client to make sure they’re truly feeling taken care of.

PEARL Advantages

PEARLS are typically less concerned with nitty-gritty details and more interested in the overall emotional fulfillment of an experience. If it rains on a PEARL’s wedding day, but all their friends and family are present and the day is love-filled and joyful, a PEARL will be ecstatic.

Booking a PEARL

Talk to PEARLS authentically, genuinely, and openly. They’ll know if you are being fake! If you can connect to a PEARL on a human level and demonstrate the sentimental value of your photography, a PEARL will not hesitate to book you!

“PEARLS will gladly invest in albums and prints. Why? Because PEARLS are sentimental, and products like these hold huge sentimental value!” – Unchong Obrist

Pro Tip: If you don’t have a studio, have a variety of meeting places to suggest according to your client’s personality type. While PEARLS thrive in an intimate environment, SAPPHIRES are more likely to enjoy meeting in a fun place they’ve never visited before. A RUBY may want to make the meeting location suggestion herself (so it can align with her other accomplishments for the day), whereas an EMERALD will be more concerned with having space at the table to lay her notebooks, binders, and laptop – all of which are necessary to her planning process.


A Personality-Driven Strategy

As the Obrists have honed their customized GEMS™ approach to client connection, they’ve found it easier than ever to build strong relationships with the unique men and women who come to them for photography.

By simply noting that an upcoming engaged couple are both SAPPHIRES, Craig can plan for a rule-breaking adventure-session that will keep his clients excited.

When Unchong sees that she’s marked her upcoming meeting as an “EMERALD”, she knows to arrive armed with her most in-depth materials and a plethora of samples.

PEARLS require additional meeting time and an intimate environment. RUBIES want the most made of their hour-long portrait session – don’t waste too much time standing around chit-chatting!

Because Unchong and Craig can tailor their client experience for each meeting or shoot, their clients are happier than ever.

As for Unchong and Craig?

“This has revolutionized the way we approach each client. We’re still us. We haven’t compromised. We’re genuinely and authentically loving our clients and making them feel valued!” – The Obrists


Want to learn more about the GEMS™ system?
>Take a GEMS™ personality test.
>See how a Life Coach uses GEMS™.
>Get Dani Johnson’s complete GEMS™ system. (No, we’re not paid to promote this. We just thought you might want to see where it all started!)
>Read Unchong Obrist’s original blog post on how GEMS™ has impacted their photography business!


What GEM are YOU? Tell us in the comments!

The ShootProof family is made of every color and shape of GEM imaginable – and there’s always room for more! Join us!

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