Tag Archives: clients

How to prepare for your portrait session

A tanning bed in use.

Image via Wikipedia

Your  best portrait will occur when you collaborate with me on your objectives for the portrait. This way if you have specific interests or goals for your portrait, I can work towards achieving them. We can meet in person which is best or we can discuss on the phone. I find that email is not an effective way to work out the collaboration. Ultimately, you need to be comfortable that I understand what you need and desire from the portrait session. I will do my level best as your photographer to meet your goals.

Here in Southern California, we are in the capital of sunshine and tans. But these things do not always work out well for your portrait. Please, please, please (did I say please?)  avoid the “spray tans” or “self tanning” products as they will not go on evenly and they will leave an uneven build up on unusual areas. Many of the spray tans will actually turn an orange in the pictures. Please do not use a tanning bed or lay out in the sun three days or so before the portrait. Sunburn is virtually impossible to remove well in post and makes the skin dried out and unsightly in the photographs even with good makeup.

Please avoid drugs, alcohol, excessive salt or too much partying the night before (24 hours). All of these will show in the portraits with issues ranging from bloated skin to droopy eyes, blood shot eyes and lines in the face not to mention the odd hangover. Keeping yourself well hydrated a day before the shoot will help your skin look it’s best.

Plenty of rest the night before is one of the best things you can do for yourself and your portrait. Your eyes and temperament will thank you by the end of the day.

Lets touch on marks in the skin. If you want to shoot something off the shoulder, strapless or the like, please do not wear a normal bra for several hours before the shoot. Either go without or go strapless and give the skin a chance to smooth out from the normal strap line over the shoulder. This also holds true for tight sleeves and other tight clothing. Lines in the skin require extra retouching and it’s best to avoid them as much as possible.

Please come to the shoot after you have eaten a small meal. Hunger pains makes it hard for you to concentrate on your shoot and eating too much leaves you ready for a nap instead of being awake for the shoot.

make up artist preparing model for her photo session at Redgum

If a make up artist/stylist is to be used for your portrait, then please arrive with a clean and fresh face. When the make up artist has to scrub down your face, it takes away from the time available for the shoot.

Make sure you allow plenty of time to pack and to arrive a bit early to the shoot. This will help you be calm when it comes time to actually shoot your portraits. Unless you do this often, a check list will go far to help you from forgetting key items your outfits.

And talking about outfits, use outfits that fit well, not the favorite outfit that is two sizes too small or the oversized but comfortable clothes. Do not forget nice shoes, even if they dont show, they help you feel your best while posing for the camera. A favorite piece of jewelry can help set off an outfit and scarfs, headbands and ear rings can really dress up an outfit. If you want a more “Classic” look, bring some pearls, they always add a touch of elegance to a portrait. But too many rings or too gaudy of a piece of jewelry will detract from your portrait.

If you are having a group portrait, pay attention to what your partners or family members are wearing in both color and texture. Paisley and plaid really do not go together and no amount of photoshop will help. Keep in mind the type of pictures you want, if you like the dark background, wearing dark clothes will just make it harder to get a clean shot.  White on white is the same problem. While I can shoot either well, why make it hard? And if you tell me you want a more formal portrait, please do not think that a pressed T-Shirt is formal (really happened once).

 

 

Christmas Card from Belmont Park photo shoot

Christmas Card from Belmont shoot

Kids are a bit different and we all need to accept that up front. Their favorite clothes are probably not yours so the trick is to bring both sets. We can shoot their favorite first in exchange for changing into something you would prefer to see. For the smaller family members, a favorite toy or soft friend can go a long ways to comforting the child in a strange place with really bright lights in their face. I find that a few books with mom or dad reading stories can have a wonderful calming effect, besides, it can make a fantastic image.

 

 

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Playing director on a shoot

One skill that any photographer of people needs to work on and constantly improve, is the ability to direct clients/models/subjects to be where you want them, how they need to look and generally for them to feel comfortable with you. After all, you are shoving a camera in their face and most normally people are not used to that sort of thing. Professional models are more used to it but even they only give you what you ask of them.

A few years ago I would have never put myself down as a “people person” or a photographer that enjoyed shooting portraits. My how things have changed over the years. I used to shoot anything except people and now I tend to shoot just people with other things on occasion. I just had a client give me what I consider to be one of the best compliments in a long time when she said I was “a very relaxed photographer and a great people person”. On this one shoot I had adults and a child to work with and I had a ball with them.

High Key Child

High Key Child

The relaxed photographer comment showed in the images. My clients were happy and really having fun with each other and part of this was I was gently directing them where and how to be. To really get good images, you need to connect with your client. Standing behind your camera and just shooting without any direction or encouragement is a recipe for a disaster of a shoot. This is true even for a professional model. They need to know what is expected just as much as a average joe client. Sometimes even more so.
In the case of my little client here, I had connected with her about her stuffed bunny and I had let her rummage through my collection of AA batteries. I took a few fast shots of her goofing and let her see the preview screen and after a bit of time, she was used to be me being there and taking pictures. When I goofed around with her, I got very natural smiles and great expressions. When the parent were sent the proofs, they were thrilled as you can imagine.

 

Along with the personal connection, you need to tell your subject how to move, pose or look. They WANT your direction, you are the EXPERT and if you have made the personal connection, they TRUST you. Along with direction, running feedback for the subject is most of the time a good thing. Especially for non-professionals who are not sure of themselves or if they are doing what you asked. This “patter” is one of the most important skills a photographer can have.

Another “skill” you must have is the ability to make it look like “you meant to do that”. Very few things unsettle a client more than the photographer wandering around mumbling to themselves, looking lost, fumbling with equipment or looking at the camera view screen and going “oh sh*t”. You really need to know what you are doing, how you are going to do it and when you are going to do it. Or at least act like you. There isa quote from a set of commercials with celebrities  saying “never let them see you sweat” and that is so true in photography. You need to, no, must project confidence in yourself and how you make images in order for the client to be comfortable and to trust you. Dont mistake arrogance for confidence, there is a difference. If you are arrogant, you come off as a jerk and with confidence, you are someone that they can trust.
Happy Family

So after an hour or so, I was able to shoot this image of my clients and have everybody relaxed and interaction at a very natural level. It shows in the image with the body language and how everyone is comfortable with each other in this moment.

These types of directing and interaction people skills are something you need to learn and to practice. Salesmen know this and use it all the time. Watch a good salesman at work with a customer, they make the customer comfortable and feel relaxed around them. As a photographer, having good people skills is just or even more important than having that new hot shot 200mm F.28 super portrait lens. If you clients can not relax around you, it will show in every single picture you take.

So relax a bit, loosen up and enjoy the time with your clients instead of viewing it as drudgery.

PS – a friend of mine had some really good thoughts on this also:

Thomas Churchwell “Do not let the escort take control of the shoot. The first 15 minutes will always be your worse pictures even if they are great. The Tension and anxiety will take about 15 minutes before the models stops her posing that she knows are winners and relax enough to be herself. If you act as though your not there to be impressed but to have a good time then you will get a more pliable model who will stop trying to impress you and start being your muse.”

Thomas makes a very good point that when you are the director, YOU are the director, not the escort, not the model, not the friend, YOU are. Your images will sink or swim by how well you do your job not just as a photographer but as a director.

 

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