Portrait photography requires a special touch to capture each unique subject and showcase their special features. It is important to know how to interact with your client or model in order to make them feel at ease. Below are a few simple tips that can help photographers of all skill levels immensely when dealing with portrait photography.
Don’t be afraid to take bad photos. Experimentation is key, not just in the beginning, but through your entire photography journey. As with any profession, if you wish to progress and keep improving, you have to keep learning new things. This point is especially important when shooting on location and there are unusual sources of lights that could either be amazing or terrible. It doesn’t hurt to have a few bad photographs, because the payoff of experimenting is that sometimes the outcome can be unexpectedly amazing. Trying things like different angles as well as even shooting through things to get a different framing of the subject can completely change an otherwise normal shot.
Along the same lines, don’t be afraid to take more photos. In the age of digital photography, there’s not any extra expense involved in taking lots of photos and shooting at the speed that allows more shots of the same pose or look, beyond the initial investment of more memory cards for holding lots of photos. Sometimes the best shot can be an in between shot from continuous shooting. Another benefit of shooting more is that small adjustments can make or break the photo, such as an eye blink or the movement of the hand. Shooting more increases your odds greatly that you’re going to get “The Shot.”
Don’t pose your subject for every shot. Giving general direction can be great, particularly with those who are not experienced in front of the camera. Past a certain point, it becomes overdirection. This can cause your subject to become nervous, self conscious, stiff and it can kill the creative flow of a shoot. Giving a base, allowing your subject to move naturally and making small adjustments is far more effective than micromanaging every little detail until your subject feels that they can’t move at all without feeling criticized. Once they fall into a sort of flow, the photos become much better and your client will be happier with the outcome. Especially when working with experienced models, trying to overdirect is pointless. Letting that model express themselves and do their thing is much more productive than trying to control their every move.
Interact with your subject! Something that can make your subject just as uneasy as over directing is no feedback at all. It takes a lot of focus sometimes to get the shots you want, but make sure you are talking to your client or model. This helps relax them and let them know that they are doing well. Sometimes just saying “That looks great” or “Hold that pose”, or other comments help them to feel at ease. Feedback can change the mood and feeling of a shoot and greatly impact not only the client’s view of the shoot, but can lead to referrals if they had a great experience.
Finally, Make sure your photo represents your model or client in a way that fits their character and how they want to be portrayed. If you’re shooting business headshots for a high power lawyer, soft, sensual boudoir style lighting and pastel background colors aren’t the way you want to go. Evaluating what the shot is for, your client’s personality, and how they want to come across are very important when making sure your client is happy with the finished product. The key factors in these don’t just have to do with the process of clicking the button, it’s implementing the proper lighting, a good backdrop or setting, ensuring the wardrobe is properly suited for the desired look, and matching up the style of editing with how the client wants to be portrayed.