Continuing on with the shooting series, this week I want to discuss my favorite subject matter: portraits. Some may wonder why people are my favorite subject to shoot. Perhaps it’s because of their familiarity. Or it could be because they are so diverse (yet universally similar.) Whatever the reason, I love having them as subjects and want to share a couple tips with you!
First you should identify what type of portrait you are going to take. Some different types are headshots, couples or groups, seniors, children, newborns, and the list goes on. I personally cater towards adults either looking for professional headshots, promotional images, or creative shoots. If you want tips on babies, children, or weddings, this may not be the article for you since those niches have specific challenges. Hopefully, I can share some universal tips with you that you may take with whatever your subject matter may be.
First you need to have a person in mind. Whether this is a paid shoot or not, planning some things ahead of time will make the whole shoot go smoother. Have your day, time, & location set ahead of time. If you are photographing a more creative shoot, tell them exactly what to wear, what makeup (if needed), and how they should style their hair. Send pictures to help them have a visual of what you were thinking.
If you are shooting more professional photos or headshots, you can still guide them on what they should wear. For example you could say, “Wear your favorite collared shirt” or “wear a color that you feel really confident in.” Basically, you want your subject to not worry about what they’re wearing, and instead enjoy the experience of having their image captured.
Directing is key here. Unless you are working with models (most people aren’t), your subject may be shy, or even insecure in front of the camera. Your job as the photographer is to put them at ease and convince them they are actually awesome to look at (most humans are.) I personally like to chat and ask them questions about themselves, loved ones, passions, etc. Showing interest in someone is a great ice breaker, and can help make them feel more comfortable (especially if this is their first real interaction with you.)
In terms of posing, this will depend on their comfort level. I’m very hands-on and will just go up to them and shift their arm or brush hair out of their face. Most people I shoot don’t mind if I do that, but typically, they’ve known me before the shoot. If you are dealing with someone who would mind being touched, try standing in their place and showing them the pose. You could try saying “turn this way, no tilt that way” but I find unless it’s a minor adjustment, that takes longer than necessary.
Remember to have fun! This is (presumably) your passion and you want your subject to feel that. I constantly tell my subject how great they’re doing, and how much I love the images. Don’t B.S. this. Genuinely compliment them when you like something. If you take a “bad” shot, don’t mention it and move on. They don’t need to feel bad about blinking or laughing mid shot. Basically keep up the positivity and you’re bound to get them in on the fun too.
This is always a subjective choice. Some people over-edit (making people look like airbrushed clones in a 2005 magazine advertisement) and some people under-edit (showcasing every blemish, strange skin tones because of incorrect white balance, etc.) Try and be somewhere in between. For instance, I edit out blemishes, stray hairs, & overall brighten skin tones. I leave freckles, pores, & peach fuzz alone. It really is up to your judgement, but in most cases, your subject would appreciate looking like the best (authentic) version of themselves.
Well that was quite a bit of info, but it really just touches the surface of portrait photography. Try out some of these tips in your next shoot!
May the light be with you.