What you can expect from your portrait session

October 18, 2012

I hear the same questions from clients all the time. “What will the portrait shoot be like?” “Why do you schedule two hours? Does it really take that long?” “What can I expect?”. Or “I’m not really comfortable getting my photo taken” “I’m not photogenic”. Most people have not had a lot of experience with photo shoots before and the process can be a little intimidating, especially if you don’t look like a barbie doll. I love helping my clients navigate their portrait shoot and feel good bout themselves. I love to watch the process of a person opening up over the course of the shoot and often people tell me at the end of a shoot “actually, that was kind of fun!” (hearing that is one of my favorite parts of my job!)

I recently shot a really nice portrait session with the lovely Kristina and she gave me permission to use her shoot as an example of a personal portrait session; what goes on, what we do, how it feels, and what the photos look like. Personal portraits are distinct from professional portraits because for personal portraits people need to convey personality; show their enthusiasm, their real smile, their joie de vivre. Business head shots can take five minutes, but allowing someone to become comfortable with me and relax in front of the camera takes  some time.

I always book two hours for a personal portrait session. I help with wardrobe decisions, location choices and talk about expectations ahead of time. I always shoot this kind of a portrait on location; either in my clients home or in a park or public location of our choice. Kristina and I went to the Olympic Sculpture Park for her shoot. You can see the wonderful varriety of backgrounds and photos we can get just by wandering around a four block square area.
I start by encouraging my clients to move around, to practice modeling, to try–just at the beginning–Not to smile and Not to look at the camera. The more a person is willing to move let go of their sense of awkwardness the more I have to work with. Freezing in place and trying desperately to smile is not an option with me 🙂

I think its important to have a wide variety of photos from a shoot like this. I like getting photos of people not smiling or not looking at the camera just as much as I like smiling camera aware shots. I like full body shots in addition to tight crops with blurry backgrounds.

some of the photos can be creative and whimsical, editorial and playful, and I always try to encourage the person I’m photographing to be willing to play a little.

Kristina was very good at moving and modeling and because of that we got some really fun and unexpected creative photos of her.

toward the middle of the shoot people usually relax and I begin to get very natural smiles, unforced poses.

This shoot is a great example of an outdoor/on location portrait session. I can find backgrounds anywhere. I’m looking for light and depth. Photographing someone at their home is not necessarily going to show their house in detail, but will be a great unique and private place to shoot. You’d be surprised by what I can use as a background. I’m always finding great backgrounds by wandering around neighborhoods and the backgrounds I choose don’t always need to be perfect or big. Sometimes something just pops out in the middle of a shoot. I think this selection of photos does a good job of demonstrating what that looks like.  This shoot is also a great example of a person being willing to play a little and the variety in photos that can create. The tenor of the shoots always vary from person to person; its not always appropriate to get sexy photos or youthful/playful photos, but the more someone is willing to give me the more I’ll be able to give them.


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