A Portrait Photographer’s Survival Guide

Whether you’re a professional photographer or just a beginner, taking a person’s portrait always has its “ups and downs”. A good photographer will be prepared for any situation. Here are a few rules to help your sessions be productive and fun for your client.

The Beginning of the shoot, tends to be roughest part
Once you start shooting, you have to start earning your clients trust. They need to feel that you’re in control of the shoot and that you are using your professional judgment when it comes to their session. A good rule of thumb is to not start the session in the “best spot” of that location.

The Self-Conscious Client
Unless you’ve hired a professional model, some clients will say something negative about the themselves such as ,“ I look fat, don’t get my double chin,I hate getting pictures done or I I feel weird in this pose”.

The fix: Encouragement is key! Reassure them they look great and show them some of their best photos as the shoot continues. Because they are not models , YOU will have to pose them. “What should I do with my hands?” should be on every photographer’s bumper sticker.

The Kissing Rule
We know you’re in love and we are excited for you. Taking photos of couples kissing can sometimes be very awkward if the kiss is to passionate. On film it looks like you’re eating each other’s face. No one finds this look flattering.

The fix: Simple tender kisses with lips only make for the best kissing pictures. And be sure to have the couple hold their kiss long enough for you to get some good shots.
Another rule is not to have many “spectators” at the shoot. This can make the couple feel uncomfortable and shy, and you won’t be able to get their best kiss.

“You can just photoshop it”
Don’t ever settle with this! Fix the problem on the shoot. If you just accept small flaws and rely on fixing it in post… you’ll spend forever editing and may not see your loved ones for a week. Take that extra 2 mins to move bags out of the shot, or to fix hair that’s been blowing around everywhere.

Kids- Kids and more Kids!
Taking portraits of children can be a real challenge. Children come to photos shoots with their parents and are expected to sit still for an hour or so without complaining. But we all know this isn’t the case. Meltdowns will happen, they might be upset if they can’t play on the playground equipment where your photo shoot is happening. They are tired, hungry or their clothes are too tight or hot. Newborns typically last only 20 minutes before they get overstimulated.

The fix: Have the parents make sure the kids get a good-night sleep the night before the photo shoot. Don’t schedule a photo-shoot with children around naps or meal times. Have some healthy snacks on hand for emergencies. (not to messy, don’t want to ruin the clothing!)
And remind the parents about how making sure the child is comfortable in their clothes will make for a better portrait. I try to make a deal with the kids that if they are good, they can pick out what pose they should do for the next shot. They love feeling involved and included. I usually get my best candid shots during this part because they’re all laughing about how silly it is.

With infants, have everything ready before the infant arrives to photo shoot. Props, lighting, temperature of location. Arrange with the mother to have the child fed about 1 hour before photo shoot. Baby will be full but not spitting up in the portrait. You may even want to schedule 2 different photo sessions to get the baby at his or her best and not overwhelm them.

Do whatever it takes to get the perfect shot!
I’ve done so many crazy things to get the perfect picture – I’ve acted goofy to get a kid to smile, walked across a river in my rain boots, made weird noises to catch babies’ attention, and I’ve stood on cars to get a better angle. You have to get creative when you’re on your shoot, and once you get that beautiful shot you know it was all worth it.

These are just a few tips to help your photo session be a success and enjoyable for your client as well as yourself. Remember the “golden rule”, Treat your clients as you would like to be treated.

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4 thoughts on “A Portrait Photographer’s Survival Guide

  1. jsebastian says:

    Really, really enjoyed this post. The beginning of the shoot is definitely ALWAYS the toughest! Would you be interested in sharing this article on creators.co? Would love to promote this on our homepage!

    Liked by 1 person

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