As photographers, we’ve never had it this good. Technology-wise, everything is possible. And educational content is everywhere. Still, there is some advice and tips you don’t hear or read anywhere. In this blog, I want to share my portrait photography tips you don’t hear often enough.
Portrait photography is a great niche to be in. With my business, I make portraits for professionals, business owners, and freelancers. So my tips come from that angle, though they apply to any type of portraiture.
Get to know your subject
For me, that’s doing video calls in advance. And I want to stress the videocall part. Only if technology fails me I will go for a regular telephone call. The reason is that I want to see the person I will need to portrayal move and interact.
I like to have a fairly casual conversation with them. While doing so, I have a couple of questions that I want to get answered. Sometimes I will ask it directly; sometimes, it comes up naturally in the conversation. It doesn’t matter, as long as I get the answers I need.
Have them to get to know you
Let’s stay on the topic of the videocall for a second. There is another important reason I do video calls. I want the person to see me too. It will make them feel like they already know me when we meet for the portrait session.
The people I do portrait photography with aren’t professional models. They are lawyers, HR managers, accountants, …. When they see a camera, they usually tense up. Having a bit of a personal relationship with them will help them relax. And a relaxed person is more accessible to portray.
For that reason, a videocall is a handy tool.
Talk to them while shooting
The last thing you want is to have an awkward atmosphere when doing your portrait shoot. Interact with the person you are doing a portrait of. Yes, you will have some photos that can go straight into the trash. But the keepers will be better, trust me.
Talk with your subject. Ask questions. My questions are usually related to their business since we are taking photos for their business. It will keep them distracted of the fact that you are pointing a camera at them.
It’s also a nice trick to have them be more confident in the photo. The clients know what they are talking about and are educating you. They are in the ‘power’ position.
Burst, burst, burst
For a good portrait, you have to shoot a lot. Well, the way I shoot at least. Recently I have been reading a lot of photographers talking about “shooting intentional.” Which is correct in a way, but please, don’t be too frugal with the clicks. This might be one of the more ‘controversial’ of my portrait photography tips.
Yeah, sure, you will have to do a bit more work when selecting. But you will also have the best shots possible. Shooting in bursts is vital for a good capture. People move, and the world around them does so too.
Scout locations regularly
I do a lot of shoots on location. I prefer it over studio photography. Though, as the client requests it, I still do studio photography. But usually, people come to me for location shoots. This makes locations an essential tool.
For that reason, I make sure I keep up to date. I walk around my city. I try to visit cities that are close to me regularly. I look on Instagram and Twitter to see what’s happening around me. New locations, changes to existing areas, …
Not only does it make me familiar with the location during the shoot, but it also helps me select the best place for the ‘vibe’ a client wants. Because it’s not just about a location being closeby and accessible, it’s about using the right area, at the right time, for the right person.
Don’t focus on your camera too much
Notice anything about those tips I gave. Apart from one, none of them talk about your camera or photography. It’s all about the subject. You can know all the technical details of a perfect portrait and use the right light, but the photos won’t be right if your subject isn’t comfortable.
Which tips do you already apply to your portrait photography?