It can be the bane of any photographer’s existence. It’s also something most photographers will face at some point in their career – depending on their field, at least. Picture a crying baby, parents trying to desperately calm the child down, and your mission being that you have to get one good shot for a commissioned portrait. The crying baby might seem stereotypical of portrait photography but it does happen. Photographing people takes a keen eye. No person is going to be the same. There is a litany of things to consider with each client. One light doesn’t fit all just as one “type” of portrait won’t work for everyone. If you’re new to taking portraits then below are some tips to help you find your rhythm for portrait photography. For experienced photographers it never hurts to check out these tips if you find yourself in need of portrait inspiration.
Talk it Over
First and foremost it’s always important to talk the portrait over with your client. Keep in mind that not all clients have an exact vision for their portrait but that doesn’t mean they don’t have some ideas for what they would like to see as a result of the shoot. Sometimes the ideas are specific and other times they give you a lot of room to work with. It’s up to you as the photographer to decipher the hidden meanings within. Getting to know your client is a huge help in deciding how to shoot the portrait. You might learn details which pull you in a completely different direction. Shooting a young, giddy pre-teen is different from capturing the image of an aging war veteran. Stories shape how you shoot. Familiarizing yourself with your client or model can help you decide a range of different factors when shooting. It might require a little extra effort on your part but it will be well worth it.
Focus on Surroundings
Whether you’re shooting outdoors or indoors there is always one major thing to consider. Your environment is hugely important to how you shoot. Think about how horrifying it can be when you accidentally include the wrong environment. It has given the internet something to laugh about over the years – accidental photo bombs. Anything from weird animals running around in the background to people showing up without warning, shooting different environments means you have to be vigilant about what’s going on around you. Shooting inside may require equal attention. A shadow may be there that you didn’t anticipate. There might be a hair out of place, wrinkled clothing, or a speck of dust on the camera. There are a lot of different environmental factors that can turn your portrait from flashy to funny in an instant. So keep calm and don’t let that crazy neighborhood cat interfere with your photoshoot.
This is a big one for anyone shooting portraits for the first time. Here’s the thing – not everyone is comfortable in front of the camera. It doesn’t matter if your model is 6 or 60, sometimes it’s going to be tough to break through their exterior. There are a million reasons why your model may not be perfect in front of the camera. Maybe it’s a child that just can’t sit still, maybe they haven’t really had a portrait taken of them before, it could be extreme shy tendencies, or even deeper issues going on. This means you may have to work with a model for a good amount of time before they are comfortable getting their photo taken. Always bear in mind that a portrait where the model is wildly uncomfortable will come off stilted. A relaxed, happy model will give you some amazing and spontaneous shots that could reveal a perfect portrait. Going the extra mile as a photographer is sure to yield some fantastic results.