Updated: Feb 4, 2022
So you want to get into portrait photography, but not quite sure where to start? Do you get jitters before the shoot? Do you have issues with posing people? Don’t worry, I’ve been there too. Hell, sometimes I still struggle with it. HOWEVER, I’ve learned a few things that have kept me consistent during my photography career that has seemed to work, which allows me to create beautifully stunning and natural-looking portraits when working with people. With that being said, I decided to share my 5 C's of portrait photography with you because I can totally understand how tough it is. So let's get into it, shall we?
Ok so yes, this one is extremely important and I'm going to tell you why. First off I just want to say that we all get nervous when it comes to doing portrait photography. It's usually because we want to impress our clients so much that we let the fear of embarrassment overwhelm our thoughts. Let me be the one to tell you that you're not alone when you feel this way, and it's totally fine. After all, we are human and this happens all the time. But here's the catch, if your client doesn't feel a certain level of confident energy radiating off of you, 9 times out of 10 the shoot will probably not go very well yielding some rather questionable results. Honestly, you should be displaying confidence from initial contact with the client all the way to delivering the final images. So suck it up and show them that you mean business and that you can deliver what they expect from you. Just remember this, YOUR confidence will determine theirs in front of the camera. Now on the next...
No not the stuff your Converse sneakers are made of. Not the big board that you paint on either. To canvass is basically to seek and learn information from a certain situation. So what I'm saying is before you shoot, get to learn your client. In today's world of social media, you learn a lot about a person based on what they post. It's kind of a way to really get to know them through research. You can also ask them a mix of general and specific questions to help them become more comfortable with you during the portrait session. Asking them things like where are they from, what are they into, their most flattering angle, etc. will definitely get you in a much more controlled space when shooting the photos. Not to mention, most people love to talk about themselves, so ask plenty of questions (in a very respectful and professional manner mind you.)
This is very important. You NEVER, EVER, EVER, EVER, want to be a silent photographer during a portrait session. Not only does it come off as EXTREMELY rude, but it also gives your client nothing to work with. Although we wish that everyone were supermodels who could pose themselves by using the environment to their advantage with very little to no direction; they simply aren’t, and that’s ok. So in most cases, you'll have to communicate with them in order to create the look you wish to produce. Just be clear, be direct and watch how smooth it goes. I promise you and your client will be more than pleased.
This can take you to a whole new level in your clients' eyes during a shoot. Why? I'll tell you why, because shooting portraits is not only a service to them; it's also an experience. And let me tell you, a good experience creates some pretty amazing opportunities. So, you definitely want to refrain from telling your client that they're not doing a good job, or that their pose is weird or anything that gives off some sort of negative connotation. Always tell them that they are doing a good job. This helps them establish confidence which translates into really nice images on the end result. And if something does seem to be a bit unflattering to you, don't say that it looks bad, but make "professional" suggestions in a friendly tone instead. It's all about how it's conveyed to the client. Not to mention that if they have a great experience with you, they are going to more than likely become repeat clients and they'll also tell their friends and relatives about you; so you know what happens after that.
All previous tips basically lead to the final "C" of portrait photography. If you follow these tips, you will have a better chance of creating a great sense of chemistry between you and your client. You will be much more comfortable with each other and it will definitely show in the images. You'll be able to crack a corny joke or two to get them to laugh and capture their natural smile because of the level of relaxation you were able to provide for them. If you can do this, you're golden and you'll be so loved by your client that they'll feel bad about even thinking about choosing another photographer for their next portrait session.
So there you have it, The 5 C's to amazing portrait photography. To see some great examples of what I mean, be sure to stop by my official Instagram and check out my behind the scenes post to catch a glimpse of how I interact with my clients. And if you have more questions about anything photography, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I'll be glad to help as best as I can. Thanks a ton and happy shooting.
Model: Nikita Lamar