Let's face it, there's a lot of different elements that go into putting together a photoshoot that yields fantastic-looking photos. And, while there might not always be a "foolproof" guide to being successful at it, there are some basic tips that you want to make sure you get down.
Whether you're an amateur photographer looking to strengthen your skills, or a client curious about what a photo shoot entails, there's something to learn for everyone. So, let's dive in.
Lighting is by far the most important aspect of photography. If you don't understand how lighting works it's very difficult to take an aesthetically pleasing photograph. The cool thing about lighting is that we can use tools such as flashes or light boxes to control what the light looks like. Having the ability to balance your lighting allows you to change the entire mood of the photo you're taking. The post-production editing process is so much easier (and faster) when you are able to take a photo with good lighting right out of the camera.
Planning your photo shoot prior to heading out to take photos is crucial to the overall success of the shoot. Set some goals for the type of photos you're hoping to obtain and talk to your models so everyone is on the same page. I'm a huge list maker, so I know to write myself a quick note if there is a particular shot I don't want to miss. When I have a certain idea in mind for a photoshoot I like to talk about it with the models prior to snapping any photos. My vision, mood, and approach to the photoshoot can help them know how to move their body, and if we're really vibing (is that even a word?), you can see it in the end result.
Also, this should go without saying, but make sure to pack well. Nothing is worse than making it all the way to a photoshoot only to realize that you forgot your nifty fifty lenses or that extra memory card you left laying on your desk. Think about the types of shots you're hoping to get so you can bring the proper lenses with you.
The better you are at planning your photoshoot, the less you have to worry about the execution of the process and the more you can let your creative flow take over.
Clients ask me all the time for suggestions on different locations to go for their photoshoots. The answer to this question is tricky because it really just depends. We all know that the background of the photograph can really set the mood for the portrait you're capturing. I am a huge believer that a good photo can be taken in the most atrocious location, however, why make things harder on yourself than you have to? With that in mind, I have a few key spots that I like to take clients to in my hometown. They are well-known locations that offer different atmospheric varieties which allows me to take many different sessions at the same location without it appearing to be the same location.
Also, if there is a lot going on in the background don't be afraid to change your aperture settings in order to blur and soften the background. Remember that the focus of any portrait is the client, not the background, so don't let the background draw attention away from your subject. Mix it up! Take a variety of different photos, close-up, far away, horizontal, vertical, wide shots, and narrow shots. You get the point.
During the planning process, it's always important to think about the types of shots that you want to take during your session so you know what lenses to bring with you. With your plan in mind, it is also important to mix up the posing, expressions, and composition so that your client is left with a variety of different portraits to choose from.
Some of the best photos I've taken have been experiments, so don't be afraid to try something new, especially if your client is relaxed and having fun posing for you!
I'm not going to lie, posing has been one of the hardest things I've had to teach myself as a photographer because not everyone is photogenic so sometimes you have to go the extra mile to explain to them how to move their body to get flattering results. The biggest thing you should remember when posing is that you are behind the camera and they are not. Meaning you can see how the shot is framed, how close you are to the subject, and what is going to be in the photo vs. what is not, but your client can't see all of that. For some individuals, it's not easy to be in front of the camera, it can be intimidating and uncomfortable, which can lead to your subject looking tense. If your client suggests certain poses to you, it usually means that they are already comfortable in that pose, which could yield better results. If your client is shy and reserved, try posing them by showing them how you want them to stand rather than verbally instructing them. Once they are in the desired pose, make small adjustments to how they hold their body in order to give the pose a polished look.
Overall, communication is the backbone to learning how to pose your clients in a way that makes them comfortable, and translates well when photographed. I like to take a few minutes before I start the session to get to know my client. The more relaxed they are, the better the photos will look.
In general, photographers as a whole spend a lot of time directing, placing, and instructing clients to pose a certain way throughout the session, however, my favorite pictures often happen between poses- the candid moments when the client forgets, even just for a moment that they are in the front of the camera. So remember to keep your camera up and keep snapping away so you don't miss those little moments before and after the directed poses happen.
After the session is complete I always follow up with the client by showing off a few photos (privately) so they have an idea of how the session went. In my opinion, this is very important because it allows the client to give you feedback before you continue the editing process (which can save you a lot of time). Now I don't allow my clients to dictate my creative expression, but if they have a desired look they're wanting then I do typically try to accommodate that request, within reason. After the photos have been edited and the final gallery sent over, I like to give the individual a few days to look them over and then I reach out (typically by email) to see what they thought of the final product. 99.9% of the time I receive nothing but wonderful comments about the finished product and the client goes on their merry way.
However, that pesky little .01% that's not happy with their photos- yeah I've dealt with that too, which is a whole other ball game, which I will proceed to talk about in another blog post. There is no secret sauce to creating and executing the perfect photo shoot, but there are some fun tips that can help make your job a bit easier and the experience