This week I thought I would like to talk a little about what I try to achieve in a portrait. I have been photographing people for about 7 years, much less than some who have spent most of their lives perfecting their portrait images. I started out primarily photographing landscapes and animals...
and even today I still enjoy capturing animal images, especially of the big cats.
But when I photograph people, I try to capture more than just a snapshot of the person. I do my best to create an image designed with either special lighting, poses, wardrobe, location, makeup, or even post processing to bring out somethings unique related to that image. I often will discuss the overall concept with my subject and see if she (or he) has ideas that I had not considered. This brings a level of anticipation to my subjects, so that rather than just Bob took an photo of me, the feeling of my subject may be that we created the image together.
In a recent shoot, my subject actually logged onto Pinterest and expanded the concept that we had already spoke about briefly. This can get people heavily engaged into the image so that they put more of themselves into poses, expressions, and overall spirit during the photoshoot itself. Does it pay off? Of course the images are going to look better when someone actively is anticipating a special experience during their photoshoot.
Of course, as a photographer I need to be realistic with a client as to what my skill level may be. If I promise something I should be pretty sure that I can deliver on that promise. I certainly don't mind trying something new, but I am very clear with the client that I can not guarantee how something that I have never worked with will turn out. Most clients are ok with this, and even if one aspect of a project does not work out i make sure that the client still has images from another portion of a photoshoot. Which is of course, an important point to mention -- always have a plan B that you and your client are comfortable with executing.
In some cases, such as composite shoots where someone may be posing in front of greenscreen or seamless paper, I provide a concept image on set. My subject may not actually be in a misty forest, but if I have a large image that they can refer to it really helps get the imagination moving.
This approach is quite different from the " I have a 10 am head shot appointment" in which one might do one or two lighting changes along with a few variations in poses for anyone who walks through the door. This approach may work well for a corporate headshot assignment in which you only have 10 minutes to work with a client that you have never met. I do like to be a little more creative with my images.
Think about your next photoshoot. What do you know about your subject? What have you shared with your subject? How engaged are they in the entire process? The more engaged they are, the better the images will be and a pretty good chance that they will return for more images!