The 6 Ps of Professional photography…Planning and preparation prevents a p!#s poor performance.
I believe that one of the major keys to the success of any photographic session, whether it be a family portrait session, model portfolio, industrial photography in an underground mine, or 350 primary school kids by 2pm lies in the planning. The more prepared everyone is, the smoother it runs, the nicer the experience and the images are.
The more prepared you are for your portrait session, the easier it will be for you to be relaxed, look better and end up with a portrait you will be proud to own, give as a gift, or both.
The first thing you should do is meet with or phone your chosen photographer and discuss any locations or ideas you have in mind about your portrait session to make sure they will suit the style of your home.
If you haven’t, maybe give some thought as to where you are going to hang your family portrait. If it will be in a formal dining room, for example, then it should share the same level of elegance. A portrait meant for a family room can be more relaxed.
Environmental portraits, such as a park, riverbank, beach or your home, photograph well and create a much more relaxed atmosphere, guys especially are so much more relaxed leaning up against a tree than sitting in my studio.
If you know which room the portrait will go in, you can choose clothing and a background that will not clash.Classic colours, like khaki, navy and denims are timeless, co-ordinating solid colour tops with jeans or khakis also works well. Avoid large or bold patterns, and keep in mind your eye will be drawn to the brightest areas in the portrait which will in turn draw attention away from the faces.
Darker clothing minimizes body size and light tones tend to emphasise body size, try to dress everyone in the same style of clothing, do not mix casual and formal wear. Try to co-ordinate a complete look, head to toe, with each member of the group. No twins necessary, just looking great together with style and colour.
I always tell people to lay everyone’s clothes out together and if something is wrong, if something doesn’t blend, you will see it, it will hit you in the eye. You don’t want this to happen after the portrait is hanging on the wall. If you are in any doubt, take some options along and ask your photographer before the session, they should be able to tell you without hesitation which outfit is best.
Hair and Make-Up
Apply make-up for you portrait session exactly as you would if you were going out for the day. Pay special attention to your eyes, as they will be the most important part of your portrait. Guys may need to shave just before a session, we do lots of image manipulation and retouching these days, but it is almost impossible to remove a “five o’clock shadow”, obviously this is not so important with casual portraits.
If you wear glasses most of the time, you’ll want them in your portraits. It’s quite easy to eliminate reflection via light placement when in the studio but much more difficult outside, tinted lenses may also darken outdoors. A great idea is borrowing a set of plain lenses from your optometrist or take the lens out altogether.
Take your children’s schedule into consideration when planning your portrait session. As a parent, you know when your child is at his or her best and this one takes precedence over light as I think maybe it’s easier to control the light than a 3 year old who was due for a sleep an hour ago. Children’s portrait sessions should be scheduled for a time of day when they are well-rested and alert.
Don’t spend time preparing children to smile, making them smile naturally is my job! We almost never use the word “Smile”, and never use the word “Cheese”. There is a time when a laugh becomes a perfect natural smile, and this is what I aim for. You hardly ever get a natural smile when you tell someone to smile.
If you’re having outdoor portraits and it’s raining or windy just call your photographer and ask to reschedule your session so you get the look you are after, or better still, ask when you book.
In my opinion, all this should be discussed before the session, if you turned up for a portrait session without considering any of this, you can imagine what that does to the likelihood of getting a portrait you love… for years.
These things are not really that involved, they cause no drama, they are just a few of the finer points that help make truly sensational portraiture
Feel free to comment or contact me if you have any other questions.