I’ve recently had the pleasure of art directing a few portrait photography sessions for our clients. We got some great results, and it’s a joy to work with stellar professionals behind the camera and ’subjects’ who feel comfortable being photographed. But many people find the experience intimidating, and not knowing what to expect going into a session only heightens the effect. But have no fear! Here’s the inside scoop to a few common questions:
- “What should I wear?” — If the designer or photographer you’re working with hasn’t mentioned anything to you about dress, ask if there’s something special you should wear. It’s also good to know ahead of time how ‘tight’ the framing of the shots will be—full body or just a headshot—so you can plan accordingly. But as with most things in life, it’s good to be prepared for a little more than what’s expected, as inspiration can strike during the shoot and a new direction set. When possible, avoid black (and especially black-on-black combinations)—even the nicest black suits and dresses look like big solid blobs when reproduced.
- “Should I get my hair done?” — That’s certainly one way to look your best! But, really, that’s rarely necessary. A good compromise is to know ahead of time if there’s a bathroom or similar place nearby to freshen up, pick the lunchtime spinach from your teeth, and feel more confident heading into the shoot. Confidence is the real key to a great portrait!
- “How long will this take?” — 45 minutes in a single location, once set up with lights, is a decent yardstick for individuals in a few different poses. But there are a lot of factors are at play here. How many different shots are desired? Are there multiple “scenes” or locations? Are you the solo star of the shoot, or one of several individuals being shot, or part of a group photo? The photographer and art director work together to plan these things out and will have a rough idea that should be communicated to you. And if you’re on a tight timeframe, please communicate that as soon as possible, preferably during the planning stages.
- “Why all the gear?” — What’s the big fuss with all these lights, battery packs, umbrella reflectors…? Most planned portrait shots involve powered lights (called ‘strobes’) to balance out the existing light in a room and give a ‘fuller’ appearance to the shot with better defined highlights and shadows. It may seem like overkill, but it makes a huge difference in the quality of the shot.
- “Who’s that?” — You can expect to see an assistant or two on location who helps the photographer set up equipment, calibrate lights, and tidy up the area. They ensure that photographer stays behind the lens, so shoots can proceed more efficiently.
- “How’s it looking?” — It’s not at all unusual to have dozens (and dozens!) of frames shot without you, dear “subject,” having any idea of how the photos are turning out. And that can be a little disconcerting! While it’s best to let the photographer do their thing, know that it’s perfectly acceptable to ask for a peek after a long string of shots.
Have a great shoot, and remember to have fun!