How to Arrive at the Perfect Professional Portrait

How to Arrive at the Perfect Professional Portrait

Portraits are a great way to reflect professionalism. As a portrait photographer, what are the things that you can ensure to get the best for your clients? There are a few important areas that you have to pay attention to as a portrait photographer. Here is a quick article that discusses on how to arrive at the perfect professional portrait.

Clear Communication 

Everything that happens on the shoot day will depend on how effectively you have communicated with the client. Starting from the date and the time, to the style and theme, prepare a list of things that you want to discuss with the client and make sure it is ticked promptly. In the case of the client landing directly on the shoot day without any proper communication in advance with the photographer, many misunderstandings arise. You don't want any of that. So take the client communication seriously.  

Establish the Goals of Your Portrait Session 

It is important that you clearly define the outcome of the portrait session. Does the client want it for a press release or a website feature? Where are they going to be using it? Do they need it vertical or horizontal? Do they expect it to be cool or formal? What is the kind of emotion that the client wants to convey through the portraits? How many outfit changes are we looking at? All these questions have to be thoroughly discussed and then captured as a brief. Once you have the goal of your portrait session defined, everything else will fall in place. 

Invest in a Hair, Makeup, and Dress Stylist 

Trust me, it will create a world of difference when the client invests in the right dress, hair, and makeup. In the client briefing session, it is important that you mention the role of stylists for each of these areas or one who can do it all, to make sure the client looks at his or her best that day. Every detail matters and you do not want to have a bad hair day on a portrait that will reflect on the output you deliver to them. If it is a haircut, advise the client to have one a week before the shoot. If it is the suit, make sure the client comes with a tailored fit that suits him/her the best. Pay attention to the outlook. It is also good to have partners in these areas and you can even refer them to the client for their perusal. 

The Attention to Details 

Little things make a great difference. For instance, if the client has a double chin, can we look for an angle that doesn't show it prominently? If the client is comfortable and confident on one side of his/her face to pose, can we know that and capitalize? After all the preparation, if there is something that didn't work out the way you had envisioned, can we use the presence of mind and iron that situation out and proceed? All these little things will add up to give that final perfect portrait. 

Make the Client Feel Comfortable 

We have to remember that not all the subjects we shoot would be professional models or necessarily be comfortable in front of the camera. They might not be great posers but obviously, they would listen with interest when being directed. As a photographer, it is your duty to make them comfortable by pulling out a casual conversation, asking them questions and giving them prompts. You might want to check my previous article on how to pose almost anyone to understand how you can cue the subject in with a story. Showing a glimpse of how their portrait looks once in a while through the viewfinder will give them the confidence that they are doing good. Keep the conversation alive.

Own Your Setup 

Your Studio is your universe. Make sure everything is in top-notch condition. You don't want a flickering light or a loose tripod during the shoot time. Do a check on all the equipment in advance. In fact, pull out a mock shoot with your friend or assistant to make sure everything is in check. It also helps you gain perspective on the kind of angles you can focus upon. 

Choose the Right Backdrop 

Backdrops are the silent yet significant part of every portrait shoot. It will elevate the character of the subject and give you stunning results. It is important that you invest in the right backdrop. My personal choice is hand-painted backdrops. Of late have been using Mizu Backdrops and have been witnessing impressive results; the way it reflects light, offering uniqueness and variety. The benefits of a hand-painted backdrop calls for separate article altogether which we will see in the coming week. It is about choosing the right color for the right mood.

Perfect Post-Processing 

Finally, it all comes down to the editing desk to arrive at the perfect professional portrait. It is wise to involve the client in the picture selection process before you start editing so you have a clear set of pictures to focus on. Get the preferences from the client and use your creativity to come up with the best edits. Make sure there is not much manipulation but only enhancement of the subject to be portrayed better.

Now that's a series of steps to arrive at the perfect professional portrait. As a professional portrait photographer, it is also your duty to advocate your client about the power of portraits and the impact it will create to their professional world, and why it is important to create portraits from time to time. Remember it is not a one-time game. Of course portraits last forever but the client's look might change. Give a hint of them regarding updating their portraits periodically, and like a doctor's appointment, they can very well be encouraged to book their next appointment in advance and look forward to a fresh set of portraits that they can use for their professional purposes. 

Amar Ramesh's picture

An entrepreneur by profession and a wanderer by nature, Amar Ramesh is a creative photographer based in Chennai, India. Wedding photography being his forte with over 300 weddings under his belt, he also shoots fashion, kids, documentary films, heritage, and lifestyle. And he enjoys sharing his experiences constantly.

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1 Comment

As I age, I am more interested in shifting to portrait work only. Good post.