Professional Portrait Photography Tips

Welcome to Professional Portrait Photography Tips the 5th part in the series about “How To Start A Photography Business“.

In this article, we are going to look at the fundamentals of portrait photography. This could actually be linked into the previous article Greeting Cards Photography in that you could easily turn some of the outputs of your portraits photography into greetings cards.

Many people are now using professional photographers to capture moments from their own, or their loved ones lives.

Reasons Why People Want To Be Photographed Professionally Professional Portrait Photography Tips example image

  • Celebrity and the X-Factor factor – Looking good is constantly being shoved down our throats at the moment. For some, having a portrait done gives them confidence and their ‘moment to shine’ because good portrait photography ALWAYS turns out looking good.
  • Families are now living further apart and see each other less. For many parents, having a large family portrait is their way of ‘keeping the family together’.
  • Another benefit of having a large portrait of a family member (or members) is that it can actually be a cheap, flexible way of decorating. It might sound silly, but you could easily get a photo in a frame very cheaply. Put the portrait up against a plain painted wall and there you go. Simple and cheap way to decorate a whole wall.
  • Finally, portraits can make great talking points. They say that a picture tells a thousand words….. They certainly do.

What Will You Need ?

If you want to be a professional and earn life changing income from this business then you have to act professionally…….and that means buying a bit of professional equipment. Look the part !!

  • A good camera. I highly recommend the Nikon D3100. I also have a review of it here : Nikon D3100 Review.
  • A tripod : Obviously buy one that is compatible with your camera and is flexible enough for the most unorthodox of shots.
  • Studio Lighting Kit : You can buy these items separately, but as a great ‘all-in-one package’, I highly recommend the ePhoto K103 Studio Lighting Kit, which offers tremendous value containing :
    • 2 x 7 Feet light stands/1 x Background light stand/2 x supporting tripods 8ft
    • 3 x Sectional cross bars 8.5 ft wide and 8.5ft height/1 x carrying case for backdrop stands
    • 3 x Swivel light AC umbrella holder sockets/2 x 32″ shoot through soft umbrellas
    • 3 x 45W perfect day light bulbs 5500K
    • 1 x 6’x9′ Black and white muslin backdrop included
  • Light Reflector : Essential to avoid harsh ‘undershadows’. Again available from Amazon. This ‘kit’ will cover all of your needs : Light Reflector Kit.

Portrait Photography – On The Day

  • Setting up – Always check basic camera and light settings before the clients settle into position. You don’t want to be messing around whilst they are in position. They might have to sit, or even worse stand, there for long enough as it is.
  • It’s all about the clothing – You don’t want the group to look like a kaleidoscope of different colours. Try to get them to, at least, wear matching or complimentary clothing.
  • The pose – Remember they are related (or at least be good friends) and they should, in theory, want to be close together. Sitting with their backs to each other might be sending out the wrong message.
  • Saying “cheese”, is actually too cheesy. Try to make them smile, or even better laugh, with some amusing stories or jokes.
  • Remember to keep the photography session upbeat and lively – If it’s not going to plan, don’t huff and puff and throw a tantrum. Keep it professional and suggest that things are good but you want to you try something a little bit different.
  • Closed eyes – There is little you can do with the speed of a blink and you certainly don’t want them staring at you. However, a simple count down will give the subjects time to compose themselves and blink at the ‘right’ time. And of course, always check the result whilst the clients are still in their positions.
  • Remain flexible – Allow your customers to have their say (after all, they are the ones paying) and never get into a long argument regarding positions – There’s nothing worse than photographing someone who’s just been in a stand up argument.
  • Don’t forget the pets. They could be a useful ‘add on’, whilst you are in the house. It’s very difficult to get them to stare straight into the camera, but waving a toy just out of shot can result in a very memorable natural looking photo.

Final Tips For Portrait Photography

  • Remember this is a business and, as with any other business there are always opportunities for joint venture partners. These can include :
    • Hairdressers
    • Make-up artists
    • Costume Outlets
    • Pet stores / Vets / Pet grooming shops
    • Photo-Frame Makers
    • In all of the above cases, there will be opportunities to cross-sell and provide leads to each other.
    • Schools are also a good place to find work. Can you undercut their current photographer’s prices ?
    • Remember, you do not need an expensive studio. All of your work can be done ’on the road’ in people’s homes (where they will be feeling more relaxed, which will result in better portraits).
    • Ask permission if you can use some of the shots as part of your own portfolio – This will come in handy later on when show-casing your work – especially any photos of pets, which could be used in specialist pet magazines.

A Word About Professional Modelling Photography

Just a small step up from portrait photography is the world of professional modelling. Whilst fashions come and go, the models that do the modelling of these fashions are always en vogue. That means this niche of photography work is effectively evergreen.

Simple ‘in studio’ shots and the more ambitious ‘out in the field’ portfolios are both legitimate business models here. And of course you also have two options.

  • Taking photos that you retain the rights to in order for you to sell to relevant agencies (clothing retailers for example)

OR (slightly easier)

  • You help produce a photographic portfolio for an up and coming model (where they will effectively just buy the portfolio from you for their own marketing of themselves

With the latter, there is certainly a chance of repeat business as models should always be looking to update their portfolio and, in addition, they tend to get comfortable and more relaxed with a familiar photographer they know and can trust. Plus, of course, there is always a chance that the model themselves could refer you to other models in the industry – there is nothing like the positive ‘word of mouth’ for generating excellent business leads.

To get a foot in the door in this business, contact local clothing stores, catalogues, or modelling agencies. You might have to offer to produce a small freebie portfolio to get yourself noticed – but a little free work now could lead to massive on-going contracts further down the line.

Generally, the idea with this type of photography is to keep the model moving during the photography shoot. A flowing ‘natural’ shot always looks better than a ‘sit them there looking really rigid’ pose.

The next article in the series is :

Professional Wedding Photography Tips (Coming Soon !!!)

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