Portraits FAQ

This Should Be Fun, Really!

Here are some of my thoughts on the portrait process, how I work, and what you need to do to make the most of it.

It applies to all types of portraits I shoot, from environmental or studio portraits, to senior portraits, headshots, and family gatherings.

What a portrait session should not be

Stiff, unnatural, with weird poses, fake backgrounds, or awkward props.

What a portrait session should be

A realistic, natural, comfortable representation of who you are at this moment in your life. It should show us your smile, a bit of your personality, the clothes and places you feel comfortable in.

The goal is to create something together that you and/or your family will love having on a wall, to look at every day for years to come. If this is for a senior portrait, it is also to capture something you will love as your yearbook picture (maybe not the same as the above). If it is a profile picture or headshot, we will focus on expression and tilt of the head, more micro stuff like that.

In short, we will be creating many images, and you will have several “looks” to choose from.

What to expect

We will start by spending a bit of time talking and getting acquainted, so I can explain how we will work together to achieve the best possible outcome.

We will then take our time and capture images of you with a bunch of different angles and poses, and in as many locations and outfits as we have time for.

We’ll be sure to get the sort of “standard” shots one might expect, then work through a shot list if we have worked on that ahead of time. But it is also very important for us to have a bit of fun.

I will experiment and play with different ideas, because every person is different, and any location differs based on the day or time of day. Some of the things we try together will work, some will not. There is no pressure, we are not going to force things, and I promise to brutally destroy any image that does not work. The point is to have fun and capture a few moments.

If this is a headshot session, I treat that a bit differently, so read up on that here.

This is not a torture session

For some reason, lots of people feel nervous or uncomfortable in front of a lens. Go figure.

I will do all I can to help us avoid this situation.

I am not interested in capturing posey, awkward images, but natural, relaxed images that show you in the best light.

I may ask you to do awkward stuff

We are taking a living, breathing, four-dimensional world and trying to make it look interesting and engaging in just two dimensions. If we don’t do it right, it can look really wrong. There are some “tricks” to fooling the camera, to making portraits look right. At the time you may think, “Hm, this is awkward. I would never stand like this.” In those moments you need to just trust me. Relax and go with the flow.

What to wear

Things you are comfortable in. Clothes that are you.

  • Simple is better than complex. But that doesn’t mean don’t accessorize. Do what feels natural. Just don’t overthink.
  • Solids are better than patterns. In fact, stay away from patterns, they date a photo.
  • Deeper colors and earth tones are good for bringing attention to your face; darker colors are slimming; lighter colors tend to take the viewers’ eyes away from the subject.
  • It is best to have at least one solid black or solid white shirt as a failsafe.
  • Texture is great. As is character. If you are into red hightops or have a favorite hat, let’s include them.
  • Mix it up: go for a range of styles to give some variety to choose from. If you want to go for, say, three “looks,” I would suggest one casual (jeans, casual top), one formal dress or outfit, and one in-between. And we can change up the poses and backgrounds to fit each.
  • Most importantly, and to repeat that which is most important: wear things you feel comfortable in, that make you feel good.

How long with this take?

It really depends on what we are trying to achieve. But in most cases, a 60-minute session is plenty of time for a portrait session unless we are on location or driving around to multiple locations. Generally, I like to plan a session so that, for all intents and purposes, the clock has been stopped and we have plenty of time to lean into the moment and collaborate to create amazing images.

If we are working outside, the ideal time to start is about 90 minutes before sunset. That gives us the most interesting, softest sunlight. But we can work in any light. And, of course, we can work around the clock indoors.

What do I need from you?

Well, first of all, a reservation.

But, beyond that, you just need to bring yourself and be yourself.

Of course, after the reservation, but before the shoot, I would love it if you can share with me by phone or over email anything that expresses your expectations of our collaboration.

  • Are there any images/poses you really feel you must have?
  • Are there are any special requirements (deadlines?) for what we create together?
  • Is there a mood or look you would like to aim for? (Yes, I will look at a Pinterest board if you assemble one.)