On Being a Portrait Photographer

We’ve just finished another semester at school.  Three down, one to go.  This latest semester dealt with all aspects of portrait photography – fashion, glamour, lifestyle, environmental, figure studies.  Also a touch of small product work to get us ready for next term.  Now that we’re done, I find myself reflecting on what I’ve learned.  Most importantly, I seek the answer to a very basic question:  has  the experience made me more interested in photographing people?


I count myself very lucky to have been “exposed” to these domains.  The camera techniques that apply when working under bright lights in a small studio with one or more human subjects are unique to say the least.  Yet the most worthwhile part of this experience was not in the studio, but outside it.  It was the overall effort and planning required to get to the point of firing the shutter.

We had 8 person-based assignments over the term for photography class and a similar number for lighting class.  Unlike last year where we used other students as subjects, we had to broaden our sources this term, and connect with friends, family, acquaintances, even total strangers to complete our work.


Why is this important?  It taught us about how to sell, how to inform, how to connect with people who had perhaps little or no interest in what we were doing.  Each assignment had a specific theme.  This required considering a location for the shoot, who could and would be the subject(s), what props were required, whether hair and make-up were needed to supplement the shot, the coordination of subject and studio availability, the provision and transport of equipment, and the development of backup plans when subject or studio or location somehow were not available as planned.

I really enjoyed the task of connecting with my subjects.  I found that all were very receptive and interested in my work, and very willing to cooperate.  But this didn’t happen by accident.  As soon as the assignments were known, often weeks in advance of due date, I was sourcing my subjects, letting them know something was coming up and working with them to find a convenient time in their schedule.  I shot assignments out of order, specifically to respect subjects’ schedules.  It worked beautifully, and confirmed that my project management skills, obtained over a long career, were equally as valuable in this profession.

But it wasn’t perfect.  On at least one assignment, I had to go to a backup plan, imposing a bit of stress on me and my subjects.  Lessons learned.  Life sometimes gets in the way when you’re trying to get things done.

Best of all, I now have a wider range of subjects to connect with for the future, and I have a wider range of support options for locations, equipment and accessories.  All part of the toolkit.

I had the opportunity to put this marvellous learning into effect almost immediately, in working with a private client who wanted some work done before the end of year holidays.  It went exceptionally smoothly.

So am I more interested in photographing people?  I think it’s more that I’m equally open to doing so now, rather than likely to refer work elsewhere.  And I enjoyed the planning almost as much as the shooting.  Not sure what that says.

You can find some of that work posted here on the site.  As always, let me know what you think.


Please Leave a Comment:

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.