So, you’ve just booked your first professional portrait session… You’re feeling nervous, and perhaps a little daunted by the prospect of standing alone in front of a camera with lights in your eyes. People photographer Harry Duns shares seven great tips.
Don’t despair, these practical tips from top people photographer Harry Duns will help you get the most from your shoot. The outcome will be photographs you are proud of.
Mark Twain said that “clothes make the man”. What you wear has a huge and immediate impact on how people perceive you.
For example, if you are a businessman looking for a portrait that conveys credibility and confidence, be sure to wear a smart, dry-cleaned and pressed suit. A well-fitting shirt with no wrinkles, plus a neat tie will add to your professional image.
If a suit is not your thing, then dress comfortably, but not sloppily.
Whatever you choose to wear, try on your outfit before the big day. Be conscious of details. For example, a bra under a clingy top may appear invisible to the eye at first glance. But is it more revealing than you intended? The camera never lies.
It’s always a good idea to bring an extra set of clothes to the shoot. Choose a complimentary outfit that says something different about you. Alternative outfits can give variety and offer more choice especially when photographed against a range of backdrops.
Generally speaking, women should avoid busy pattens and prints, as these detract from the most important element of the shot: you! Simple, bold colours work best.
Why not treat yourself to that nice new shirt, jacket or dress you’ve been thinking about buying? A choice new item for your wardrobe can be a great confidence booster.
A portrait photography session is a special occasion, so make the most of the experience and treat yourself to some pampering on the day. Go the extra mile and prepare to look your absolute best.
Women: consider booking an appointment at a professional hair and nail salon before the shoot. Flattering makeup, well-manicured nails and a beautifully-cut hair will make you feel positive and confident in yourself.
Men: consider booking yourself in for a haircut and a shave – at a minimum, trim and tidy your facial hair so that you’re looking and feeling your best. Don’t rush it – skin irritation caused by rushed shaving is unflattering and a pain to conceal!
Both men and women should consider using a good moisturising lip balm, as chapped lips are never a good look. Make sure your nails are neat and tidy. If you do wear nail varnish, make sure it’s not chipped.
Of course, if you want a warts-and-all shot, feel free to go to the shoot ‘au naturel’. Let the photographer know you don’t want your photos to be retouched. Just don’t expect to be flattered by the results!
Bear in mind that most of the time we see human faces in constant motion. A photograph captures one fleeting moment in time. Any imperfection or blemish will be revealed in sharp detail! That’s why a little bit of preparation, attention and care before the shoot by you, combined with tasteful Photoshop work by the photographer after the shoot, has the best chance of delivering the results you need.
Turning up to your shoot with bags under your eyes and a hangover isn’t going to do you any favours. Get an early night before your shoot and try not to over-indulge the day before your shoot. If you wake up feeling physically and mentally fresh then your portraits will reflect this.
Clean your face properly on the morning of the shoot and don’t over-moisturise. Stay away from oily moisturisers – shiny skin reflects under studio lights and can lead to an unflattering glare on your face.
I know it sounds obvious but try not to eat anything heavy immediately before your moment in the spotlight and if possible brush and floss your teeth before the shoot. There’s nothing more embarrassing than flashing your most winning smile only to be told you have something stuck between your teeth!
Once your ‘classic’ portrait is in the bag, why not try something different? Props can add a different dimension to a portrait. Have a think about the possessions that mean something to you, for example:
- an item of jewellery with sentimental value
- a favourite book
- a hat, wig, stuffed animal, cuddly toy, you name it!
A well-chosen prop can say a lot about you.
5. HOW DO YOU WANT TO COME ACROSS?
Spend a little time at home in front of a mirror practicing some poses and facial expressions. You may feel self-conscious at first, but it will be great preparation for when you have to show your best side in front of a photographer.
- Notice how light can accentuate or play down characteristics of your face.
- Which elements of your face, body and personality do you wish to emphasise?
Think carefully about what you want your pictures to say about you.
The more comfortable you feel in your own skin, the more confident you’ll be, and the easier it will be for the photographer to capture natural-looking poses and expressions on the day of the shoot.
Even if you’re 100% prepared, a photo shoot may not deliver the best results if there’s poor communication between you and the photographer.
Try and touch base with the photographer before your portrait shoot, if possible. A phone-call or e-mail to introduce yourself and have a brief chat will help you be more comfortable when the Big Portrait Day arrives.
Let the photographer know about who you are and what makes you tick:
- How will you be using the photos? For example, are they for your press pack? Do you need them for your website? Perhaps you will just be using them as avatars on social media sites?
- What do you do for a living?
- What are your interests?
- Do you want a classic, businesslike portrait, or something more fun and informal?
- Do you want the mood of the images to be playful or serious, emotional or straight, dark or cheerful, brooding or carefree?
If you see a portrait shot that catches your eye, save it and send the pictures to the photographer. It’ll give him or her an idea of the kind of style you have in mind.
All the above will help you strike up a rapport with the photographer, which can make the difference between a good portrait and an excellent one. Engaging with your photographer on a human level will make capturing your true self much easier.
7. THE BIG DAY
On your way to the studio, stay calm and relaxed. Listen to some soothing music on your mp3 player.
Set off in plenty of time so that you don’t feel rushed.
Think about the weather and plan for the worst. If you’re on foot, bring an umbrella so that your carefully styled hair and newly-cleaned clothes don’t get ruined.
The essence of a great portrait is in the relationship and spark between photographer and subject. That element of human connection is essential. Stay positive and don’t feel rushed. There is no need to feel intimidated – remember the photographer is on your side. He or she is trying their hardest to capture the best image for you.
If you have prepared for your portrait shoot using my tips then you can feel relaxed and confident that you have done everything possible to ensure a hassle-free, rewarding photo shoot experience.
Get your portrait at The Brewery Theatre, Bristol, 10th November 2011. (£40 until 3 Nov £50 after)