Portrait Guide: How to Prepare and What to Wear
In the blink of an eye.
You may be asking yourself: “Why are we even bothering with this?”
At your firm’s suggestion, perhaps their insistence, you’re getting your portrait taken. You might be thinking that your smartphone’s camera is good enough. Stand against a wall, grab a colleague walking by, and have them snap a picture of you. Better yet, use that photo taken last summer on the boat, your arm raised up as you showed off your latest catch. You looked happy in that one.
Just about anyone with a smartphone or a modest digital camera can potentially take a quality image rivaling the best produced by skilled professional photographers. This parity has had some far reaching effects on the profession. Since COVID, over 20% of professional photographers have left the field.
The difference lies in all of the other things a professional photographer brings to the table. Artistry, technique, and process.
Psychologists tell us that people make up their minds about someone in an instant, consisting of a range of time from about 15 seconds to the blink of an eye. Your picture, the way you look, and what you communicate about yourself through your expression makes the difference. That photo on your firm’s web site, LinkedIn, or on a proposal goes a long way in determining whether or not you get the business.
Looking your best.
“I hate getting my picture taken.”
These words have been uttered in my studio more than, “How are you?” Many of us, perhaps most of us, don’t like the way we look. But, if I called you “ugly,” “homely,” or just “derpy,” you’d probably be offended. Everyone has their own unique look. Use the tools you have control over to make sure you look the best you can look when you arrive for your portrait session.
Grooming and make-up.
Get your hair styled or cut before the photo shoot. A bad hair day is the most common reason for a reshoot. If you use make-up, less is more. Don’t overdo foundation. A professional will be retouching your final image anyway. Lipstick with color is great!
If you normally wear them, use them for the photo shoot. Overdue for new frames? Get them now. Using your old frames for the shoot will unnecessarily date your portrait.
Dress your best from head to toe. That means wearing the right shoes, too. Even if we aren’t shooting full length photos, a stylish pair of shoes helps put you in the right frame of mind. Women, in particular, who tend to be shoe-centric, know that.
Men, don’t show up wearing a suit coat, shirt, and tie, with a pair of shorts on the bottom half of your body. Even headshots are often taken “more open” revealing part of the lower half of your body. Again, establish the right frame of mind and your portraits will be better.
Weight gain, especially since COVID, has been a persistent problem for many of us, me included. Try on the clothes you plan on wearing before the shoot. If they are too tight, go shopping! Ill fitting clothing diminishes the quality of your portrait.
Avoid all black. Even though a dark suit is de rigueur in many professions, add color with a bright tie. Your tie actually can’t be too bright. The color evens out in post processing. For women, wear a colorful scarf or a necklace. I’m partial to pearls because I think they throw color into your eyes. Avoid the big chunky necklaces with big pendants.
Red and white, colors to stay away from as the dominant color. Of course, both can be present as accents, a red or white shirt or blouse under a dark jacket. All white can present a technical issue depending on what background is used.
Feeling your best.
Relax. Leave the driving to me.
After taking pictures of literally thousands of people over my career, I’ve developed a process that begins even before you get to the studio. Getting the camera and lights ready before you arrive frees me up to give you my full attention.
I hardly ever jump into a photo shoot without first having a chat. Getting to know a little bit about you, answering your questions, and telling you about the shoot will help you relax. Try not to feel self conscious but I use these first minutes to observe how you stand, what you do with your hands, and how you place your weight on your hips. Most often, you show me the best poses for you. I spend the initial parts of the photo shoot just asking you to repeat those poses. After shooting, you’d be surprised at how many people choose the very first shot I took of them as their favorite.
We’ll probably take between 35 and 40 shots during the session. Not all at once! My mentor has taught me to make the photo shoot “breathe.” I’ll take a few shots, stop, and we’ll talk. This gives you the opportunity to relax your smile heavy cheekbones and literally take a breath.
The process I use enables me to wirelessly download every shot I take onto an iPad. At the same time, the images mirror to a nearby laptop. Following the shooting, you’ll have a chance to review the photos and pick your favorite. You’ll also have the opportunity to reject them all and go back in front of the camera for some more shots. We’ll keep shooting until you’re satisfied.
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