If you are reading this blog you are probably looking to have some professional portraits taken of you or your family. It also means that you are looking for information so that you can be prepared for your session, good for you! Years of experience as a professional photographer has taught me a few things that I think will help you when planning your portrait session. You have already touched on the first step, preparing your wardrobe for your portrait session so I hope the suggestions below will be helpful.
The individuals in the photo above chose to wear neutral colors. The difference between this and the portrait below is that the focus goes to the woman wearing the red blazer. When people wear neutral colors that work well together your attention is not taken away from the photo as a whole.
Hint: Avoid patterns, prints, plaids, and bright colors.
These elements all divert attention from the purpose of the photo, which is to get a focused and flattering shot of the subject(s). There are certain colors that distract from a photo such as red or orange. Choosing to wear either of those colors will always cause a distraction from a headshot or family portrait because the color is so prominent. If you are going to be in a group portrait always be sure to balance out the outfits ahead of time or all of the attention will be focused on the one individual wearing the brightest color or pattern. Try to choose outfits with the same color theme, and coordinate as best as possible. This means don’t have one person wearing plaid or red and the rest in neutral colors.
Choosing an outfit that is complimentary to one’s body type is also essential. Always try on your wardrobe beforehand and have a few honest people judge whether it is appropriate for you. Be comfortable in the outfits you choose. Form fitting clothing is usually best, however this does not mean skintight. Your shirts or jackets should fit to your natural body shape free of lumps and wrinkles. Baggy clothing will look sloppy and tend to make you look larger than you actually are.
The best advice one could offer is to always bring extra outfits to the shoot. Make sure they are a different style and or color, allowing variety in case you don’t like how the shirt or pants you are wearing look in the photograph. Sometimes all it takes is being comfortable in your attire to loosen up and be yourself. Your portraits should portray confidence, happiness, and most of all express a certain comfort in front of the camera. Having the right attitude during your shoot is imperative to creating the feeling and flow of your portrait session and greatly influences your final portrait.
Above is a group photograph displaying good color coordination. Notice how your eyes go straight to the individuals faces in this example. This is not only due to coordinating their wardrobe, but also because they are comfortable with one another and their photographer.
Hint: Bring medium and dark colors if you are concerned about your weight. The camera tends to add a couple pounds sometimes, especially with white or light colored clothing.
It would be a shame to waste a perfectly good photo shoot on photographs that no one is satisfied with because of wardrobe choices. Taking advantage of these small pieces of advice could save your photos and lead to a successful portrait session. You may even end up with better images than originally expected. Your photographer should be happy to help you out with any questions you might have so speak with them ahead of time and I am sure they will appreciate your taking the time to plan ahead. A photographer who is professional and skilled at their craft will want the shoot to turn out just as well as you do, and planning ahead is everything.
Take Better Outdoor Photos
It’s a beautiful day and the sun is shining bright overhead. This would be a perfect time of day to take a photo, right? Most likely not!! If you are photographing people during this time of day you will probably notice that the sun has cast dark shadows on your subject’s face creating dark circles under their eyes and bright highlight areas that are lacking detail. When shooting in direct sunlight what might have been a great shot with the proper lighting may turn out to have extreme contrast due to the harsh light of the sun. Proper lighting is often overlooked by those who just want to take a quick photo, but if you want to take a great shot you may consider waiting for the best time of day when the sun is rising or on its way down and not directly hitting your subject from above. Although some cameras are pretty good with their auto exposure setting it can’t compensate enough for the different exposures needed to balance out the highlight and shadow details without the help of a fill flash.
Hint: The built in pop-up flash on your camera is notorious for creating additional harsh shadows and red-eye, it also lacks the ability to cast light beyond a few feet and renders useless in most cases. Buy a portable flash for your camera and you will have much better results. Below are some lighting styles and techniques that can be used to balance out the harsh light of the sun. Diffusing the Sun with Clouds & Shade Utilizing the clouds is a great way to control outdoor lighting. Clouds diffuse the sun resulting in less contrast and more even lighting overall. If it is only partly cloudy on the day of your shoot wait until the sun is behind the clouds and shoot during this time. You can also move your subject into a shady area and try using a little fill flash.
Using the sun as a backlight for your subject is a great technique. To do this, you should position your subject so that the sun is behind them. This will create a backlight as well as a rim of light around them. It will also help your subject’s facial expression because they will not be squinting from the sun. The drawback is that this will cast a shadow on the subject’s face. The best way to correct for this is through the use of a simple reflector being held at an angle that will reflect the sunlight onto the face, or you can use your flash to add some fill light. This technique will require practice with your flash to balance the lighting.
The Golden Hour
The golden hour is considered the best time of day to take stunning photographs and typically known to take place one hour after sunrise and one hour before sunset. It is called the golden hour because the sun is low in the sky and a golden light can be captured during this time.
The best advice one can offer to someone shooting outdoors is to prepare in advance and make sure to choose the best time of day like the golden hour when the sun is low and not shining directly from above. If you are shooting with the sun overhead try moving into the shade and using some fill flash, or you can try the backlighting technique. Experiment with these techniques and you will see a great improvement in your photos.
Why You Should Invest in Professional Headshots
Taking selfies may seem like a fast and easy way to get an acceptable profile picture for your personal online profile, but when it comes to your career you should alter your approach and consider professional headshots. It is universally known that a first impression leaves a lasting impression; this is why you want to make it a good one. Appearing professional in everyday life is important, but maintaining the same level of professionalism online is equally important.
Think About Your Future
Whether or not you decide to invest in that one great digital headshot could make or break an opportunity. If an employer views your profile and sees a professional headshot, they are likely to presume you are invested and serious about your future. This could prompt them to contact you for an interview, and if all goes well lead to an employment offer. If you are looking to expand your career but you have a photograph that you or a friend took as your default, this will not send the right message. Although we may want to believe people will not judge us by our appearance, this is not a realistic ideal to live by. When placed in a professional environment, an employer will choose the individual who takes pride in how they present themselves. Especially due to the likelihood that those placed in higher roles will be meeting with clients face to face.
Choosing the Right Photographer
Just having a “professional” headshot is not enough; it should also be a representation of your character. Doing a little research on the photographer you would like to work with is always a great idea. This will allow you to get a feel for their style, and decide whether they are the right fit for you. The best headshots are those taken by photographers who have the skill to portray an individual as approachable and friendly, but also set a professional tone. A distracting background is a perfect example of an unacceptable professional headshot. Your photos should showcase you, and not the background. A less distracting backdrop or background always works best, if possible opt for a solid background. The focus of a headshot should always be on the subject. With this small piece of advice, you are likely to have a greater chance of being noticed by the right person.
Here is a perfect example of the focus
strictly on the subject, through the use
of a solid white background.
It is vital that you prepare well in advance for the session. Aim to get sufficient rest on the night before the shoot, as well as a few days prior. Try to maintain the healthiest diet you can, and all of this will help you to look and feel your best. You may even want to consider hiring a professional hair and makeup artist for the day. There are some photographers who may bundle all of this into a package deal for you. When deciding on clothing, opt for simplicity. Avoid patterns that are likely to distract the viewer from your face, since this will be the focus. You should also avoid white if possible, as this is likely to wash out your skin tone and add a couple pounds if you are concerned about your weight. A top that is flattering to your neckline is best and usually depends on the color and length of your hair. If you are wondering when it is time to update your headshots a good indicator is when you begin to notice significant changes in your appearance. Another good rule of thumb is to update your headshot every year or two.
Making the Investment
If you are considering investing in professional headshots, you are moving in the right direction for your future. People from all different backgrounds are reaping the benefits from this small investment. Even those considering online dating may benefit from this service. A few fields that should take advantage of a professional headshot are: actors, models, musicians, performers, corporate executives, real estate agents, lawyers and doctors. More careers could definitely be added to this list, but the bottom line is that you really cannot go wrong by taking the next step and investing in your future. It is the absolute best way to ensure that you are portraying your true professional image to possible clients or employers.