Using a Pre-Shoot Portrait Checklist

by | Nov 10, 2021

Today’s Post by Joe Farace

Let our advance worrying become advance thinking and planning.”—Winston Churchill

I think communicating with your subject is the most important aspect of making portraits. That process may start with the initial contact and move onto verbal communication during the session but to produce the best possible photographs, I believe you need to start before a subject arrives at the shoot. Here’s a few tips you should e-mail to a client before a shoot and, I think, will translates into better photographs of them. Feel free to copy and even improve on these ideas.

  • Wear solid colors. Nothing detracts from a subject more than clothes with busy patterns. I tell clients that the time to wear these kinds of outfits is for fun, not during a portrait session when the emphasis should be on their face.
  • Make sure their clothes fit. While this might seem obvious, too many times I’ve seen subjects wearing ill-fitting clothes that do nothing but divert the attention of viewer.
  • The camera shows the truth. If the subject has skin problems, such as peeling from a sun burn or incomplete tan coverage for the clothing they’re planning to wear, I suggest they reschedule. Makeup and retouching can correct minor skin problems but they’re not miracle cures.
  • Makeup. No matter what style and color of makeup that a female subject thinks makes them look best, I often suggest they change their make up style when changing clothing during the shoot. I once made a suggestion to a client about the color of lipstick she wore and not only did she like the photographs better, her husband liked the way she looked too.
  • Hairstyles. To provide variety in the portrait, suggest that the subject style their hair slightly differently for each clothing change. You can change the lighting but nothing can change the way their hair looks.
  • Footwear. Wearing the right shoes can make as big a difference as the right makeup. Ask female subjects to bring along at least one pair of shoes with the highest heels they own—and can walk in—even if it doesn’t show in the portrait. High heels change the way a woman stands and gives them a bit of height that adds to the portrait’s overall drama.

Finally, there’s an old photographer’s expression—ESP: Expression Sells Portraits. The expression on a subject’s face tells the story of who they are. If they only have one look on their face, their portraits will appear monotonous. For more thoughts on this subject, please read my post “What Is a Portrait After All.”

How I made this portrait: For this portrait of Bella Fire in a sexy mood, the main light is a DigiBee DB800 placed at camera right with a 48-inch Plume hexagonal Wafer softbox attached. Another DigiBee DB800 is at camera left and slightly behind Bella with a (no longer available) 18-OMNI Reflector attached, softened by a triple-layer Diffusion Sock. The camera used was a Panasonic Lumix GH4 with Lumix G Vario 14-45mm f/3.5-5.6 lens (at 45mm) with an exposure of 1/125 sec at f/7.1 and ISO 200. Background was the (no longer available) Lastolite Distressed Paper collapsible background. To convert the image to monochrome, I used Exposure Software’s Exposure Exposure X5 and finished of the portrait with a dash of the Vignette Blur filter from Color Efex Pro.

If you enjoyed today’s blog post and would like to treat Joe to a cup of Earl Grey tea ($2.50), click here.

My proposed title of Posing for Portrait and Glamour Photography was The ABC’s of Portrait Posing. On this blog there are lots of posts about posing. Use the Search box on the upper right-hand corner and type “posing” to find appropriate posts. If you want something more lasting, take a look at my book with new copies available from Amazon for $24.06 and used copies starting around $18.95 as I write this. The Kindle version is $22.86 for those who prefer a digital format.