What makes a great portrait session? The images, the planning, the experience or is it a combination of it all? If you think about anything you have done on personal level where you receive a product at the end, it is the product where you had planned well and had a great experience you value the most. Think about it; you go to the same salon because the experience and how you feel at the end. Same way with a car dealer or a favorite restaurant and even a healthcare provider. All of the places you go back to time and time again is because you have had a great experiences that had a plan to get you to a great product, in the case of a photographer, great images.
So how can you take the great experiences of the places you are familiar with and apply that to the photography studio? Well first you must find a photographer whose images grab you and that requires a little research. Most of it can be done on the web now a days which is great because it saves gas and time. And don’t look at just their specific types of groups you are after, look at all of their images because you are going to get a sense of their strengths and style of photography. When you have found one then keep moving through and look for at least two more that also spark your interest, this way you have options.
With the images you are looking at try to get in mind of what you would like to have done in your portrait session. Not many people do have a plan, in fact I hear a lot;” your the artist, I will leave it up to you.” That can be ok for some but again you are not adding to the overall experience of the portrait session. Think about it, portraits of any kind are very personal, they reflect you or your family and the goal in the end is to have them adorn the walls of your house, not some dark space of the closet. You don’t have to have an exact road plan but you should have an idea of the style you are looking for and the things you want to wear in the portraits.
The best way to get down to what you want ask yourself these questions. First; what style are we looking for? Is it Lifestyle where the portraits are more journalistic or is it more about posed formal portraits? Do you want an outdoor session or more in the studio? These are sometimes hard questions to ask but necessary in order to get what you want. But because you have taken the time to, if you haven’t already, looked at photographers website, you can answer these questions easier by what images you are attracted to.
Once you have narrowed it down to the a few photographers that create images that attract you, then it is time to talk to them. That is correct I said a few photographers because not all of them you choose will work out. Some you may not mesh with and some maybe too busy to take you on. Set up an appointment with each photographer for a consultation session, most photographers should like to sit with you and talk about what you are looking for in your portrait session. Think of this like an interview, you are looking for a person that is not only creative but willing to get to know you so together you can get the portrait you love. In these interview you need to ask a lot of question and open up about what you are looking for in your portraits as well as the products you need. By being honest and open with the photographer you will be able to get the portraits you want.
In the few weeks of the appointment your photographer most likely given you things to do to prepare for the session, first and foremost is the hair appointments. You want to make sure that you get everyone hair is cut at least three weeks before the session. Everyone’s, or at least my hair, doesn't look it’s best until the second or third week after it has been cut. I think that is when it seems at its normal length to us and everyone else. This is also a good time to have the clothes picked out and purchased. New portraits sometimes means a new outfit for the occasion but sometimes it is hard to get similar outfits for everyone to wear. By starting early you will be assured that not only you have outfits that look together but they can get a washing to loosen them up so they hang on the body more naturally.
The day before and day of you is key. You should try the best you can to get ready for the appointment under as little stress as possible. If you have little ones it is best to present the appointment as a fun adventure, keep the mood light as you get ready. This way everyone is happy and ready to have fun during the session. An hour before the session finish up getting ready and go over the list of things you could be bringing to include or change into during the portraits. And when you arrive to your session a few minutes before or at the agreed time make sure you are as excited and ready for the session. If your mood is up and laced with anticipation for a great time, then your session will go smoothly.
A final note on your photographer; back in the day when portraits were painted there was a lot of work done behind the scenes to insure they had a work of art that was worthy to hang on the wall. Communication of ideas, wants and needs are important and should flow between both you and your photographer. After all you are paying them for work that is not going to hang on their wall but yours and working out the details before the session will only insure best results. Overall the advice that I am giving you is nothing out of the ordinary and you should hear the same thing from the photographer you have hired. Follow them and find a photographer that is not only skillful but ready to work with you to create images that you will love to hang on your walls.