Through my years in the business, I have had the pleasure of photographing thousands of people, and most of them have been women. And there is one truth, which is universal amongst them. Women want to look beautiful in their photos. Whether it’s for Corporate Identity, Fashion, Family Portrait, or a Glamour shoot for their significant others. If they don’t look great, you won’t have a successful shoot.
Preparation – Before the Shoot: (Apply for every shoot)
1. Have A Solid Concept – Know what your client wants. Whether shooting portraits, or an advertisement for a commercial magazine; you cannot produce the right image if you have an unclear vision.
2. Now Work It – Be prepared with some ideas of your own, you are the artist, and that is why the client hired you. Incorporate your style and ideas into the general theme of the session.
3. Check, Check, and Check Again – Check your equipment out, make sure you have an empty card, make sure your batteries are fresh enough to get you through your planned shoot time. Running to the store to buy batteries for your strobe in the middle of a session leaves a bad impression, not to mention ruining the atmosphere you created.
4. Know Your Stage – Whenever possible, take a pre-session look around your staging area. Know what props are available, things you may want to bring close or have on set so the mood and rhythm is not interrupted. Blankets or small pillows to sit on, blinds for a makeshift dressing area, water close by, music set to a comfortable level. The more comfortable you and your subject are, the easier it will be to get the desired results.
Introduction – When the Model Arrives:
1. “How Do You Do?” – Sit down and have a conversation with your client. Don’t be in too big a rush to get your subject on the set. Take a few moments to be personal, ask how they are, how their day has been going. Compliment them, no need to overdo it, a simple “You look nice today” or “What a nice smile!” can go a long way in putting you both at ease. Give her a few moments to settle and get used to you.
2. Show and Tell – Discuss your plan, let your client know the general flow of how you like to direct and work with your subjects. It is much easier to instruct a person when they have a general overview, and it makes specific instructions during the shoot much simpler. Give them a general feel of what to expect, get their input on poses they may want to try. Discuss wardrobe changes, and how many you might want to try.
The Shoot – Connect and Capture:
1. Connect – To capture the essence of a woman, and the elegance of the female form, you must work well with your subject. Remember, you are trying to Connect, Relate, and Capture, so interact with her. Speak softly and smile a lot, don’t shout out directions like a military drill sergeant, take your time and be patient. It may take several dozen shots or (depending on your assignment or goals) several sessions to draw out that essential spark from your subject. It is her essence you are trying to capture, that true beauty, the piece of your subject that goes much deeper than surface appearance.
2. Give Me A Break – Take breaks in your session, have water, coffee, or soda available. Give her and yourself a few moments to relax. Be aware of your subject; don’t make her hold a difficult pose for too long. Let her shake off the tension and reset the pose. As you proceed, ask “Are you comfortable?” or “Do you need a moment?” It is very hard to “relax” and “give me that look that only your husband sees” when her arms or legs are cramping, or the position makes her back ache.
Wrapping Up – Before the Model Leaves:
1. Thank You – Appreciate your subject. Thank her for taking the time out of her day to work with you.
2. Who’s Props? – Take a quick walk around and make sure she’s gathered her things, check the changing area for her makeup and accessories.
At all times, even when it’s the uncomfortable Mother-In-Law portrait, from the moment you pick up your camera to start your session there is one thing to remember. The woman in front of your lens is a Lady and a Princess, if only for the next 15 minutes.
As an Artist and Photographer, the true secret to making a woman beautiful is to see more than the surface beauty. If you can do this successfully, you may have also shared a moment, a look, or a deep expression in her delicate beauty. This is this spirit, this essence that is in every female, and you must connect personally to see more in her than she could see in herself.