The portrait photographer does not have many challenges but there is one big one that affects everyone involved with portrait photography. It’s never about where you focus, lighting setups or poses, it is all about relaxing your client.
Not too many people are natural models that just get in front of a camera and glow. Most people are like me and hide when a camera is pulled out. Most people instinctively become self-conscious when faced with the lens because, face it, we all have our little insecurities.
So the challenge is to relax your client and make sure that they trust that you will be able to make them look good, better than they see themselves. You want natural smiles and not the type you expect to see from someone having a prostrate exam.
Location shoots are much easier because most of the time your client is in an environment that they are comfortable in. I am just going to talk about the studio environment in this article although a lot of what I am going to talk about should be done wherever you are.
You want to capture your client’s personality and character. So here are a few things that I do to get my clients to chill and be themselves. Most of this is simple logic.
The last thing you want to be doing is running around setting up your lights and camera while your client is waiting for you. Make sure that your studio is ready for them because you want to spend a bit of time with them before you start the shoot.
Relax the Atmosphere
Have some music playing, not to loud but loud enough that you can hear it and still talk. The type of music is up to you but I would suggest the type that you hear in your favourite restaurant, not in your favourite nightclub. Have comfortable chairs and a coffee table, just a relaxed place to sit. Keep everything tidy and as uncluttered as possible.
Welcome your client by name and with a smile. No matter how you feel your primary objective is clear. If you are grumpy, they may become grumpy even if they were not when they walked in. If you are stressed out they will be too.
So, greet your client with a smile and a handshake. Ask them to “take a seat”. Offer them a drink (try and keep alcohol to a minimum) but don’t leave them alone for too long. It’s a good idea to have the drinks close to your sitting area. That way you can still chat while you are preparing their drink. Use their name, it is important to people.