Sunday, June 25, 2006

Secrets of a portrait photographer

What is the secret to getting that special image, an exceptional portrait which captures something unique about the sitter?

Lets start with what it is not. It's not the camera. It's not even the lighting. Certainly not the technical know how of the photographer. It's also not clever Photoshop work. Although without all of the hardware, software and technical knowledge the options of the photographer are severely decreased and the chances of producing a successful portrait are correspondingly diminished.

The vital secret ingredient is building rapport with the sitter. This comes about through a combination of verbal and non-verbal communication.

You need to quickly put people at ease. 90 % of getting a good portrait is about getting someone to trust you and enjoy the session. You and your sitter embark on a brief moment of collaboration based on mutual trust and a shared goal to produce something creative and special together. Being able to break the ice is essential.

On the non-verbal side your body language has to be confident, open and non-threatening. The worst thing you can do is constantly fiddle with your camera and lights while ignoring the sitter. This is where good technical skills really pay dividends. Everything should be smooth and easy.

So next time you've got to take a portrait make sure you pack your charisma in your camera bag and know your technical stuff inside out.

All the best,

Paul
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