Be Positive: 6 Tips For Conducting A Good Portrait Shoot


A good photo shoot is about so much more than bringing the right lens, getting great light and using nifty modifiers. It’s about more than how experienced your models are, how attractive they are, or how they are dressed.

All those things come into play, but at the center of any photo shoot — good or bad — is the way the photographer connects with (or doesn’t) with their models. You can have all the technical know-how and creativity in the world, but if you don’t know how to engage with a subject, you’ve got an awkward shoot ahead of you. And chances are neither party will be particularly happy with the result.

As the photographer, it’s on you to facilitate an enjoyable photo shoot. Of course, not everyone is great at being social, but it’s part of the job. You don’t have to do a whole lot, however.

Below are 6 simple things you can say and do during a photo shoot to ensure you get the best from everyone you work with. Give Compliments

A little goes a long way. You don’t have to lie and tell every client that they are the most beautiful/handsome/otherwise incredible person you’ve ever seen. Simply compliment their hair, their outfit, their makeup.

They knew they were going to be in front of your camera and probably went the extra mile to make sure they look their best. The least you could do is acknowledge their effort.

Give Positive Direction

If something seems amiss with a model’s attire, for example, all you have to do is make a suggestion: “I have an idea, let’s tie that scarf a different way and then take a few more shots.”

The same thing applies to posing. “Let’s try this from a different angle” is much better than telling them that they’re doing it wrong.

Avoid doing or saying anything that will put them on edge or make them feel self-conscious.

Give Positive Feedback

Always, always, always let your subject know when they are nailing their poses. Always.

Give Them The Spotlight

In short, don’t spend the whole time talking about yourself. Your model should be the center of attention. Asking them questions about themselves will put them at ease, which is precisely what you want, isn’t it?

Give Them A Reason To Trust You

Something that drives me crazy is hearing photographers bad mouth other clients to the model they are currently shooting.

I understand everyone’s got their horror stories, but there’s a time and place to vent about unpleasant clients. While you’re photographing a client isn’t it. It’s petty and unprofessional and will make your model worry that you’re going to gripe about them to other people.

You want your clients to trust you, so ditch the trash talk.

Give Them Something To Laugh About

This isn’t necessary, but I’ve found that it works. I say enough absurd/outrageous things when I don’t have a camera in my hand, so it’s easy for me to do the same when I’m shooting.

Laughter breaks up any anxiety on the model’s end and fosters a lighter mood in general.

Photo shoots. Why so serious? I don’t know. If you ever feel you need to break the ice, say something funny. The shot of your model laughing at you probably won’t make the final cut, but almost without fail I’ve discovered that the shot that comes right after will.

Final Thoughts

If I could sum it all up in two words, I’d say be positive. Photo shoots are exercises in interpersonal communication. If you want good photos, you’ve got to make sure your subject feels good. That good feeling will come primarily as a result of you, the photographer, saying good things.

Further Reading

About Author

Jason Little is a photographer, author and stock shooter. You can see Jason’s photography on his Website or his Instagram feed.

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