For "The Big Picture" Assignment I wanted to dive deeper into senior photography. I consider myself relatively knowledgable about the topic after the last two years, however have never really thought about what I'm doing. My work feels like such a natural process and whenever people ask how or why I took a certain photograph, my answer is always "I don't know I just had an eye for it!" Here is the true thought process behind my senior photography sessions.
Lenses for Portraits
In portraits you want the focus to be on the subject. Separating the subject from the background creates a bokeh effect with a shallow depth of field. This phenomena is altered based on the lens you are shooting with. A lens with a long focal length (50 mm - 135 mm) and a wide aperture (1.4, 1.8, 2, 2.8) controls the depth of field and allows for these crisp senior portraits.
Senior Session Conduct
It is so important to have strong communication with your clients. Most will contact you through your website, social media, or find your email through word of mouth. I meet with my clients beforehand to establish a face to face relationship and discuss the details of their upcoming session: date, time, location, and outfits. During the session I make my client as comfortable as possible. My goal is that they see me as a friend rather than their photographer. Every photographer conducts their post session differently. I meet with my client to have them select their photos, edit, and then deliver the photos to them on a flash drive or disk!
Seniors may want to have their photos have a more urban vibe or be set in nature scenery. Regardless as a photographer you have to be ready for both options. Scouting out locations and taking note of them in your phone before ever shooting not only makes you appear prepared and professional, but also allows your senior to have options. In urban settings, leading lines will draw the viewers focus to the subject, and these are common in buildings. For nature settings, weather is not always ideal, especially in the midwest. The ideal shooting weather is overcast because that avoids and facial shadows or hot spots on clothing. However, the wind and sun can work in your favor. Shooting during golden hour creates warm soft light that many seniors want. Golden hour is the time just after sunrise or just before sunset.
How to Capture the Best Portrait
It is so important to make your client appear and feel comfortable during their session. As a photographer, try your best to avoid having your subject look stiff or unnatural. To do this, avoid shooting your seniors straight on. Opening up their shoulders and using natural features like their hands and arms to frame their bodies and face not only makes the photo more interesting, it makes the senior look like a natural model. Boys often struggle channeling their inner model, so give them some more masculine poses. Folded arms or clasped hands make them look calm, cool, and collected. I always tell my seniors "chin down, shoulders back!" This opens up their eyes, avoids any possible double chins, and creates good posture. For more options when they make their selections, I have my seniors switch between smiling and soft smiling. This can be difficult however I crack jokes, be super playful, and hype up my seniors in hopes that they gain the confidence to do so.
My biggest takeaway in the past two years of running my business was my failure to know my worth as a creator. I hope clients understand that when declaring prices, photographers are taking into account cost of equipment, travel, meeting and session time, what they're offering their seniors, and more. In today's generation, everyone is a photographer, but nobody has your eye as a photographer. A business is useless if it is not profitable!