Portrait Photography Isn't Your Thing

PF 068: 3 Signs Portrait Photography Isn’t Your Thing

It's OK if Portrait Photography Isn't Your Thing

We talked about a portrait photography shoot last week on Episode 67 and I told Lee that I was going to drag her into it. How did that turn out?

It's not as bad as you may think, but there's a reason for the title of this episode. Lee was happy to assist me during the shoot and we had a good time, but she also decided that portrait photography isn't her thing.

Why not?

Portrait Photography Has Pressure

Typically, Lee likes to shoot things on her own. She has plenty of time to work the scene and isn't under pressure from anyone.

Portrait photography is a bit different. You're collaborating with other people. It's the only kind of photography where you feel like you're being judged or rated while you're taking the photos, not just after you share them.

After all, you're working with a subject at the minimum. Add a makeup artist and other people on the set who have a vested interest, and then you suddenly have a lot of pressure with that attention. It's all on you as the portrait photographer.

You're the one in charge, so you're the one under pressure.

Portrait Photography Requires Time to Prepare and Tear Down

Very rarely do portrait photographers get to walk up, snap a few shots, and then call it a day.

Portrait photographers either have to setup in a studio or scout a location. Even on location, you likely have to bring some gear to light the scene.

Before you ever start to shoot the first frame, you need to have a vision of the end result. Then you have to share that with the model and everyone else on the team to avoid conflict on the set. When it's all done, you have to make sure everything gets restored to its original condition before you can leave.

Essentially, you have to be more than a photographer. You have to be a producer, director and photographer. On really bad days, you may also need to be a therapist.

Things Go Wrong on Portrait Photography Shoots, But You Still Have to Deliver

You know what else is rare? Having everything work perfectly on a portrait session.

During my last shoot, I had a flash tube go bad on the key light just as we got started with our first look of the day. I pulled out a backup light a discovered the mounting hardware cracked. It wouldn't connect with the bolt on the stand.

That left me with one strobe, which was working as my cross-light in the background. I switched the light modifier from a strip box to a beauty dish and we kept on shooting.

Anything can go wrong when you're under pressure to deliver. Something usually does, but you need to prepare yourself to handle equipment failures and other problems so you can keep on shooting.

At the point you give up, or worse, aren't prepared to handle a problem, you cease to be a photographer. As I said, everyone expects you to keep the show running.

The delivery doesn't stop when the photo session is over. You still have to give your subject the results. I often like to create a contact sheet in Lightroom or use a Lightroom Web Gallery to let the subject see the shots. Once they select the images they like, then I have to go into post production and deliver a finished photo.

Portrait photography is a commitment.

I Still Love Portrait Photography

Despite the pressure and potential for problems, I still love portrait photography. It provides both a technical and creative challenge, but I think the collaboration is one of the most rewarding aspects of portrait photography.

Does that mean I want every other photographer to shoot portraits? Absolutely not. It isn't for everyone and it's OK to say if portrait photography isn't your thing.

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