Asking people to say “Cheese” and then smile before you snap the shutter lacks many of the important details needed to create a great portrait. Portrait photography can be very challenging for some photographers. There is so much that has to be done correctly from a technical aspect; the proper background chosen or located, the right lighting (flash, natural, or modified), using the correct lens (portrait or telephoto), the proper camera settings (RAW or JPEG, color or monochrome), positioning the people, and the use of software programs after the portrait session. What is missing from all of the technical considerations and information is the most important element needing your focused and undivided attention?
The people being photographed for the portrait are the most important element. Have you spent time sitting down with them and finding out information that will determine the who, what where, why, and how of the portrait sessions. Who are these people? It is very important to ask questions of the people who will be in the portrait. What do they do? What is the purpose for this portrait? Is it for work, family, friends, their business, a magazine article they have written, a book, a professional organization, or for a Social Media page on the internet? Are they serious and wanting a professional, traditional, formal posed portrait? Or are they funny, spur of the moment minded and looking to have a spontaneous, unique, relaxed informal portrait? Do they wish to have a portrait done at your location? Or do they want the portrait created outdoors or another location that is special to them? Will you need to get permission, releases, or permits to take photograph of the location of their choice? Do the people want pets or other animals they consider to be part of their family in the portrait? Do they plan to wear certain specific clothing; dark or bright contrasting colors, silly hats, or sunglasses for the portrait?
All of these questions need to be considered and fully discussed with all of the people before starting to set up your equipment for any portrait session. Knowing more details about who you are photographing besides their names will help you create a portrait that will be much more than a photograph.
How long do you spend talking with all of the people who will be in their portrait? Does your portrait session checklist include more than just the basic technical details? Have you considered what your customer may need, ask for, or want to make the portrait special and unique for them? Are you familiar with all of the small and large details your customer wants to include in their portrait session? Can you provide your customer with everything they want or need to make their portrait?