I am starting a new series called “behind the image.” This will be a grab bag of different things that I want to share. It could be about photography, my business philosophy, or just anything that I think might be interesting or beneficial to somebody out there in the cyber world.

So for this post, I want to share how I setup my portraits. I understand this will be completely different for somebody else, and there really is no right or wrong way of doing things. I just became comfortable with my methodology after a few portrait sessions. And so far they have worked. This post is also good for all my future clients. You can get a good sense of what it will be like being in front of my camera.

“Posing” (therefore the clever title, wink wink) the subjects can be one of the most intimidating things EVER. Other than nailing the right composition, lighting, metering, and all the other technical stuff, as a photographer I also have to make sure my clients look cool. This is difficult to do when you are photographing complete strangers! I mean, I know I wouldn’t want somebody sticking a camera in my face and just keep telling me to smile. NO, can you at least say HELLO first??

Okay, so here’s a little break down of how I avoid the awkward first moments.

I try to meet my subjects before any shoot. Even if it’s just for coffee. It will really help to break the ice. Sometimes this is not possible, so what I will do is I spend the first 10 minutes or so just TALKING to my clients. I talk talk talk and talk some more to get them to open up. While I am talking to them, I am also snapping away, even though I fully expect to throw these pictures out. The whole purpose is so my clients can get used to me taking pictures of them within their personal space.

This sounds easy, but might be difficult. The idea is that my clients can sense if I am nervous, unhappy, or just not wanting to be there. I know EVERY photographer say this, but I am genuinely excited to go out on shoots! Therefore I project a positive energy and it translates into pictures.

I tend to be very hands on with my clients. Yes, I know I know, ALWYAS ask for permission first!! My philosophy is if I feel silly making a certain pose myself, how can I expect my clients to do it? So I either show them how to do it, or I do it myself and have them mimic my movement.

The most I will do is ask the subjects to look at different directions, close their eyes, and maybe give each other a kiss. I don’t really dictate the “mood” of the picture. For me, this is the most important part of a nice picture. The facial expressions HAVE to be natural, and not forced. I tend to talk through my entire session. I talk ENTIRELY way too much. But by talking to my clients, I can get them to relax and just be themselves!

Believe it or not, the best shots I have are usually the “in-between” shots. Meaning the shots I get between two “posed” photos where the clients are just interacting freely. I heard it from another photographer who said “I never get the shots I want. The shots are either better or worse than what I intended.” And I couldn’t agree more!

So My philosophy is to just shoot away! I shoot approximately 700 to 800 photos for each session. And out of that I keep about 5~10%.  Then maybe 15 will make the blog, and 3 will make the website as my permanent portfolio. Keep in mind, sometimes the money shot isn’t the dead on portrait with everybody looking & smiling at the camera. It might be slightly off focus, and maybe it can be just a shot of the body but shows a lot of emotion just by the body movement.  A picture is supposed to tell a story. If I can tell the story, then I have done my job.

So that’s about it, here are some of the brand new images that I hope demonstrates what I just posted. Thanks for reading!

For this shoot, we came up with the picnic idea. Cristina and Ernest brought the picnic baskets which had a big bowl of steaming hot noodles in it. In this picture, Ernest was being playful and pretended to feed the whole thing to Cristina. So as you can see, hilarity ensued, and I got my money shot.

This shot actually took some work! We came up with the idea of the entire family getting on the swing and I try to capture the image while they were swinging back and forth. As you know, I am not in the woman’s synchronized swimming team, so this was difficult to pull off.

For this image, I basically asked Jordan and Ashley to walk towards me and interact freely with each other. I snapped at the right moment with Ashley looking at my camera and Jordan smiling & gazing at the lovely Ashley. MONEY MONEY MONEY!

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