This article will give you insight into what happens behind the scenes of a professional photo session, guide you through what I do to prepare, answer common questions like what you should wear (the answer might surprise you), and I hope to dispel a few myths you may have about the business.
Before The Session Even Starts
Photographers go through a great deal of preparation before a photo session. One of the most common behind the scene reconnaissance missions is the location scout. If a photographer hasn’t hand picked the location, then you may see them haunting your treasured coffee shop a few days before the shoot; they aren’t stocking you, just getting a perspective and overall feel for the location. Location scouting really helps a photographer prepare for an upcoming shoot and they have taken great thought to make your session a success. Communication is key. If there is a specific composition you would like you should discuss this prior to your session as there may be special considerations such as off-camera lighting, reflectors, wide angle lenses, and the list goes on.
You have done your research, booked with me, and now you are waiting in anticipation. It may surprise you photographers spend a lot of time seeking out the perfect client. Not all photographers specialize in portraits. Specialties include nature, underwater, arts, real-estate, and anything under the sun really. That perspective is often overlooked by the public sector. Marketing plays a big role in reaching a target audience which means hours behind the scene (or a screen).
There are many ways to establish a name as a professional photographer (not including education, experience, and passion). A great website would be the obvious consideration, but other avenues include, art exhibitions, vending at events, art sales, auctions, publishing, radio, and TV. Social media does play a big role as well, but nothing beats having your work out in the public and meeting with other photographers, art lovers, and your audience.
Photographers Go To Great Effort To Get That Perfect Shot
Candid shots are little treasures and we all long for them, although they are harder to come by than you may think. Most of the time, once the photographer is ready to take the shot, the moment has passed. Consider the time it took to make adjustments to the camera, lighting conditions changed, you were in the middle of speaking, or you moved out of frame. Unless you are booking a two-hour lifestyle session or getting coverage for an event over many hours, relying on capturing just candid shots can drive the final image count down. Don’t despair, you can get those candid shots you love mixed with a good number of high-quality natural looking posed images. A technique from a photographers perspective is to always be focused and making posed shots as fun as possible and keeping senses sharp to what may be coming next. Knowing you have to perform for the camera can be daunting since most of us don’t model for a living. I always make the effort to capture authentic moments and sometimes it takes a bit of coaching for that to happen in the frame.
Composing an image also requires patience and a keen eye. Guidance will be given on the best placement in a setting and minor adjustments will be made to body posture here and there. We may take longer in some poses than others. I may stop from time to time to move an ill-placed item, such as a fixture or a piece of litter – anything can throw off an image.
It is important for your time in front of the lens to be as enjoyable as possible, so relax and you will be guided through poses with ease and patience to capture those true candid moments.
The aim is to get everything perfect in camera. DSLR’S (Digital Single-Lens Reflex) are sophisticated calibrated machines, and they need a lot of attention. Yes those camera’s are expensive, yes they are heavy – you can’t miss one in a crowd, but trust me, it is not the camera that is making those great shots.
“Your Camera Takes Great Photos”
Photographers All Over The World
“I taught it everything I know”
Composing a frame, moving into a new pose, adjusting the angle of the camera slightly, or the sun suddenly poking out from behind a cloud…all these situations require slight adjustments to the camera to achieve the perfect exposure.
During our session, when beginning a new sequence of frames, I will make a few test shots to ensure I am creating the desired effect in camera. I will guide you through, letting you know when I am adjusting my settings, and when it is time to compose yourself for the next few frames of shooting. When all the settings are perfect, and you are comfortable, a burst of shots will be fired to ensure the moment is captured. I will then take time to review the images and ensure there are plenty that make it to post editing.
What Happens After Our Session?
In the span of an hour, you have heard the camera’s shutter fire off hundreds of times. I shoot in RAW format, which requires editing in post. Your final product will be a collection of stunning high-resolution JPG images that have been edited to enhance colour, light, with some cropping if needed. Not all images are going to make it to final editing. Only images that are of high quality are selected for post editing before they can be handed over as a final product for your personal collection. The criteria for my selection process is as simple as eliminating test shots taken before each pose, any captures where the pose is less than flattering, or believe it or not, images that do not reflect your best self. This is common practice with all professional photographers, so ask around and find out for yourself.
Before (RAW) After
Photoshop is a great tool, but when you move from Lightroom (software heavily relied on by many photographers for colour balance, richness and contrast – creative cloud adobe suite) to photoshop, you are looking for a service that is more like graphic design than photography. This is an add-on service I provide and is typically requested to remove objects in a frame, or in some cases, touch up to an individual. A perfect example is the following image of a historic church in Fredericton NB; as you can see, in the before there is a lot of clutter to one side, taking away from its grandeur in the setting. Photoshop is a great option if there is a shot you can’t live without, but may have a few undesirable elements that take away from the awe of the image.
Musicians Belia and Kurtis Eugene
You will be provided with proofs shortly after to keep your mouth watering and wanting more – then within one to three weeks – your images will arrive!
I always post my work on social media; it keeps me engaged with my audience and helps build my reputation as a photographer. There is an unspoken code of ethics, if you like, between you and your photographer: once their work is out there, and if you are happy, like, love, and share the original post. It helps boost self-esteem for all parties (photographers need all the love they can get, and you will be amazed at the number of compliments sent your way), and helps build a rich community and respect for photography.
No joke, how social media and Google rank a business in their search engines is very impactful for any business. So if you would like to see your photographer succeed, please, please give them some love. They are beautiful images anyway, so why would you not want to share how great you look?
Things You, As The Client Need To Consider When Preparing For Your Upcoming Photo Session
One of the best ways to get yourself mentally prepared for a photo session is to think outside of your comfort zone. Most people, when I ask them to sit on the ground, tell me they haven’t done that since they were in grade school. I will explain why getting comfortable with being uncomfortable will enhance your images.
Getting great images surprisingly isn’t all up to the photographer. What makes your images unique and eye-catching are often the great lengths you take to stand in tall grass, sit on a rock, get your feet wet, or heaven forbid lie on some pavement. Some of these scenarios may seem extreme and I would not ask you to do something that you felt was unsafe. I understand there may be some length you will not be willing to undertake for a shot, and we can discuss this pre-shoot. Always let me know if you feel uncomfortable with any suggestions I may have, but I charge you to take charge and create something phenomenal with me.
Location Location Location
The perfect location is key to a great image. You may have a location in mind or need a little help and I am glad to give some insight to achieve that final image to suit your needs. When choosing a location, keep in mind the environment you would like around you. When you think of a typical session, you may envision nature, flowers, long grasses, water, and trees; but you may be pleasantly surprised by what an urban setting can bring to the ambiance of an image. Or considering a winter scene? Snow makes for a clean and crisp backdrop. A more intimate setting at home can make a great impact in an image as well, and often you get a more candid feel in these intimate settings.
Marketing and the arts, family portraits, professional headshots, or just to share on social media. Any location can enhance your image, just ensure it meets your vision.
When on-site, and during your shoot, trust your photographer wholeheartedly. Every day provides us with different lighting situations so different techniques are needed for different situations. So when your photographer suggests to shoot under a tree on a really sunny midsummers day, trust them… as to the contrary: sunny, midday, mid-summer is not the optimal light for flattering portraits.
Things to consider
- Does the location suit my needs and likes?
- Is it a high traffic area?
- Will there be construction taking place?
- Are there feature elements I would like in my images?
What you wear can have a dramatic impact on how you perceive yourself. There are no rules here, no style, no dress code – but very similar to a location, it will set the mood for your image and if you are not comfortable, it will often translate in the final product. Come prepared for your session at the start time: refer to your contract stating what time that will be. Ensure all preparation has been done beforehand, like makeup, hair, and wardrobe, and you will get the most from your session. During peak times there may be another booking before or after, so punctuality is important. Oh yes, and make sure you wear footwear that is appropriate for the location. If you plan on a natural setting, high heels are not the best option as there may be a bit of hiking involved. But if you really want to wear those red pumps, then bring them in a carry bag and put them on just before the shutter starts to fly.
from Behind The Scenes Of A Professional Photo Session
One of the most common questions I receive is: how many photos will I get?
When hiring a professional photographer it is important to consider quality over quantity. Since we have just addressed the selection process you can now understand why the number of images you receive may seem low in comparison with how many captures were taken during your session. Other factors to consider would be the time it took to travel from one site to another, or if there was additional set up required for lighting or equipment changes. A final number can never be guaranteed, but you will end up with stunning images all the same.
Weddings: Is this package going to be enough time to get all the images I want?
If a wedding is in the future, think about every step of your day. Break down your day into time segments: how long will the Ceremony be? And are you having a five course sit down dinner or a cocktail style reception? Do you want images of the first dance and into the evening? This will help you narrow down which package you need and I can help fill in the in-betweens. The importance of Location still applies when you are whisking away after you say “I Do”, so think about the locations that brought you where you are today.
When will I receive my images?
The timeframe to receive your final edited high-resolution images will be one to three weeks, depending on the duration of the session. For an event like a Wedding, three weeks would be closer to your time frame, where an hour session would be shorter.
I hope this article answered your questions on what to expect from your upcoming photo session and helped you understand what goes on behind the scene to maintain a sustainable, creative photography business.
If you want to hear more about my process, take a listen to my interview with Mark, host of the Lunch Box on CHSR.
Sarah Sarty Photography
Behind The Scenes Of A Professional Photo Session
Behind The Scenes Of A Professional Photo Session