(Putting some thorough time in on Part 2 of the Your First Customer Series, so here’s some fresh reading while I’m dabbling in that project.)
I lean more toward the latter, although I’ll say that with time and experience, you can begin to combine the two styles effectively.
Whereas some portrait photographers like to set up and plan and micromanage every shot down to the last detail, I have enough ADHD in me to necessitate going hog wild while I’m shooting.
I’ll get my client into a general pose, or give them some posing instructions and turn them loose, then start shooting – as I see things I like, I’ll have them repeat them.
For example, if I’m shooting a senior outdoors I may have them lay back on tree or picnic table, have them arch their backs and turn their faces to me. I’ll start shooting, then ask for different expressions, different hand placement, etc. As they morph the pose to their own inspiration, I’ll grasp onto what they’re doing right in my eyes and encourage them to do more of it.
I tend to shoot 400 or more photos in a one-hour session, whether in the studio or out in the wild.
Grognards will tell you that shooting so many images is “amateur,” but I don’t think any method is amateur that results in photos your client loves and is willing to pay good money for. If you’re more meticulous, do more planning and setup; if you’re like me and love variety and faster rhythms, spray away.
Experiments make money
A sidebar to this concept of shooting like crazy to make great photos would be to experiment like a mad scientist.
Photography is definitely one of those artistic talents that benefits from experimentation, to ‘learn by doing.’
One of the best things about “not knowing any better,” in photography and in life, is that you can experiment freely. Want to shoot portraits at night by street light? Do it. Get a whim to do a family portrait with everyone upside down hanging from swings? Do it. Inspired to play with backlighting, unusual or wild posing, high fashion set and scene creation, want to go with a commercial feel, feel like putting everyone in sunglasses, can’t go another day without doing an entire shoot with a Star Wars theme, just have to shoot an entire senior session in the subject’s home? Do it.
It’s digital: go crazy!
Especially when you are early-on in your professional photography career, experiment and blow the doors off your self-imposed boundaries. If a photo stinks, throw it out without a second thought or if you like the idea, ponder (or ask advice on the forums) how you can do it better.
When you find something you love, and more importantly, your client loves it too, write it down and add it to your shot list – your list of must-shoots for every client.
Don’t sacrifice your basics, your ‘guaranteed’ salable photos, but definitely take time to experiment and play with fresh ideas and your own imagination while working with clients.
You’ll find that your artistic talents grow much faster, and you’ll create some truly unique and remarkable photos along the way. Those stylish images, along with a proven capacity for knocking down solid, quality portraits, will get you word of mouth, a healthy buzz, in your market.
A digital caveat
The only flipside to the spray-and-pray style of shooting is that you will wear out your camera faster than usual.
I experienced this with my Canon 40D, 20D, and original silver Digital Rebel. I’ve had to replace the shutter on each at $250 a pop. Each time the old salt behind the counter tells me, “You take too many pictures! Just because it’s digital doesn’t mean you can take so many pictures!”
His advice is well-taken, and as years go by, I’ve become better and better at being more selective in my shooting.
However, my style, my salable photos, are my bread and butter as a professional photographer. I have made back what I’ve spent in shutter replacements many, many times over.
Go with the flow and make your photos your way. Do what feels right to you, what you’ve learned gives you the best images you can make.
- Experiment! On every single photo shoot, try something new or different or downright crazy. As always, check out the inspirational work of Flickr artists to keep your brain buzzing.
- Brainstorm session: Close your eyes. Let your imagination explore visions and ideas for unique and interesting portraits of people. Write down every vision that comes to mind, every important detail, and who/what/where/when/how you would photograph each. File this in your Brainstorms folder.
- There’s only more real-world advice, tips, and encouragement to come here on PartTimePhoto.com. If you enjoy what you’re reading, please feel free to click the “Subscribe” link at the top of any page of this web site.
- What preconceived notions or fears do you feel are holding you back from making fun, fantastic photos? Leave a comment below, e-mail me, or call or text me at 830-688-1564.
- Culling and post-processing your first photo shoot – Your First Customer Series, Part 8
- Sharp photos – how to get them, in camera and in post
- Top 10 money-making outdoor photos of people – Your First Customer Series, Part 2
- The power of taking more photos
- How experiments can help multiply the growth of your art and business