Stories about people just like you. People who don’t feel comfortable in front of a camera, but still had a great time getting pictures that they love. Plus, some tips and tricks for how to look your best when you get your picture taken.


What A Portrait Shoot With Us Looks Like

Close up of high school senior guy looking coyly at the camera.

If you are like most of the people we shoot with, you probably haven't been the subject of many professional portrait shoots. You may have some ideas about how photo shoots go from movies or television shows. Maybe you have flashbacks to getting school photos in front of a gross looking backdrop in elementary school. Maybe you have shot with other photographers before, or maybe you haven't given it a second thought. Wherever you are coming from, we want to put you at ease by giving you an idea of how we do things.

Our number one goal is for you to be comfortable. Because when you are comfortable you can be yourself, and when you are being yourself we will get the best pictures that look like most like you. So with that in mind, we like to start off a session by meeting with you for 20 or 30 minutes before we plan to start shooting. We take some time to get to know you a little better, maybe we grab a coffee if there is a place near by, or we take a stroll around the location or just find a bench and sit and chat for a bit. This does a couple of things. It gives us a chance to get a feel for your style and personality before we start snapping photos. It also gives you a chance to warm up to us and come out of your shell a bit before we stick a camera in your face (it doesn't matter if you are an introvert or an extrovert, no one is good at going from zero to having a camera pointed at them unless they've had a lot of practice). There is also a difficult-to-describe phenomenon that occurs where we often start to brainstorm together or come up with ideas that we hadn't thought of before. It doesn't always happen, but it happens often enough, and it leads to better photos often enough, that it is worth taking the time for.

Wide shot of a woman fly fishing along the edge of a river with a concentrated look on her face.

Once we are ready to start shooting, we will start with the easy stuff. We'll find a simple background, lead you through some posing basics, and start taking photos. It'll go something like this: "Turn your body a little to the right" *{snap}* "Tilt your head a little to the left" *{snap}* "Now smile" *{snap}*... Etc. It'll feel pretty repetitive to you, and you'll feel kind of weird, and unnatural. But we are doing two things here: We're dialing in settings on the camera, and we're establishing a shared language for how we want you to pose later in the shoot. Often the camera is 95% of the way to where it should be when we start and we just need to take a few photos and make adjustments to get it that last little bit of the way there. This is when that happens. It is also important for there to be open lines of communication between you and us as the shoot goes on, because we'll move faster and we'll move on to bigger and riskier poses as we go.

Wide shot of high school senior girl in a bright red dress leaning against a texture white wall.

So we'll get through our first set-up and we'll move on to the next. That is how most of the shoot will go. We'll pick a spot, pose you in it, set up the shot, take some photos, make adjustments, take more photos, and so on. Often we will need to move around to look at the angles/frames once we put you in a spot. Don't feel bad if you need to break your pose or relax for a minute, we'll always let you know when we are taking photos for real. As time goes on, we'll move a little faster and we'll start branching out and exploring more interesting concepts. Maybe things you've seen online and want to try or things we came up with in our earlier brainstorm. We may ask you to do something that is out of your comfort zone (e.g. 'dance on that bench' or 'do a cartwheel'). Do your best to be adventurous and to trust that we know what we're doing. But also know that you are in charge and if you don't want to do something, you can always say no. We promise you won't hurt our feelings.

Wide shot of a high school senior guy jumping off the back of a bench.

On a somewhat related note, people often put a weird amount of pressure on their photo shoot. Some people put that pressure on themselves, or sometimes mom or dad or significant other puts that pressure on them. Sometimes people just feel awkward if there are other people around that can see them getting their picture taken. Whatever the case might be, know that this pressure is the number one enemy of good photos. The best way to get good photos is to have a good time taking them. We want to have a good time. You want to have a good time. Everyone wants to have a good time. So just chill out. If you really need, we've got some breathing exercises we can lead you through to help you relax a bit. You can also bring some family members or friends along if it will help you feel more comfortable. But know that we may ask them to take a walk if they are adding more pressure to the situation than they are relieving.

Close up shot of high school senior girl laying in grass surrounded by her ribbons and medals.

Hopefully that gives you a taste of what your portrait session will look like. It isn’t all that scary, and we’ll do everything we can to make sure you have a good time. All you have to do is show up and do your best to enjoy yourself.

Dillon McElhinneyComment