I am frequently called by prospective clients looking for a professional portrait photographer to take their picture. While many of these calls relate to corporate photography, a good portion are from professionals and individuals looking for a portrait because they need it, and usually quickly. Maybe they’ve won an award or been asked to speak at a conference and they need the portrait to accompany their bio, or maybe they’ve just published a book and need to provide their publisher with a headshot to go (proudly) on the back sleeve of their novel. Regardless of the need, many people have questions about how it works so I thought I’d try to help them and others looking into having a professional portrait taken by explaining the process of an onsite portrait session.
First of all, onsite portrait photography means the photographer comes to you. Whether that is your place of work, a home office or some other space you’ve got access to, the photographer will bring the necessary lighting, backdrops and gear to do the shoot where you are it. This is both more convenient for you (no moving around, no parking hassles) and saves you time.
Upon arrival, your photographer will scope out the area and determine the best space to set up in. Alternatively, you can show him/her where the shoot needs to happen and he/she will merrily begin accommodating you by putting up the backdrop stand, lighting and tripod for the camera. Depending on the kind of shot you are after, you may want to use an exposed brick wall or you may just want the traditional seamless white or grey found commonly in corporate portraits.
Setup may take 30-40 minutes, during which time you don’t need to be present. You can use the time to carry on with your work, or if your schedule allows, do your makeup and hair or just relax with a cup of coffee and chat with your photographer.
Once the setup is complete, your photographer will ask you to come into the area designated for the shoot and may ask you to pose for a few shots to test the lighting and get the information he or she needs to do any last-minute tweaks to the lighting set up.
After that it’s showtime. Your session may last five minutes if you are in a hurry and nail the shot right away, or it may go on for twenty or thirty minutes or even longer if you have booked the photographer for a full session including full body shots.
Usually during the shoot I like to show and tell. I share the photos I am taking with my subjects by showing them the images on my camera, or from my laptop. This helps assuage any lingering nervousness a client may have and also can improve the shots by giving the two of us something to discuss objectively.
Once I’ve done the shoot and my client has reviewed the images and agreed that at least one (if not several as is usually the case) of the images is good, I very quickly do a sort and clean up then post the images to a private site and send the link to my client. Unless asked, I leave the final selection to the client who can take as much time as he or she needs to review each image privately and at their own pace on my site. Once a choice is made (between 1-5 images) my client sends me an email with his or her selections and I edit those final images to perfection.
I then repost the final images to a new private password protected gallery (at high-resolution) and send the link to the client who then downloads the images directly to his or her computer and the job is done. If there are any requests for final changes then I make them, though usually there are none.
The whole process, from arrival to delivery of final images can take no more than 24 hrs. The usual turnaround is 48-72 hours with much of that time due to me waiting for the client to send me his or her final selections.
My goal and the goal of most professional photographers is to deliver a perfect image that makes my client happy they chose to work with me. As photographers, everyone gets to see our work – there is no hiding what we’ve done as it is usually published or used by our clients very publicly, so we need to get it right.
And that’s it. The process is quick, painless and fun and you end up with an up-to-date, professionally taken, photomagically edited photo (where necessary and not too heavily so that you look like you have fake plastic skin) and you no longer need to rely on that old vacation shot you cropped out of a group photo.