3Ps of a great photo session

3 P’s Of A Great Photo Session

John Stamp Standard Leave a Comment

Spring is just around the corner and with it the beginning of the photography season; so, we thought we’d share a few tips to help you squeeze every last ounce of goodness out of your experience before, during and after your photo sessions.

Don’t make the mistake of showing up to your session with fingers crossed. Planning is a critical component in the success of your shoot and shouldn’t be left solely to the photographer. While it might be tempting to rely on them to make all of the creative decisions, the only one who truly understands your vision is you. The photographer is simply a collaborative partner with the technical and creative ability to take your vision and elevate it.

One of the best ways to plan a shoot is by compiling a digital scrapbook of images that speak to you. Share images you’ve found online, in magazines and on Pinterest, etc. with your photographer; and don’t just stop at poses and props. Consider other elements that grab your attention, such as location, time of day, quality of light, colors, etc. These images may not mean much individually, but taken together they’ll create a mood board of sorts, that can help determine the proper gear, rhythm and style of the session.

With the exception of corporate head shots, the days of ‘chin-ups and head-tilts’ are nearly a thing of the past in modern portraiture. A quick scroll through your Pinterest feed reveals the move toward a more candid style of portraiture where ‘the experience’ is king.

So is posing dead? Yes… and no!

At its most basic level, posing enhances natural body angles and maximizes/minimizes physical features. With simple techniques a good photographer can slenderize a figure or reduce the appearance of a nose by manipulating those angles and/or the angle of the camera.

Done thoughtfully, photographers can also use creative posing to infuse an image with emotion or elevate the fluidity of a scene. You may recognize it in the feeling created by the interaction between a couple, the posture of a father and son, or the connection between a mother and her newborn. These ‘candid’ shots are not captured by accident, but rather through posing methods that encourage authentic interaction. Images that nail composition, lighting and emotion almost always start with posing and evolve into ‘play’. There’s no question, if you want a great session experience and evocative images, insist on posing and playing.

  • Father and Son Portrait at Sunset
  • Mother and Newborn Son in Black and White

There are several reasons to order professional prints that might not be obvious if you’re simply focused on price.

Have you ever used WebMD to diagnose an illness? Tried to determine what’s wrong with your car using Youtube? Made 40 extra trips to Lowe’s during a remodel? If you’re a DIY’er there’s a good chance you’ve underestimated the cost or overestimated your abilities at one time or another. Instead of ‘beating the system’ to avoid the cost of a doctor’s visit, a trip to the mechanic or the inconvenience of a contractor, you may have ended up with worse symptoms, more costly car repairs, or a house sitting in disrepair.

As avid DIY’ers, Jenn and I understand that mentality. In fact, the examples above are actually from our own experience. Everyone wants to save a buck where they can. Sadly, there are few industries where this trend has been more detrimental than photography.

’Shoot and Burn’ is a popular term in our industry that describes photographers who shoot an event or session, burn the images onto a disc and hand them off with little or no retouching. As a result, the client is tasked with culling, editing and sourcing prints. The practice has become common enough that most potential clients now expect copyright free, hi-res images as part of their session fee. There are tons of well-written articles regarding this practice and some healthy debate in blog forums across the web for those who care. However, this post is not intended to be a rant about those issues. For good or bad, there will always be a market for budget services and amateur photographers to fill that niche. 

By contrast, trusting a professional photographer with print fulfillment means that your images are selected, corrected, optimized and printed by a professional print lab with quality control standards. The result is vibrant, color-correct prints on high-quality archival papers, delivered to you in boutique packaging.

The DIY route may seem cheaper up-front, but headaches with sourcing print services, dealing with print releases, and wrestling with large, cumbersome files can eat into your time and sanity, and at the end of the day your paying for and receiving an inferior product.

Great sessions are developed holistically and require an investment of time, openness to experience and insistence on high-quality results. Trying to ‘beat the system’ with shortcuts and half-measures risks the success of your session and joy of the experience.

Can you think of any other factors that might contribute to a great session? Please share! Dialogue is a great teacher.

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