After announcing a senior portrait regional model search, we chose 7 amazing models to represent Teen Identity Portraits & Magazine. Now it’s time to start shooting. Our first senior model photo shoot is tomorrow and we want to create an unforgettable model experience and create senior portraits that are unlike anything they’ve ever seen.
I’ve often been asked how an aspiring photographer sets up their first senior portrait photo shoot. Do you just get a willing senior and stick them in front of a brick wall, next to some railroad tracks or hugging a tree? That’s what everyone does right?
Maybe so, but you don’t want to be like everyone else… and neither do I… so I thought I’d share a bit of my thinking and planning process for setting up one of my photo shoots. Perhaps the steps below can help you!
5 Simple Steps to Set Up a Senior Portrait Photo Shoot
1. Close Your Eyes
See the images, themes, details in your mind’s eye before you even pick up your camera. If you take the time to see the scene, subject, lighting and detail in your mind first, you are much more likely to recreate that in real life. Scott Bourne has some useful pre-visualization exercises as a reference. Keeping notes of what you visualize is extremely wise since it’s so easy to get busy and forget the great ideas you had.
2. Know Your Subject
Since my primary focus in professional photography is teen girls, I get to know my subjects very well. It started years ago when I did my Masters degree research on teen girls. But you don’t have to go back to school to learn about your subject… look online or better yet, talk to your subjects, ask questions and then listen and learn. One more strategy is to send a pre-shoot questionnaire a week or so before the photo shoot. I set my questionnaire up in ShootQ so that I can easily have an automatic email scheduled and sent before each shoot.
3. Open Your Eyes
Everywhere you go, you should have your eyes open for locations you could shoot in. Just tonight as I was driving to the store, I saw an abandoned house with a “For Sale” sign. I wrote it down so that I remember to use it for one of our location shoots we’ve got coming up. My husband also noticed an amazing tree in the middle of an empty field that would be ideal for an artistic shot (don’t worry, I won’t make any of the girls hug it). Just like that, we’ve got two locations planned and ready. Consider keeping a journal with you at all times so you can keep track of locations you’ve discovered.
4. Set the Stage
You know what you want to shoot, who you’re shooting, where you’re shooting, and now it’s time to add something extra to your images. Whether it’s a background, prop, or new lighting setup, always be open to trying something new. Don’t get stuck in a rut. One thing I love to do is find props and have them ready at the shoot. Having something to hold, like a scarf or purse, allows the teen girls I work with to relax a bit and not wonder what to do with their hands. Sometimes just trying on a hat adds a sense of play and dress up that releases tension and builds confidence.
5. Behold the Mirror
This shoot is about the subject, but did you know that many experts believe that the photographs you take are more about you than they are about your subject? It’s true… often our images are a reflection of how we’re feeling or what we’re thinking at the time we take the image. That has incredible implications for the quality of every photographer’s work. That means that we are responsible for our minds and hearts before we go into a shoot, as much as our subjects are responsible for showing up. I’ve met some photographers who block out 15 minutes to relax, meditate, pray, and reconnect with themselves… they slow down and remember what they saw in previsualization and what they heard when they listened to their clients. Instead of running around setting up lights and stressing about the shoot, do the opposite, stop, look in the mirror, and reflect on why you’re there and how you can make this the greatest experience of your subject’s life!
Wish me luck tomorrow! We’ve got some fabulous clothing from fashion designer Christa Taylor and some super fun props to fit our theme… I gave you a hint at the theme with today’s images. Can’t wait to see what we create tomorrow!
When is your next shoot? Why not set one up today and follow the 5 steps above… I’d love to see what you create!
Manual: Page 53
Images: Sally Mann