Getting great portraiture especially in a corporate environment can be a challenge. Recently I was hired by the exuberant folks at Results Advertising to do portraits of a law firm client that they were tasked to rebrand their website. They didn't want the usual stiff or posed images, but something more approachable and fun. Results had a style of lighting and background that they were going for, so that gave me a specific direction. All that was left was to get the subjects to relax and have fun. So here are a few tips to keep in mind.
1. Sit them down. I learned in the beginning of my career from a very talented photographer and former model that if you sit people, they can be more relaxed than standing. Sometimes you have no choice but to have someone stand, but usually I sit people first, just to get them to loosen up.
2. Be Silly! I've had the great pleasure to work with some of the best Child Wranglers in the business. If I learned anything from them it was that being silly is a great distractor. Not that my subject Allison needed it, she's a natural, but I like being silly anyway because why not? It makes the day more fun.
3. Cover all the Angles. When I shoot portraits, I have my subjects face left, right straight on, from the back, High, Low. Up, Down and all around! Keeping the subject constantly changing positions, not only helps them to be comfortable, it also helps you as a photographer to explore more interesting angles and crops.
4. The Eyes have it. Not only is frequent change of body position important, so is changing where the eyes look. A very talented creative director told me that there's nothing worse than no variety. When he got a shoot submitted to him, he wanted to see variety and lots of choices. He was right, especially if you're laying out a magazine spread, website or ad campaign. You need enough options to put a story together.
5. Know your Subject. Sometimes you really don't have much time to get to know who your'e photographing. But I always like to chat a little with all of my subjects just to get an idea of who they are and what they like. Even celebrities that you think you might know, may give you great insight into something that you never knew. Besides it's just good manners to show that you care about who's in front of your camera. Treating people with respect and dignity goes along way.