Well before we go down to it, I have to define what kind of portrait I want to shoot.
One. Define what portrait you want.
Is it a tight portrait where shapes of nose, lipps have to be considered as a kind of landscape? Is the intensity of the picture focussed on the look and the face’s expression? In that case you have to be a master of lights to get more than an ID-shot. Some studios are famous for this. But the most famous one and in my opinion the best one was the Studio Harcourt in Paris. (See link and the end of the article). Especially for such portraits, light is very important and before you even start to set them, you have to check the face of your model.
Two. Analyze your model.
Is you model a man? A woman? Tall? Thin? Fat ? Big nose? These are example of the model check you must proceed before the shooting. Meet your Model first or get pictures of her/him. And then, check the dresses, the make up : in one word, the styling.
Three. Care about the make up
The most important of all if you do not want to spend hours in front of your screen with photoshop, watch out the the make-up. First all you will not have to remove the blemeshes later, because that is the priority for a MUA to care about that. Now many of you will think that you can fix it in ps. And yes, it is true. But think how long you will need do have the job done properly. And now think how much time this is when you have to prepare 10 pictures. But that’s not all : I hear sometimes people telling that they will do the make up entirely with photoshop… My one advice : the more your model is ready to shoot, the more you will save time and work on different projects. If you are a hobby photographer, ask your model to be careful and do not hesitate to ask her to fix some parts. It will be ok, trust me. Your model wants good pictures as much as you do. Now, it is time to check the styling.
Four. Styling as a message
The styling is the strong part of the picture and gives the entire look to your pictures. Is it ok with my model? Does it bring information to my shot? Does it bring the information to my shot I need? This makes the story. I include accesories also to the styling.
Five. Take a pen and make a draft
Now, you have the ingredients, it is time to cook! You have to make serious decision. Like a painter, you will have think about the composition. Where has to be the model, the pose, what effects do I want to reach with the strobes?
Six. Save time… And use a light meter.
I have been fascinated by a video of Frank Doorhof about metering the light. You are so quick to set the strobes and already you can shoot. How does it work? Take the light meter. Switch it on. Aim it at the light source. Take a measurement. Read the data and set the camera according to them. Done. Frank is called the light meter guy. He has perfectly explained why a LM is important and how to use it on his blog. Go and have a look.
Seven. Don’t trust your camera’s display
The only thing to check on the display is the composition. Lights and colors? No. Your cam’display is not calibrated and you only see a jepg.
Eight. Take full batteries
Trust me it happened at list once to all of us : you are about to get a great shot and… Game over, no power. Grrrr….
Nine. Mind the cables.
Strobes are expensive. Pay attention where you put your feet while shooting. Or make sure the alimentation’cables are not where you be shooting… In one second, you oversee the cable, the strobe falls… Broken! Grrrrrr….
Ten. Invite your failed pictures for a drink
Yes, do so. Check you results and spend time with the pictures which are not that good and try to understand why. After a while practicing this, you will be aware about them while shooting and you will improve.
Eleven. Euh… No, we’re done !
Have a good light and take care!