Tony Corbell’s Top Tips for Stellar Portrait Sessions
Today’s terrifically informative guest blog post is written by pro photographer and SmugMugger Tony Corbell. If you’re a part of the PPA or the wedding industry you’ve probably heard of him. But even if you haven’t, a guy who’s had the grace and honor to immortalize three US presidents, 185 world leaders and tons of international bigwigs with his camera is definitely not small potatoes. This guy knows – and loves – what he’s doing and we’re thrilled to have him share his know-how with you. Best of all, since he’s VP of Nik Software, you’ll find a SmugMug-exclusive deal on Color Efex filters at the end of this post. Keep reading!
Do’s and Don’ts for Portrait Photography
by Tony Corbell
For more than thirty years I have photographed people of all types in all kinds of situation. There have been brides and grooms, fashion models, commercial products for a catalog, and political figures. In addition to my clients, I have taught workshops and spoken at seminars literally all over the world. And often I have photographed people in these situations as well as the average people on the street.
One thing is certain: you cannot spend that much time with people and not learn a few things. So I thought it might be helpful to put together a Top Ten list of things to know in order to succeed and thrive in professional photography. If nothing else, these things will at least get you on the right track and hopefully will prove to be helpful.
1. In the studio, NEVER leave your lights set-up overnight. The problem is that if you do, the last session of the day will look a lot like the first session tomorrow. Is that what you want? If so, fine. But if you advertise creativity, don’t give everyone the same session. Having learned the foundation of your craft moving your lights and setting them up differently the next day will soon be second nature. You’ll be amazed at how much more creative you can be.
2. Don’t look through your camera too long. Here is the situation: You are looking at your subject, maybe focusing, maybe looking at your digital LCD, numbers for aperture, shutter speed or the settings in the viewfinder, etc. Any time you are operating mechanically, you are not operating creatively. Remember that once you connect with your client, do not disconnect until the end of the shoot. This includes talking to them, interacting and generally enjoying the session. You’ll find your average sale will be considerably higher.
3. Don’t be distracted by other family members or a studio assistant. Again, the client is number one and more important than anything, so it is important to stay connected with them at all times. Make them feel like they are the most important thing going on, not you. By focusing on them you are telegraphing that you are worth every cent they are paying you and will have no problem in recommending you and your services to others in the community.
4. Don’t be unsure of your exposures or color balance. Complete all of your testing before your client is on the set and project professionalism and a sense that you are very clearly in control of the shoot. Remember, “if you project a sense of confidence, they will project a sense of trust.” This is a terrific saying to try remember and as you gain more and more skills at our technique, you’ll naturally move throughout the shoot with more fluidity and ease.
Visit my SmugMug site to read the other tips on my list, and browse around to see my other photography articles. To say I am a SmugMug fan would truly be an understatement! Come back soon and often to see the things I’ll be adding, including a fine art print store.
Save Time With the Right Post-Processing Tools
Enhancing your images is another area of expertise that you can master quickly and easily if you simply make it a priority. In the example before/after images you can see the result of my using Nik Software’s Color Efex Pro 4 professional plug-in filters for Photoshop, Lightroom & Aperture.
For the portrait example, I used the Darken/Lighten Center filter in Color Efex Pro 4. The building was enhanced with the Brilliance and Warmth filter, also found in Color Efex Pro 4. Both are part of the special software edition that Nik Software has assembled for SmugMug. You can log in and download them from ClubSmug right here. (Good through June 17, 2012)
The free sample filters are all very important in my workflow and learning to use them is ultra-easy. If you’re just getting started, visit our learning page to watch videos, attend live training webinars and read Nik’s blog for workflow tips.