5 Tips for Creating a Workflow for Speed Portrait Shoots

5 Tips for Creating a Workflow for Speed Portrait Shoots

IMG_9619.JPGWhen I was in Colombia last month, my photography team took on the challenge of photographing portraits for an entire orphanage full of adorable and energetic children. We had about 20 minutes one morning to photograph all 60 or so kids. There would be no other opportunity to do so again, so we had to be spot on the first time.

Envision: On location. 5 photographers. 60 kids.

We had about 15 minutes to organize and prepare. Ultimately we wanted all the photos to have a cohesive but creative series so the orphanage could use them later. Here is the workflow we developed for a smooth and organized portrait shoot.

1. Find the Perfect Location

The first backdrop we chose was the side of a distressed wood building. The warmer tones were pretty, but after some discussion, we decided that the building was not true to “Colombia” – the audience may think the photos were from any rural place in the world. To make it more unique to Colombia, we chose a path between two buildings, with Colombian bush in the background.

2. Be Sure About Lighting

Sunlight is known to change within just a few minutes. While we didn’t want every portrait to look cookie cutter, we did want the lighting to be unified across all the portraits. We could have had the children stand in the direct light, but settled on the shade cast from the side of a building. We also added a reflector to even out the skin tones and capture beautiful catch lights.

3. Get Variety from the Posing

To fly through a set of portraits without making them all the same, have a list of poses you can draw from. With 12 or so number of poses, you can change up little details to make each pose unique – such as how a hand is placed or the angle of the head.

4. Use Identical Settings

Even though multiple photographers were shooting, we wanted all the portraits to have a unity about them so there was not a distinction between photographers. We placed all the cameras on the same settings to achieve these results.

5. Be Fun and Exciting

The most challenging part of a speed shoot is having the ability to make every child smile in a matter of seconds. The person who is the most engaging and entertaining ought to be the one directing the child’s attention. Genuine smiles are always the best for portraits, but it’s not always easy to capture.

Our speed shoot was a smashing success. Every element we worked through in the organization ultimately yielded portraits of each child that were beautiful and authentic. I for one, and more than pleased with the results.

Note: Images of Children withheld for privacy

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Christina N Dickson is a visionary artist and philanthropist in Portland Oregon. Her work includes wedding photography www.BrideInspired.com and leadership with www.RevMediaBlog.com.

Some Older Comments

  • Darren May 18, 2012 02:26 am

    I'd have to agree Peter, Juan & Lucian. These are not portraits nor are the images pleasing or even remotely intriguing.

  • Stefanie May 15, 2012 06:04 am

    Along with posing in different ways, consider taking vertical and horizontal shots along with adjusting your crop with each pose. It creates variety with your work and does so quickly.

  • Lucian Badea May 11, 2012 06:00 am

    While I can appreciate the substance of the article itself, I can honestly say the sample images are not portraits.

    The subject seems insignificant, the background is extremely busy and there is nothing attractive in the whole frame. There is no good lead in, no good lead out and the light is at most dull and boring. The original shots are mediocre at best and post processing, if any, did nothing to save them.

    I mean, one of the points of the article was to show how to maintain a consistent look in a big shoot with a lot of photographers. Based on the sample images, this could have achieved by giving disposible cameras to people passing by in the vecinity.

    I know it sounds harsh, but there is no good reason to mess a good article with bad sample shots.

  • EnergizedAV May 11, 2012 12:59 am

    The key words here are right in the title "Workflow" and "Speed". In a former life I was a school photographer averaging over 300 students per day two poses each. While doing your best to get that great shot, it is absolutely necessary to get the job completed .... it is numbers, time, and alot of money on the line.
    It really is about workflow. Well done Christina!

  • Juan May 10, 2012 02:49 am

    Hello Christina and everyone else. I live in Colombia and I surely cannot tell from the pictures that it is Colombia (though that was not the main intention of the shoot). I do not know where you were located at the time of taking those portrait shots and, though Colombia is a very green country (there is green everywhere you go), maybe you should have tried to find a better location, perhaps in the open (where you can often find plains surrounded by recognizable mountains) instead of inside the orphanage facilities, or in a nearby town (which are very recognizable thanks to the omnipresent churches and colonial-style houses and squares). However, I do understand it was a fast shoot due to time constraints, and considering that, it would have worked to portrait the children during the performance of their daily chores and activities at the orphanage, for they usually spend time sowing and harvesting (I twice visited some of those places and that was what they did) or whatever. I have to agree with Peter that the election of the place was not the best and it impacted your posing of the subjects. Regards.

  • Katrine May 9, 2012 05:02 am

    Thanks for sharing so amzing tips. It helps when I have to do my pictures for my studies.

  • teus May 8, 2012 05:09 pm

    Some good tips,but 60 kids in 20 minutes? Thats insane. Ive got a portrait shoot comming up for multiple disabled children in total 80 kids and caretakers, it will cost me 6hours. This inspires me to try to do it in 2 hours

  • JohnP May 8, 2012 04:49 pm

    I can appreciate the work involved as I had a similar shoot in far north Queensland. I had to individually photograph 20 aboriginal primary school children on the beach outside their school. Fortunately they were great, very outgoing kids with a good teacher to organise them. You can imagine though, kids let out of school to go to the beach (mud flats at low tide) ended up covered in mud but I was very happy with the photos and had good feedback from them.

  • Peter May 7, 2012 07:49 pm

    These photos are pictures of what looks like an uninteresting back yard with people in it to try and make it look more interesting. I don't think that it has worked very well. There is nothing aesthetically pleasing about the background, the uprights aren't even upright. It doesn't tell me anything about where they live. So why are the subjects so small.

    These pictures are not portraits. In a portrait, the subject should be the main attraction, not something tucked away in the corner of the shot.

    Note to Daren. Next weeks competetion "How Insignificant Can You Get the Subject in a Portrait".

  • steve slater May 7, 2012 04:52 pm

    Had 5 minutes to prepare for this fiesta so appreciate the tips:


  • Elizabeth May 7, 2012 04:16 pm

    Another great post! Thanks for the tips and I am glad it went so well.

  • raghavendra May 7, 2012 12:37 pm

    First of all very nice tips here,

    i have taken a picture of kids

  • anotherphotographynoob May 7, 2012 07:49 am

    I'm shooting over 100 portraits tomorrow, so these tips might just come in handy.. thanks :)