We all make plans and we all have expectations. Then when portrait photography, we want these plans to work well. We’ve got customers to please, memories to create and stories to tell. Plus clients have expectations. They want their pictures to look a certain way. They’ve hired you to recreate that vision.
As a professional, you need to be ready for anything
So when the best-laid plans fall apart, you’ve got to adapt. If you’re shooting portraits professionally, you need to remember that part of the reason you are being paid is you can produce great images no matter the circumstance. This is the difference between you and an amateur. You have the skills and know how to make any situation work.
Have a plan and a backup plan
I can’t stress this enough. It’s important to meet with clients and discuss plans for the shoot. Among the topics, you should discuss a backup plan. What will do if the weather doesn’t cooperate for an outdoor shoot? What if the children won’t cooperate by sitting in a tree? There are all sorts of possibilities, and you need to discuss the fact that sometimes the plans may have to change.
Sometimes the simple solution is setting an alternate date in case of weather issues. Other times you might discuss the need to use a different location. I love shooting family sessions outdoors. I’ll be honest, I prefer it. Natural light is my best friend, and I have very little patience for setting up studio lights. If at all possible I shoot outdoors. But recently I had a situation where I was unable to set up a “rain date”. The family had only one day together, and if the session didn’t occur on that specific date, well it just wasn’t going to happen. But, I made a mistake, I forgot to discuss alternate plans.
The need to adapt quickly
On the date of the session, the weather was cold, grey, blustery and very unpleasant. We could have shot the session outdoors but the wind wasn’t going to help my cause, and it was too cold outside for their small children. I don’t think the kids would have cooperated. I was lucky, my clients were flexible, and we quickly worked to discuss an alternate plan.
They had a beautiful, large bay window. So we shifted some furniture, hung up my large white sheet as a backdrop, and used a large couch as a prop. It wasn’t an ideal setting, but it did the trick. My clients were happy with the results, and that’s all that matters.
Suggestions for making it work on the fly:
- Think outside the box. Be creative and look for places that will suit your purpose and still create an eye-catching image. You might use a bedroom or fireplace if you have to shoot indoors. Outdoors, maybe you could shoot underneath a large umbrella or veranda. The front door of a house can be quite attractive as well.
- Don’t get nervous. Be calm and confident. This will ensure your clients that you are confident in your abilities. They, in turn, will relax and give you those amazing relaxed smiles you’re looking for and that you want to capture so much.
- Always take a portable lighting kit to every session. You never know when you will need it. As much as I hate using the lights they’ve saved me so many times.
- Make sure you have a really large backdrop and a white sheet. The white sheet can be pinned to the wall in a pinch or used as a large reflector if need be. I’ve even used the sheet to cover up an ugly floor.
- Reassure clients that they are not the first to have plans change suddenly. Even if it is the first time, it’s ever happened to you, tell them it’s no big deal.
- Go with the flow. Don’t be rigid, let things unfold as they will. If you always come to a photo shoot with a very specific plan, you may get easily flustered. Just relax and see what happens.
- Rely on your skills, they are your biggest asset. Use all the knowledge you’ve gained to help you produce amazing images. Never forget all you’ve learned.
Portrait photography is often unpredictable but isn’t that the fun of it all? You never know what’s going to happen. Enjoy the rush that comes from turning a potential disaster into an amazing opportunity. Let it test your skills and push the limits of your creativity. Leave us some your tips for managing the unexpected in the comments section below. Tell us your anecdotal stories. We want to hear it all.
Leave us some your tips for managing the unexpected in the comments section below. Tell us your anecdotal stories. We want to hear it all.