The Overlooked Skill In Portrait Photography

It's not your composition, how you edit skin tones, or how good that sun flare you put onto the image looks. It's a skill completely unrelated to photography. I'm talking about being friendly.

Not all of us photographers are able to work with beautiful and talented models who have the most elegant body language and make the most authentic smiles on command. Especially if you're a new photographer who doesn't have a list of photogenic people they can call up whenever. We're most likely working with someone who’s never modeled before and they’re feeling a little nervous because the thought of modeling is a bit intimidating tp them. I feel it’s our job as a photographer to guide them and even at times empower them to be that beautiful badass person that they are. For the specific style and type of images I like to capture I want to make them feel like we’re just two friends hanging out and my photos are just documenting that. What I’m looking to capture is authentic energy you can feel just by looking at the photo. 


Save the bangers till later.

Like any sport, you don’t jump straight into the championship game without warming up beforehand. Same goes for my portraits. What I like to do is start the shoot with a location or some poses that aren’t necessarily going to produce absolute fire images but it will let the model get used to the camera, posing, and let them get used to the way I'm going to direct the shoot. When you finally move onto that awesome location you scouted you and the model will already be in a groove and the shoot will flow much more naturally.


Now that you and your model are warmed up and ready to shoot you now need to maintain that energy throughout the shoot by communicating. Back when I first started photography I would just sit there silently taking photos. Yeah let’s just say my shoots would get awkward very quickly lmao. Unless you’re working with Kendall Jenner who can slay on her own this is probably the worst thing you can do! We’re working with complete beginners who never think of themselves as models so we need to reassure them that they’re doing a great job. Just a simple “yes!” while taking photos can go a long way in building up confidence for the model. Even yelling out "YASSS BETCH WURKK ITT" works. As long as it helps the model feel less intimidated by being in front of the camera.

Even if they’re not the best model try to give them some pointers on poses and body language (but in a friendly way to maintain that positive energy we worked so hard in the warm up to establish.) A good way (and silly way) is to actually act out the poses/facial expression. Best case you do it so good that they get it and nall it. Worst case you look like an idiot and they laugh at you which ultimately adds to that playful energy. It’s a win win!


All of the people featured in the photos of this blog post have barely ever modeled in their life, but just look at how hard they're slaying in these photos man my god. Goes to show you how good energy can go along way in getting the best out of a photoshoot! 

The best portrait shoots are the ones where it doesn’t feel like a photoshoot. Hours can go by filled with good vibes and good conversations then before you know it you have a memory card filled with amazing photographs. It doesn’t happen every time but if you can build and maintain a positive energy throughout the shoot you’ll have a good chance of coming out some special photographs at the end of it.

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