3 Tips for Photographing your First Portrait Session

Tips for Photographing Your First Portrait Session

Got your first photoshoot? Let me share some knowledge with you. Recently I was down the seafront early one morning, outside one of the swimming centres, doing a portrait session for a client who reached out to me on Instagram. The client wanted some headshots and some other photos for their modelling portfolio. I was eager to collaborate and get some much sought-after experience, with this being one of my first portrait sessions with a client who I did not know beforehand. I did my research to make sure it went well, and now I am ready to share with you some tips for photographing your first portrait session.

Location Research

One of the first things to consider is the location you are going to do the shoot. After discussing with the client what they want from the shoot, hopefully, you will have some ideas of some places you can go. With things as they currently are around the world, it is also important to make sure you can maintain a safe distance in, preferably, an outdoor area. Be sure to check any restrictions in your country due to the Coronavirus before starting the shoot!

For myself, this meant picking the outside area of a local swimming venue. There was a raised area around a floor high, with steps and an adjoining ramp which I knew we could do something with. The added height allowed for a less common few of the city skyline to add a bit of uniqueness to the final photos.

As part of this process, I outlined a few different shots that I wanted to get – with various poses at each location. The list looked like this: leaning on the fence, putting on the coat, walking, sitting on the steps, walking up and down the ramp, and so on. Having a plan for what you want to accomplish is important. You do not want to run out of ideas on the day and end up standing around looking unprofessional!

Time of day should also be considered and can be important when thinking about the next tip.

3 Tips for Photographing your First Portrait Session

Skills and Gear Prep

I knew going into this shoot that I have recently been struggling with getting super sharp shots. Whilst getting the sharpest images is not necessarily the most important thing about the photo, it was something I wanted to work on with this shoot.

Being able to identify what skills and techniques will be the most important for a particular shoot is key to not missing anything on the day and being prepared. This is particularly true if you are newer to photography or have any areas you want to work on. Understanding what the client wants to get out of the photoshoot also helps you pin down what you are going to need to do on the day.

Knowing what gear you want to use is also important, especially if you are not shooting in a studio where all your gear is. If you are going to an outside or remote location, you will probably be limited to what you can take. Make sure you have the right tools to get the job done. In my case, this meant my 45mm (MFT) f1.8 Prime lens. I also took my 12-40mm f2.8 as back up in case I did not get on with the 45mm for any reason.

My photoshoot was happening during sunrise, so I knew I would not need any lighting for this one but that is also something to consider.

You should also strongly think about taking multiple memory cards, back-up batteries, and even a second camera body if you happen to have one. You do not want to be caught short-handed should anything happen!

3 Tips for Photographing your First Portrait Session

Communication with the Model

It is important to remember that being a model can be very awkward. Especially if the person you are photographing does not have much experience (which is likely if you also do not have much experience).

Communicating with the model during the shoot is very important and can help both yourself and the model feel more at ease. It also serves to let the model know how things are going. Normally, they will not be able to see the pictures taken instantly, and they rely on the photographer to let them know if they are doing a good job or not.

The model will need direction on where to stand and what to do. Even the experienced models can still benefit from some direction, especially if you have some shots in mind that you want to capture. The model might also be able to suggest some ideas and, particularly if they are also the client, it is often worth listening to them. Their own experience and ideas should not be ignored.

Before you even turn the camera on, it is worth exchanging some small talk with the model to relieve any awkwardness either of you may have and to get to know each other. Starting things off in a friendly (and perhaps informal) way can go a long way to a more relaxed shoot with a free exchange of ideas to make the best photoshoot possible.

3 Tips for Photographing your First Portrait Session


There are many things to think about when you are going for a photoshoot, and it can be stressful if it is one of your first ones. Before you even get to the day of the shoot, be sure to research the location you are going to shoot at (and pick a location if needed). Make sure you understand the area and have some ideas for different shots to take in line with what the client wants.

Take some time to also think about what skills and techniques you are going to need to utilise at the shoot. Ensure you know what you want to accomplish, and you know how to accomplish it. Gear follows this closely. Get the right gear for the job and have back-ups in case anything happens during the session. Lastly, communicate with the model during the shoot to make it a better experience for both of you. There is no downside (that I can think of) to engaging with the model to reassure them that things are going well and to share ideas for what to do and poses.

Do not forget to also check out my post on spicing up the same old locations to add variety to your photography!

Good luck to all the budding photographers taking their first steps into portrait photography! As soon as you land that client, you are a professional now! I hope these tips for photographing your first portrait session are useful to you!

Michael is Amazing
Michael is Amazing

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