I was recently assignedto photograph multiple law firms for a local magazine.
Photographing law firms is something I've done the past few years for this magazine and I really enjoy it. A majority of them are on location, but I do shoot a few at my studio. It always a challenge to get busy people scheduled to photograph. One of the attorneys was in between appointments and called to see if I was available. I happened to have about an hour before my next shoot, so his timing worked out perfectly. By the time my lighting was set up and he arrived, I had about 20 minutes to make some images. Over the years I have worked really hard to get the images that I need, quickly and efficiently. It's taken much practice and is something I'm still working on.
Here are a few tips I have picked up over time.
Having a portrait taken is an intimidating process for many people and I constantly hear, "I hate having my photo taken." or "I am so nervous". When I first meet my subjects, I try to find something in common that we can chat about to help put them at ease. There is no point being a loud, “Out There” person, when the subject is shy and introverted. I take my time setting up lighting and posing them, but when it is time to shoot, I work quick, as no one likes to hold a pose. And the longer you hold a pose the stiffer it looks and feels. If it feels awkward it will look awkward. The only way to learn is to pose yourself, even in front of a mirror so you can see what works.
SUBJECT FIRST, TECHNIQUE SECOND
My approach to portrait photography is all about the person I am photographing. Too often it’s the technical trickery of the photographer that ends up showing through and speaking for the sitter. When that happens you don't really get to know the person in the picture, just the photographer. My goal is to strip all of the extraneous stuff out. Of course, a portrait can never be more than a subjective view of someone. So, even though I am trying to portray the sitter for who they are it’s inevitably my view, my interpretation.
EXPLAIN YOUR APPROACH
Most of the portraits I am making at the moment are commissioned by an editorial client or an organization. Commissioned portraits require a brief from the client including a consideration of layout, style, deadline, budget and availability of the subject. I get organized as much as possible and try to find out about the person I’m photographing. I do a Google search on the person so I have some thing to talk about and some idea of what may resonate with them. I explain a little of my approach to the subject so they know what I am hoping to achieve. Sometimes I want to create a formal structured portrait and other times a more fluid spontaneous style depending on what I want to communicate and what medium the image will be published in. Every photograph, even commissioned work, has a little of me in it in some way.