good start towards making a successful portrait. By
using an appointment system, it tells your subject that
he or she is important and will not be wasting time
waiting to get into the studio. This brings the person to
the studio with a positive attitude, and that is half the
battle. An appointment also helps you. When an
appointment system is used, you know how much time
you have to work with each subject, and you do not have
to rush through a sitting because someone else is waiting
prematurely. Between appointments you have time to
straighten up the studio, load film, complete job orders,
screen processed portrait film, and so on.
Appointments should be made at least 15 minutes
apart. This way you have time to take care of other
business that may come up. If one customer is a few
minutes late, you can also use this time to catch up.
When appointments are made, suggest to the person
that they come in early in the day. Most people look their
best and their clothes are fresher early in the day. Men,
particularly those who develop a heavy beard
(five-oclock shadow), need to have their portraits made
at the beginning of the day. However, they should not
shave then come right in to be photographed. This
provides time for facial blemishes, caused by shaving,
Men should have a haircut and look sharp, but the
haircut should be a day or two old. Uniforms should be
pressed and well fitted with all awards, grade, and rating
insignia properly placed. A chart of military awards and
decorations is helpful in settling differences regarding
the proper placement of ribbons and metals.
When someone comes to the photo lab for a portrait,
that person usually feels uncomfortable (like going to
the dentist). Your attitude can help make the person feel
relaxed. The secret to your success in putting the subject
at ease is to convey a genuine and sincere attitude. Let
the person know by your words and actions that you plan
to do your best to produce a portrait that anyone would
be proud to display.
Your attitude will leave a lasting impression on the
subject and set the tone for the portrait setting. Greet the
customer warmly, with a smile on your face as well as
in your voice.
You, as the portrait photographer, should make it
your business to know something about the subject.
What is his job? Where does she work? How long has
he been on board? What was her last duty station, and
so on? The more you know about your subjects, the
easier it is to work with them. Train yourself to gather a
quick impression of the subjects intellect, taste, and
aspirations. Talk to each of them and gather information
regarding their special interests.
Conversation sooner or later strikes a responsive
chord and the subject's face comes to life and gives you
that natural expression so necessary to the finished
portrait. Since the success of the portrait depends greatly
on a natural expression, your task is to create a friendly
situation whereby the subject feels he has an equal part.
The making of a good portrait depends on cooperation.
Do not rush a sitting and avoid getting flustered. You
must always control the situation.
Invite your subject into the studio in a casual way.
Have a bright light on, usually the main or modeling
light. This way the shock of turning on a bright light in
a dark studio is avoided. Ask the subject to be seated; a
motion with your hand may be enough. A person who is
treated in a friendly yet respectful manner, and kept in
casual conversation, usually strikes a natural pose better
than one who is not. If this fails, you must skillfully
direct the subject. At times you may have to touch the
subject to adjust a hat, sleeve, necktie, coat, and so on.
Before touching the subject, explain to the person what
action you are about to take.
Talk to your subject and direct movements, from in
front of the camera, within the circle of light. It is
disturbing for the subject to hear a voice from a dark
void trying to direct his or her movements.
Posing is the most unpredictable part of a portrait
session. The subject is at a mental disadvantage because
he has to follow your directions. This requires subtle
handling on your part and an understanding of human
The best average camera height for a
head-and-shoulders type of portrait is slightly above the
subject's eye level. This places the subject's eyes well
above the center of the picture space. Slightly above eye
level then is a good place to start. Most portraits are
made from this camera viewpoint, but individual
features and characters of the subject often dictate a
higher or lower camera position.
For three-quarter portraits, either sitting or standing,
the camera height may need to be changed. For example,