Whether you’re going for just a quick holiday card picture or an extraordinary 4×6 foot wall portrait, you can’t afford to spend huge amounts of time in postproduction. That’s where everybody loses their profit.
Try these couple of easy, and really not so secret steps to to simplify your life.
- Clothing consultation over the phone will tell you the colors, and more importantly the level of formality desired. This is the time to make suggestions that clients will like better after the fact.
- Pre-select 2-3 backgrounds for the group, based one the answers to your consultation questions. This will give your client several choices, but not too many.
- Pre-select your angle, lens, exposure and white balance BEFORE the client arrives. This is especially important when children and/or animals are involved. You want to work very fast when people are in place.
- Choose shutter speed and ‘/stop carefully. I recommend full manual. You need a high enough speed to stop fleeting child expressions and enough depth of field to have everyone in the group sharp back to front.
- If you want the background soft, either place your people well in front of the background elements, or plan to create blur and vignette in post. DO NOT sacrifice sure focus on people by using a low ‘/stop in this instance to create Bokeh.
During the sitting
- Lock down on a tripod. Without the tripod, all your images will differ just enough to make postproduction difficult.
- Take time with each person’s pose, and the overall arrangement of the group. This assures your composition.
- Bring in the animals (or the most squirmy children) last. A dog wrangler or child wrangler is helpful.
- Use a cable release on your camera to make sure you don’t wiggle the camera and throw good frames out of focus in the heat of the moment.
- Make lots of images, quickly, of EXACTLY the same pose. Expect that most images will have significant faults of expression or body pose. This gives you material to composite THE PERFECT GROUP with ease.
Making lots of images from the exact same angle and distance is the most important thing you can do.
From this sitting I actually made about 20 images in the space of about two minutes. Most were unusable, with eight keepers. I always permanently delete the useless ones, and retain all of the keepers just in case and to create the perfect composite.
- Choose best base image and composite in faces per need. This is where the method with tripod and cable release pay off big time.
- Fine points of exposure, dealing with detail in white shirt and black dog’s face.
- Vignette corners dark.
- Facial retouch as desired.
- Bokeh (out of focus) background to make people stand out more.
This is the final image – but yes! they also wanted the portrait disaster one for their holiday card.