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Connecting with Your Portrait Subject

Portraiture is a collaborative process. Mastering the technical skills necessary to make a successful photo is only half of the job for the portrait photographer. The other half is managing and working with people. The best portraits offer more than just a record of how a person looked on a particular day; they provide a glimpse inside of that person. The challenge for the portrait photographer is in creating an environment and establishing a rapport that can accomplish this goal, often in a very short amount of time. The tips below should help you get started.

When you are tasked with making a portrait of photographer Jamel Shabazz, you may end up with a portrait being made of yourself, as well.

Do Your Homework

The first place to begin when planning a portrait session is by asking: Who am I photographing and why? Creating a portrait of a celebrity for a magazine is going to require a different approach than making a headshot of a lawyer for a website. Consider—or better yet—ask what your subject hopes to get out of your shoot ahead of time and plan accordingly. While the most exciting projects are the ones that give you complete creative control, often you will find yourself navigating certain expectations, either from your sitter or from the final audience of your work. Be mindful not only of what you want, but what your sitter wants.

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