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Professional Portraits: Moving Beyond Headshots

Lesson 3 of 32

Tips for Professional Portraits Part 2


Professional Portraits: Moving Beyond Headshots

Lesson 3 of 32

Tips for Professional Portraits Part 2


Lesson Info

Tips for Professional Portraits Part 2

Lights and lighting. We talked a little bit about style before, and this is the thing I'm gonna stress to you is that you can, in some ways, stick to a certain style, and I think if you look at my work, if you look at Cliff's work, if you look at Savannah's work, you will see consistency throughout. You'll see a certain style emerge in everybody's work but you have to understand lighting, and one of the biggest barriers, especially for people new coming into the industry is they're afraid of using lights and lighting and what that means and how difficult that can be, but I will tell you, when I first started doing photography, I was really terrible, like most of us are. Even when I started my business with my wife, I was really terrible. If you apply yourself and you get good resources, like Creative Live, it's really not that hard to get good really quickly. So I will tell you that you have to look at it from two perspectives. You can say, I really like the way natural light photograp...

hy looks, I really like to shoot with that beautiful burst of sun flare coming out of everybody's heads and stuff, and that's all pretty, but in this world, you have to be prepared to work in any possible situation. You have to start to familiarize yourself with whatever equipment is gonna work best for you and different styles. You have to be versatile. You have to be able to walk into a place with no windows and ugly overhead lighting, and you have to also be able to walk in and know how to use a really good bank of window light when you have it. You have to be able to do all those things. Part of that is understanding style. Remember we talked about intent and how they're gonna ask you for certain things? I gotta tell you, probably 9 out of 10 jobs like this I get, they will send me pictures of what they want, pictures of other photographers' work or off of other competing businesses' websites, stuff that they like, and I deal with that all the time. I spent a lot of my time matching something that somebody else did. Now, I'll put my own style on it, but setting an intention is very, very important and understanding what you're walking in that room to do and knowing how to do it. The moment that you become comfortable with your equipment and how to light a room, and what we're gonna do in another segment is we're gonna go over exactly what the process that I go through when I walk into a room, but the moment that you walk into a room, you have to know what's in your bag, what you're gonna use, and how you're gonna do it to create the vision for the client. This was the shoot that I did for a financial advisor, and they wanted a couple of different things. The first thing they wanted was they wanted something that's a little more natural-light feel, a little light and airy. So, we're posing a group talking about a bunch of professionals. So you can see that for some of their marketing material as a financial advisor, you're asking people to give you lots and lots of money. So it behooves them to sort of look a little friendly. It's a little more approachable. We got a more shallow depth of feel, but you need to be able to do that, but you also need to be able to do this. You need to be able to add light. You need to be able to add contrast. You need to be able to give it pop, and one of the things that you're gonna need to know is that there is a difference between those two things and see that. You have to be able to create both of these types of images, which are very different styles, and you'll more often than not be asked to do them in the same shoot. In one, I have the blown-out windows and kind of the natural light coming in, and then the other one, you can see the city behind them. That's downtown Orlando. That's actually the courthouse. So what you can see is that, this is gonna give it also a sense of community. Somebody local is gonna know that that's downtown Orlando. So they're gonna say, this is Orlando. This if they have clients that are out of town, it may not be so important, but understanding the difference between this style and this style and how to create both is gonna make you a lot more valuable to your clients. You have to be able to do an individual session and understand the difference between somebody who works in multiple worlds. So you're gonna have a guy who might have a regular job and need something for the real estate firm that he works for, but he also might have another business on the side where he needs to be a little more approachable, a little more casual. So you need to be able to do something like this, something a little more standard, something a little more corporate, but you also need to be able to in the exact same shoot create something a little more like that. You need to understand the difference between the two and how to do them and how to do them quickly. If you don't understand how that lighting works, you're not gonna be able to deliver for your client. The maximum amount of bang for your buck is what's gonna make you the most memorable, the most valuable, the most employable, and more importantly, get hired again. If you have a family portrait client, a good family portrait client, how often are you gonna get a job from them? Every year? Once a year? Maybe two years? Especially when your kids are little, they don't change that much. Who cares? We'll wait until we have another one. In the corporate world, a lot of times, there's turnover and quick. I have companies I work for every other month. I'll go out and shoot seven or eight more people for them. This is fantastic repeat business, and if you can deliver, you can get lots of it. One of the things that I run into all the time is with professional women especially. They need to look powerful. They need to look strong, but they also might want something more approachable, something a little softer. So you have to be to create something like this, and then you have to be able to turn around and in the same session, create something that's a little more like this, and if you can do both of those things, not only is she going to hire you again, but she's going to tell every single person she knows. This is fantastic repeat business. It's fantastic referrals, and here's the other thing we're gonna talk about when we do social media after the break is that, it's like made for us. All of these people are paying you to make their online profile pictures, and their online profile pictures is the thing that other people are gonna see the most. Everything is an opportunity for you to expand your business, and if you can give them a lot of value in a session, I have a studio with no windows, no natural light whatsoever, and I have people come and they'll give me pictures that other very famous photographers have taken that they use huge banks of windows and stuff and I'm gonna show you how I figure out how to get that type of lighting. You can do it in your living room with no windows. So we're gonna do that later too, but do you understand the difference in style? Do you understand what you have to create for people? I think we almost live in a world of people who everybody's got their fingers in six different pies. You might have a lady who works at one place, but she's got her like, what is it, the Tupperware or whatever she does on her side or she might sell real estate. My neighbor has a lawn-care service, he's a tax accountant, and he also is a real estate agent, and he has pictures that I've done for him that are different for all three things. So we're encouraged to diversify, and you have to be able to create the work that will show that. Managing expectations with your corporate clients is going to be huge for you. Unlike a lot of other types of photography, you have to bring ink and paper into everything. You have to have, this is what I'm gonna do, this is when I'm gonna be there, this is how long I'm going to be there, this is exactly what I'm gonna deliver and this when I'm gonna deliver it, and you have to be able to know that upfront. As long as you do what you say you're going to do when you say you're going to do it, your client is gonna be happy with you. A shot list, I know that you may or may not work with a shot list. It's not necessarily the most unencumbered, artistic way to shoot, but you need to have an exact list of every shot that the client wants and you need to deliver every single one of those shots when you go out and shoot. If you don't do that, you ever go to a restaurant and you ever have a bad time at a restaurant or your food wasn't great or the service was slow? Did you stop and complain to the manager? Most of us don't. Some people do, like Joe, but some people do. (laughs) My dad does, my dad's a restaurant complainer. I'm a restaurant-complainer survivor but most people would just what, not go there ever again, right? Does that make sense? In this world, they're not gonna call you and give you a coaching session and tell you what you did wrong. They're just gonna hire somebody else next time. If you use that shot list, you're gonna protect yourself to make sure that you deliver to your client and that you're on the same page. The next thing that you need is a scope of work contract. If you are, I think if a member of ASMP, PPA, they have stuff like this as a member, free, that you can get off of their website, but a scope of work contract is simply that. It's the scope of the work that you're gonna do, when you're gonna show up, what you're gonna do, when you're gonna deliver it, how long you're gonna be there, all that stuff. A scope of work is absolutely enormous. We have a question from the audience. So is the scope of work different than the contract? Are they signing multiple documents from you? The scope of work is the contract. That's a good question. The scope of work contract is just that. It is the contract for that shoot. Every shoot that I do commercially has a scope of work contract. It is the agreement. A lot of times when you work with big companies, they will provide you with one. We have a lot of clients that send us the scope of work. For other companies that don't, we provide them with a scope of work. Whoever sends it to whom, you have to have it all written out and have to both agree on the terms of the job. It is a huge mistake to work without one. You'll shoot a hundred jobs and never need one, but the only time that you will have wished you had one is the one job where it didn't turn out right, and if you wanna have a real big hassle on you, if you think a bridezilla is a problem, wait till you get a dissatisfied attorney crawling up your butt. You don't need that in your business. As long as you do what the paper says you're gonna do, everything's gonna be fine. Wardrobe consult, this is huge. We touched on it a little bit earlier. There are several different types of jobs that I do. Sometimes I'm going into a big company and I'm doing pictures for 200 people over the course of a couple of days. Sometimes I'm shooting a little more boutique style for 15 partners in a law firm. When you have control over it, it's not really reasonable to expect 200 people to all coordinate their outfits together. We just don't live in that world 'cause there's always gonna be that guy that wears his Crocs to work and I hate that guy, but I just crop his feet out of the picture. Wardrobe consult is not exactly the same as it is for a family portrait or another client. You're not gonna get necessarily everybody to dress in the same key, but a great way to collaborate on something like this is a Pinterest board. Anybody do that? There are lots of different ways to create documents ahead of time, PDFs that you can send. Like this is what's appropriate. This is what's not appropriate and managing the expectations of wardrobe is huge because truthfully, you can boil it down to one thing that's really simple, just like, are they gonna wear jackets or not, most of the time. (laughs) If you're doing the app developers, they're probably not gonna wear jackets. If you're shooting the attorneys, they should probably all wear jackets, but just have a few sample images that you can send. This works, this doesn't. I keep a folder on my computer. It's like the wall of shame, and I put stuff that didn't work out just in case. So I will remember the next time what not to do so I can tell my clients, do you see that this beautiful picture was ruined by the lady who wore a muumuu to work, like this is not acceptable, and as long as you're able (laughs) to give them that, you'll be fine. Just make sure that you mention it, what is expected. If they all work for a lawn-care service and their uniform is a Polo shirt and khakis, just make sure that they're all doing that. If they work for a real estate agent, and they all wear gold jackets and cross their arms when they stand, then make sure that they have that, but you wanna make sure that it's talked about or else, you're gonna take something that is, I can't tell you how many times of like, can you just Photoshop a jacket on him? No, I cannot. People think Photoshop can do anything. I mean, it almost can, but I'm not gonna do that. I tell you, I was actually shooting a corporate job one time and I had 20 people lined up, and the one guy had gotten a big glob of mustard on his lapel from eating his lunch, I assume, and so, he goes, "Hey man, can you Photoshop that out?" I go, "Sure," and I just turned him this way in the shot so the mustard was out of the camera. It's like Photoshop in person is my favorite thing to do. Model releases, this is gonna become important later on. Say for example, when you are putting together a keynote that's gonna be seen all over the country and most of your clients are attorneys, you really wanna make sure that you have model releases for everybody that you shoot. We take a standard model release and it says, we can use it on our website and in educational purposes and promotional purposes. We put stuff like that and then we have a sign-up sheet and it's just everybody before they get their pictures. There are apps for that now, apparently. You can do that on an iPad or a tablet or some other kind, but you will wanna have model releases for everybody you shoot because again, we're gonna be working more in this professional world, and you wanna use pictures on your website and I actually have about one in five clients refuse to sign the model release in this type of work because they just don't wanna be used for promotion, and I'm fine with that, but you wanna make sure that it's out there because the last thing in the world that you wanna do is to create a big ad or a banner or something and then you get a phone call or an email from a client that's like, I didn't say you could use my image for that, and again, half my clients are attorneys. (laughs) You wanna make sure that the paperwork is in order. It's not that hard to make sure that your paperwork is in order. Here's one thing that I get a lot is managing expectations is sometimes about what you will and won't do. So if I'm going out to shoot professional portraits for 20 people, what you don't wanna do is end up photographing the boss's car or his cat or something like that. That's where the shot list comes into play and managing those expectations. It happened to me very recently. I went to photographs some partners in a law firm, and I was there, and it was 2 o'clock in the afternoon and the guy was like, hey can you take some pictures of the building while you're here. I said, no, I'm not gonna do that because architectural photography is a completely different thing. I would've come at a different time of day. I would've brought different equipment. I would've prepared differently, but we make it a general rule not to mix and match in any shoot whatsoever. You wanna have a couple of these guidelines in place. For example, I will save you some heartache. When you're charging by day or by time, you wanna make sure that you have the word consecutive in your pricing. So do you ever have this happen where somebody says, hey, I want you to come and start at 9 am, and then there's a break at lunch from 12 to 1, and then you do the two hours after that? No, I don't do that either. The moment my foot touches the ground, that's when the clock starts. So you have to manage those expectations. I'm not gonna be photographing stuff that is not on the shot list, necessarily, and I'm not gonna be doing different genres of photography necessarily in the same session. So if you manage that expectation when it comes to those styles, you're gonna have really a much better time with your corporate clients. The most important thing you wanna talk about when marketing is you want to market for your ideal client. There's a great photographer friend of mine and business guru who says that you need to actually take out a piece of paper and write down who your client is. Where do they shop? What do they make? What do they do for a living? I think that that's alright in this case, but the things that you can do easily without getting too existential about it to market for your business are gonna be really, really simple. For example, show it on your website. I can't tell you how much my business has changed by adding a section of commercial photography to my website. I get more commercial inquiries. Does that make sense? Like if you have a website and it's weddings and it's babies and it's families, it's no surprise that someone who's looking for corporate and commercial work is going to breeze right over that. Does that make sense? So what you wanna do is to make sure that you have that and it's very easily accessible. I'm not necessarily a huge advocate of a splash page for a website, but you wanna make it as easy as possible for them to get to it. Here's another thing that you will see a lot that you won't see a lot in the portrait and wedding world. There is a school of thought that says don't put your pricing on your website. Show of hands, who has all their prices on their website? One out of eight, right, and why not? You wanna be able to upsell them. You want them to get in and you wanna qualify them yourself 'cause what happens is in the portrait and wedding world and in the artist business model, the idea is people will always spend more than they intended to if you do your job. Is that right? They say that it's like one and a half times or something if someone will pay you or they'll pay $500 upfront. They can actually afford $750 or $1,000, but in the corporate world, we're working with budgets most of the time. Most of the time, they'll have a specific budget in mind when they call you, or at least, they'll know exactly what number they can spend, even if they haven't outlined a specific budget for that project. So having your pricing on your website is huge. I get inquiries all the time for this type of work where the client has used the pricing on my website and they put in their inquiry email, I want a half-day of shooting, and I want this upgrade and this upgrade, and they've already told me exactly what they want when they contact me. So unlike working in the world where you're like, hey, well, it's a $250 sitting fee and we have this and that and the other thing, and then you try to sell them a bunch of stuff afterward. There's not a whole lot of upselling. There are a couple of things you can do to make more money on the back end, but for the most part, this is a very front-end loaded type of business and you really are working with budgets, and what's gonna happen is, if you push and push and push and try to get them to exceed that budget, guess what, they're not gonna hire you. It's just not gonna work out. So you have that number that you're gonna work with. I've seen a lot of photographers do this. If you're portraits, weddings, babies, fashion, whatever, I see photographers create an entire separate brand just for their professional work, their headshot, their corporate work. You can create a different name, a different website, and market that specifically to those clients, and that works really, really well. I've seen people do that. I wouldn't necessarily say you have to do that, but if you're like, you go to your website and it's all flowers and babies hanging from trees and stuff like that, you can expect that there will be a psychological disconnect for somebody looking for a different type of work. So you can easily go to Fiverr or 99 Designs or one of these websites, get a logo whipped up, put up a website because honestly to work in the professional world, it doesn't have to be that pretty, it really doesn't, but if you get a nice, corporate brand going and completely separate it, you can find that that will drive this type of business to you. I run my business almost completely off of this type of work. We still do a few weddings here. We do a few other things, but for the most part the vast majority of what we do on a yearly basis is gonna be working with professional people in the corporate world. My whole website and brand is geared towards that. I don't have to have a separate brand, but if you wanna add this type of work, you don't have to make this your whole business. You could open up a whole other stream of income for yourself just by adding this as something that you do, and I would challenge you and say, if you put this on your website, and have a separate brand, even if that's necessary that you will find that it will start to make you a lot more money, but you need to be able to market to the person that is gonna spend the money with you. Create that separate brand if you have to, but I'm not telling you to give up your other business model, and in fact, if you really work in that high-end portrait and wedding world, you do not necessarily wanna mix those things together. I know lots of photographers that have high-end businesses that also do school and sports photography on the side as something else, like Bob's Action Sports Photos, and over here, it's like, the pretty gallery and they do all their stuff over here. So you can do both of those things and sometimes it's better to keep those businesses a little bit separate. You can get a DBA, a Doing Business As name really, really easy. You don't have to incorporate a whole other company, you don't. You can just operate as another company under Doing Business As a company you already own. Consult your attorney or your accountant on those things. Smarketing, I wanna point out a couple of things about this photo and if this had a laser-pointer, I would be pointing at it. Does anyone know what kind of watch that guy's wearing? What kind of watch is that? A Rolex? No, that is not a Rolex, good eye. It is an Omega Speedmaster. So this is a, depending on when you get it and how old it is, this is a $3,000 to $7,000 watch. That guy's watch is worth more than my car is right now. So what does that tell you about these people? These are your clients. If you have a portrait business, a wedding business, whether you shoot families or babies or anything else. Think about the possibility that having a type of business where you cultivate with professional people, this could be the best, smartest marketing you've ever done in your entire life. So if you don't have this in your business already, where are your clients coming from, recommendations, maybe the internet, maybe you do auctions. Wherever you're getting your clients from, if you were to open up a side business or even a separate brand or another avenue of income working doing professional work, you're opening yourself up to people with a great ability to spend with disposable income, people who like to drive premium-brand vehicles, who will pay the extra dollars for the premium roasted coffee that tastes the same as the stuff in the convenience store, but it's in a fancier cup. These are your people. They drive BMWs and Mercedes, and they wear Rolexes and Omegas. This is an excellent way to not only create more income for your business by doing this type of work, but feeding these people into your other businesses. Does that make sense? That's pretty cool. We do this a lot. Pro clients make great portrait clients. I cannot tell you how many times I'm standing there photographing the VP of a company who's daughter is getting married. I can't tell you how many times I have conversations with my professional clients about their kids, how many times I get asked, do you have a business card? My wife wants to do family portraits. God help you if you're not prepared for that question. If you don't do it, that's one thing, but most of the people watching this and most of you guys aren't going to abandon everything that you're doing just to create a business around professional portraits and headshots. I'm kind of the guy that has that business, but you don't have to, be we can all benefit from this 'cause I will tell you, look outside, look into the downtown of your city, of your township, wherever you are, every building is full of people that need a headshot, professional portraits, branding images. These are all your clients. Your client base is huge. I am turning away almost as much of this work as I'm able to take because I specialize in it and because it's on my website and because I market for it. If you open up this avenue of income, not only will that make you more money, but you will get the best people in your community and to be able to funnel them into your portrait, wedding, and other types of businesses. So you have to market the other areas of your business. Some of the things that I want to tell you to do is you wanna have business cards all the time. I would love to go paperless. I'd be really cool with that. I love the environment, but people still use business cards. I can't figure it out. There should be like an app where you just bump somebody's fist, there was one, and it just gives them your business card. I keep photos of my business card on my phone in case I don't have any and I text somebody my business card if I don't happen to have any on my person. If you run family portrait specials around the holidays or whatever it is, carry your little things with you. In a lot of cases, I would say that you wanna kind of make smaller versions than you might normally because you're talking about people that aren't necessarily gonna have a place to put it, so something you can stick in a pocket. We're doing pictures with Santa or ducks and bunnies or we're doing family beach portrait specials or black and whites are on sale, whatever it is, have that with you all the time when you do these types of jobs 'cause this guy will be able to afford a lot more than a lot of your other clients 'cause it is kind of the status thing when somebody really appreciates your work and they can't afford it, but it is really, really exciting when somebody really appreciates your work and they CAN afford you, and here's the thing, they've already worked with you and a lot of cases, you are working for either the main breadwinner for the family or the co-bread winner for the family, and in a lot of cases, this is a person that's hardest to pin down, the person who's least interested in doing photography. So you've already won over the hardest person in the room when you walk into a family portrait for a client you've shot for professionally. So your job's gonna be a whole lot easier. You've already established that trust. Let's talk about followup. If you want some more work, you have to ask for some work. You're definitely not gonna get any if you don't ask for any. You're definitely not gonna get that job if you don't ask for that job. You're definitely not gonna get that promotion if you don't ask for that promotion. So if you want something, ask for something, and this is what's important. You have to follow up regularly with your business clients. I would say quarterly because you know what, again, you're the thing on the checklist. So they're not necessarily making emotional decisions to buy from you, and they're not thinking about you, but if you follow up with them, if they get a card or if they get an email, there's also a really cool plug-in for G-mail for you G-mail users called Boomerang. Anybody use that? You can just say, hey, just put this back in my inbox or whatever to remind me to respond to them in three months. Put it on your calendar. If you use iCalendar, you use Google Calendar, put it in your calendar, make it part of your workflow. Every time that you complete a job for a client, three months on the next Monday, make sure that it's gonna pop up. We use Wunderlist. Some people use Evernote. Put it on your list of stuff to do to follow up with every single client because what's gonna happen is, they're gonna hire new people. They're gonna let some people go. They're going to move to a new office. They're gonna merge with another company. There's gonna be a million reasons why they might need new photos, and if you're not following up with them, they might not necessarily remember you because if they hire a new person, the person that hired you before in that position is somebody new, they're not gonna know who they hired last time. It's not like they keep a file on you. So you're gonna wanna make sure that you're following up with those people. Holiday cards are huge. I know this sounds kind of maybe old fashioned, but you wanna make sure that you send holiday cards to all of your business clients before you send them to your own mother. Really, this is important. I prefer it to be something of a personal nature. Endear yourself a little bit to them, and let me tell you, this is gonna be the biggest secret in working in the professional world. This is the person you wanna make fall in love with you, the office manager. This is gonna be your go-to person. I gotta tell you, in 10 years of doing this type of work in all the companies I've ever worked for, the person who never changes is the person who runs the office, and most of the time, it's usually kind of a sweet old lady. (laughs) Whoever it is, that's the person that's gonna remember you. That's the person where the boss of the company is gonna go, where are my car keys or what do I have to do today, the person who makes it happen in the office and every office has that person, the person that everybody relies on to remember things and to get them places and to remind them they've got a stain on their tie, whatever it is. This is the person that you wanna ingratiate yourself to big time. This is the person that gets the basket with the Starbucks gift card. This is the person that you address the holiday card to. This is the person that you send emails to to follow up with. This is gonna be your go-to person. If you really, really wanna get hired again, find the office manager, the executive assistant, the person who makes the office run and make sure that person knows who you are. These are the types of clients that will hire you multiple times a year. I work for big companies and medium companies and I have companies that I go out to every month. I have companies that I go out to every two months, and I'm not talking little jobs. I get big jobs from the same companies multiple times a year. They're not emotionally attached to the dollars that they spend on you. You are a commodity. You're providing a service. So there's no reason why you couldn't just follow up and they would say, oh, okay, yep, come on out, all the time. I've had clients that will go two or three years without hiring me again and they just didn't think about it. In essence, you're almost giving them better service because if they waited longer, they would have to pay you more to do a bigger job based on what's changed. So if you're keeping up with them regularly, you absolutely have a regular stream of income from them, if that makes sense. So find that office manager and make that person your absolute best friend in the universe because that is gonna be how you're gonna get hired over and over and over again. I find that the higher up in the company that someone is typically the less likely they are to remember you and the less time you get with them. That's gonna be really, really important to you, but that person that runs the office. There's always that person. So make sure that you're good with them.

Class Description


Professional portraits go beyond the standard headshot. With the age of social networking upon us, businesses often have the need for environmental and editorial portraits. Not only will you understand individual portraits, but you will also learn to execute large group posing for corporate clients. By adding these to your client sessions, you can add to your business plan AND widen your target client outreach. 



Gary is super knowledgable, yet down-to-earth and relatable. I love how he explains the exact gear he uses but also describes ways to accomplish the same look using DIY and less expensive alternatives. The segment where he demos a live shoot in multiple, difficult lighting situations is worth the cost of the class alone! Bonus: He's super funny. He could probably double as a comedian on the side, but I digress. This class was informative, funny, and very practical for any photographer that wants to increase their profit and expand their business into the professional world. He gives all his prices and workflows so you can get up and running in 2 days! :) Awesome class overall, and it's a great sequel to his professional headshot class (which I also bought and loved.)

Richard Blenkinsopp

I love Gary's straight teaching style, and appreciate him demonstrating with regular people, not models. This is the real life of a regular photographer! I wish Creative Live could show more from the photographers viewpoint, so that when he's posing and moving lights etc, we see exactly what he's changing, and can analyze why... not sure how they'd achieve this in a live environment though. Loved his going around to less than ideal locations and finding the place that works. My favourite course on Creative Live so far.


Gary makes taking editorial portraits look simple and fun. I want to start shooting heads! I love Creative live and Gary is really doing a great job. I got to buy the class next. Thank you.

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