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Studio Portrait Session: Behind the Scenes

After opening my own natural light studio, Twin Creative Studio, with my best friend, I’ve spent a lot more time shooting creative portrait sessions. Studio sessions are so different from shooting a wedding or any portrait session outdoors, and for the longest time, they weren't my thing. But lately, I've come to prefer them, and find I'm able to be so much more creative when I can't rely on a landscape, so I wanted to walk you through what a creative studio session looks like for me. 

01. Planning

For any creative shoot, I always make sure to sit down ahead of time to get inspired and plan out everything I’ll need for the shoot. I typically spend an hour or so on Pinterest, saving content until I have enough inspiration and direction for the shoot. I recently did a shoot with my best friend, so we got together to create a vision and gather inspiration. If you have a client that wants to be more involved in the planning process, especially for a branding shoot, it’s always helpful to seek their input during this stage!

02. Shopping, Sourcing, Styling

Source what you can from what you have. You might be surprised what you can do with the things around your house. A pair of sunglasses, a variety of jewelry, mirrors, vases and more can all serve as unique pieces during a shoot. After I’ve gathered things I already have, I love going to thrift stores to find pieces to complete the vision.

03. Gear

In a studio especially, I love to mix up my gear and style of shooting. I shoot with and without flash, film, lens accessories like nylon and cellophane, and experiment with slow shutter. For the most part, I stick with my Canon 5D Mark IV, Yongnuo Flash, and Contax T2 Film Camera

04. Directing

No matter how comfortable your model is in front of the camera, I always think it’s a good idea to start with the most basic and simple poses and ideas to get them warmed up. I mostly stick with simple prompts like telling them to touch their hair, where to look, or to walk back and forth. I'll add variety with outfit changes, props, and furniture, and direct them to interact with those in different ways. For example, I'll tell them to hold on to their collar, play with their necklace, take their jacket off their shoulders, sit backwards in the chair, lean onto the stool, etc.

05. Background & Lighting

I love shooting in a studio because of the variety of looks you can get with different backgrounds and lighting. Our studio has a wall of large windows, a painted white wall adjacent to the windows, a wall of seamless paper backdrops in different colors, and a wall of assorted fabrics. I usually determine what to use by looking at what's happening with the natural light (is it a gloomy day and we need to be by the window for soft natural light or use flash? is the light pouring in and creating cool shadows?) and what vibe we want to go for based off our outfits and inspiration (a clean, classic look with a white backdrop? a monochromatic palette with a background color to match? an edgy look with a dark backdrop, harsh light, or flash? a soft, feminine look with a fabric backdrop?)

06. Editing

The way I edit for client work and for personal or creative work is quite different. When I’m editing for a traditional client, I’m going to focus more on consistency, maybe adding some variety with black and white and some experimental shots. But I think it’s super important to have a signature editing style that is consistent and cohesive so the client knows what to expect when they book you. When I’m editing for personal and creative work, I like to experiment more with different styles. However, there’s a fine line between your gallery looking like you can't decide on an editing style versus intentionally adding some variety in a way that flows with your work. So while there's more variety, I still try to make it flow in a way that works together as a whole gallery and still feels true to my style.

Shooting in a studio has helped me approach portraiture in a new way and get experimental and creative. In my newest course, I take you behind the scenes of a full day planning, shooting and editing for a creative portrait session, available to watch now in Rise Photo Academy!

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