Portrait Photography Lessons

Private Portrait Photography Lessons by San Diego, California Professional Photographer Chris Keeney.

Lesson Plan

I love working with people who are passionate and excited to learn portrait photography. Each new person I meet and work with is always a exciting experience. I start each class/session by asking people why they like portrait photography and what it is they hope to learn. Since portrait photography is the art of working with people to create images that best reflects their distinctive  personality. I find that some people spend so much time fussing with photo gear they lose track of what is really important… the person(s) they’re photographing. I like to teach that it’s best to encourage people you’re working with to be part of the creative process and I will talk about ways you can do that.

I’ve found that when people take this class, they already know the basics of photography, but if people want to review those talking points, we can.

Marketing Yourself, Estimating and Invoicing
We’ll only talk about these aspects if you’re planning on charging people for your portraits. How are you going to market yourself? Galleries on a website, printed flyers, email blasts, online ads, etc. These days there are more and more photographers looking for clients, so how do you plan on standing out? What are the best ways to estimate your shoots and how you will come up with these numbers? Do you charge for prints or are those included in your price? Do you ask for a deposit before the shoot? Do you offer a disc with all the images or make people pay for that? Do you use a service online to sell your photos or do you host those galleries on your own website?  When you start charging for you photography services there are all sorts of things you’ll need to think about.

Camera Gear and Lenses
I’ve alway been someone who believed it’s not the camera that makes the photograph but the person using it. It’s just a tool. But like all tools, there are good ones and bad ones. Choosing the right tools for the job is always important and the quality or lack of quality of those tools will often determine the outcome of the job at hand. We will review your camera and lenses (if you have any) and determine the best gear in your kit for creating portraits. We’ll talk about the proper F stops and shutter speeds for different types of portraits. We’ll talk about depth-of-field and why that’s important for portraiture.

Locations, Backgrounds and Composition
Where you have your photos done and how you position your subjects is something that can make or break a good portrait. A lot of the times photographers will take a nice portrait but forget how important the background is after it’s too late to retake the shot. I think it’s better to spend less time in post processing fixing mistakes that could have been avoided when setting up the shot. How to use seamless paper backgrounds and the gear you’ll need to roll them out. I’ll talk about the importance of composing people and ways you can make your images look less staged. Locations for portraits is also an important part of taking good portraits. Sometimes you don’t have control of where your portraits are done but if you do I’lll talk about things you can do to find better spots to take portrait photos. I’m not a lawyer but I will also talk about legal aspects of shooting in private and public places. Things you can and cannot do as a commercial photographer.

Lighting (On Camera Flash, Off Camera Flash, Studio Lights with Umbrellas and Softboxes, Diffusers and Reflectors
Lighting portraits in my opinion is the second most important part. Once you’ve found the best location(s) the next thing to do is figure out the lighting. Often time, it’s the lighting that makes the spot. I rarely ever make portraits in full sun but if I have to I will talk about how to properly diffuse, and light portraits done in full sun. I have multiple lighting kits but will determine which kit I bring depending on the complexity of the shoot. If I have to move around a lot, I will keep my kit small and simple. If I’m fortunate enough to have a photographer’s assistant with me, I bring a couple different kits and then decide on location. During the lesson we can go over each type of kit, from on camera flash to battery operated studio strobes with soft boxes. We will also talk about wireless triggers and how they operate. More importantly we will talk about how and where to position the light(s). What to do when someone is wearing glasses, how to work with people that squints, etc. How to light the eyes, the background and why is “hair light” important.

People often ask me, “what’s the best time of the day to have portraits done”. If I could pick, I would have all my portraits done during “The Golden Hour”. This is usually an hour to and hour and a half before sunset. The light is warm, soft and low in the sky, which makes for some really nice portrait lighting. I usually will have people meet before this window so we have time to talk and discuss what spots look good for backgrounds. If I don’t have control over the time of the shoot then I will find a shaded spot that is large enough to fit my subject(s). I’ve found that open shade is the best for portraits. Working in the shade has it’s own problems though. I will talk about dappled light and how to avoid or fix spots that have it. We will go over how to make the best of making portraits at any given time of the day. What time of the day is best to create portraits and why. If you can’t control that time then I will talk about things you can do to improve the quality of your photos, be it headshots, family or business group photos, babies and children.

Hair and Makeup
I must admit, I don’t know much about this topic but I know it’s a really important part of portraiture. If you’re going to be lighting someone’s face, most likely you’re going to get some sheen from the oils our skin produces. For woman, makeup usually takes care of this problem but for men, that’s another story. Hair is another part of portraiture that’s important. We’ll talk about what I do for both of these aspects during and after the photoshoot.

Client Follow-Up, Editting, Post Processing and Retouching
So your photoshoot went well and you’ve determined that you’ve got a few winners in the mix from looking on your camera. Well, you’re not done… not even close. I like to get images off the cards and onto my computer as soon as possible. Once the images are on your computer we can talk about ways to edit, process and retouch these images. I also like to reach out to the people who were at the shoot and send them a couple images

OK, Chris, so what’s all this going to cost me?
I don’t like to list prices online. I feel that often times people won’t reach out to you after they’ve seen a price. Regardless if you’re a corporate client or a private individual, I’m always willing to work with people so we can come to an agreement that works for everyone. So please don’t be afraid to reach out and contact me at ck@chriskeeney.com or text/call me at 619-988-1705 so we can chat a bit and discuss a lesson(s) that work best for you. In the past I’ve given lessons to elementary school students, high school students, adults and seniors. You can read my testimonials here if you want to hear more about what my clients have to say about me and my work. I’m located near downtown, so obviously if I have to drive a ways to get to you, I have to factor that into my cost. But regardless of all that, I will do my best to give you a price that is fair.

Lesson Plan Update – 11.01.17