Portraits don't have to be boring... though for some reason many people think that is 'just how it is'. Many professional photographers I know take their clients, stick them in front of a solid background, use a key light, and a hair/kicker light, and call it a day. In truth, there is nothing wrong with this approach. Simple backgrounds and simple lighting can be a good way to capture the essence of a subject. But also in truth, this can just be plain old boring.
As a photographer, you don't want to be associated with boring unless you want to be your city's best headshot photographer. Clients today want something exciting, different, and even high-fashion. I will have much more to share with you on the topic as the months pass (and I have exciting news!!) but let me share a couple of quick suggestions for avoiding 'boring portraits'. Below are two intro tips on how to give the 'fashion flair' to your images. I have talked about this before in other posts, because it is essential to my success as a portrait photographer.
First, find interesting locations. Taking your clients outdoors to a field, to an old train, to an alleyway, or someplace unique. If its bad weather, take them on location at a beautiful hotel or restaurant, or in an overhang of an old bridge. Interesting locations really do help make interesting portraits. These locations can just be visually stimulating, or they can reveal something about your subject.
Second, think about styling (of clothes, hair, makeup, etc). Chances are that not all of your clients have a good sense of style. In fact, most times they will show up wearing t-shirts with band logos on it, or wear bright (annoying) colors, or stripes that are unflattering. When you set up a shoot and find your location, be sure to discuss the clothing they are wearing. What fits with the location? What will be most flattering to them? What continues the theme of the shoot? Don't leave styling up to chance... because chances are it won't be good.
Without getting too deep into this subject, let me just share some images from a portrait shoot I did with a high school senior from Vestal High School in Vestal, NY. This young woman, Michelle, is not a professional model. She has beautiful big eyes and soft skin, and needed a senior portrait. She will certainly need the 'boring headshot' for her high school yearbook... thats how yearbooks usually are. But we decided to make her session into a fashion session. We choose our location-- an area of intense greenery we had found in the local river's flood zone. Then we chose our styling. We decided that clothing that emphasized this nature and lush environment would be best for this shoot, and a cross between hippie and nature 'imp' would be best.
A local hair and makeup artist, Tatyana, did the styling of hair and makeup in the living room of my apartment. I bought the dress at a local "Life's Good" shop in Owego, NY. I had my assistant make a headwreath of vines and flowers using fake flowers purchased as Michael's arts and crafts store. Because I developed a concept, chose a location, and was prepared with the styling, I was able to capture the images below. Its not a fashion shoot, its a portrait session with fashion flair... truly beloved by my clients.