Fall Mini Session Tips
- Reach out to people directly – past clients, friends, family, etc. A personal invite makes people feel special. I sold out 75% of this year’s spots just with my personal messages before I even opened them to the public.
- Use Canva or something similar to create graphics to share on social media. Create multiple graphics so that you have different assets to post with.
- Make a social media plan. Utilize all avenues – Facebook business page, FB personal page, FB Stories, IG, IG stories, etc.
- Consider running ads as a last resort. FB, IG, and Google ads are good, but if you promote it well enough within your network, you likely won’t need to do this.
Organization & Logistics
- Require payment in order to secure a spot. Minis are notorious for no-shows because they’re not individualized and therefore not always valued.
- Structure: decide what length of time you’re comfortable with, then schedule blocks of time that are 5-10 minutes longer than the session. This will give a bit of flexibility in the case of late arrivals and allow you some time for a quick break if you need it.
- If you don’t want to deal with the hassle of sending availability every time someone asks, consider using an automatic scheduler like Square Appointments or something similar. You can share the link and they choose their time from the remaining openings.
- Be sure to have all clients sign a model release/contract. You can do this before electronically through 17Hats or a similar CRM, or take paper copies with you for clients to sign upon arrival.
- Set expectations up front. 3-4 weeks prior to the sessions, email all clients with information about:
- Wardrobe suggestions
- Location and parking info
- Prompt arrival
- Turnaround time
- Consider having an assistant with you to help greet people as they arrive, deal with logistics questions, and support with shooting if needed.
- Come prepared – bring extra batteries, memory cards, equipment, etc. Have a cooler with water for you and your clients. Have a few different noisemakers to get the attention of kids and pets. Have a comb, hairspray, and powder for touchups.
- Choose an area that has a few different background options. If you’re doing minis that are longer than 10ish minutes, it’s nice to add some variety in locations.
- Consider the sun position during the time of day you’ll be shooting. For best results, avoid areas with harsh sunlight, which can cause harsh shadows.
- Remember the basics of family posing – connection, triangle, movement, lifestyle, etc.
- Have fun!
I (Jeff) just had a project that was fun and challenging. A client contacted me a few days ago and asked about getting a headshot done for his new company. He works remotely from the main office, as does most of the team, and the CEO asked everyone remote to go and find a photographer who can shoot a headshot of them that matches the one he got so that they will look the same on the company website.
He needed to get the headshot taken and sent to the company in less than a week, so he called and asked me if I thought I could do it. He sent me a copy of the photo over Facebook Messenger and I was excited at the challenge of trying to match the look of a headshot from another photographer and matching it. I told him that I thought I could do it and then I made a mistake. We will get to more on that in a moment.
I asked the client to send me the photo in an email. He was really surprised to hear I wanted it sent in email, so I had to explain that I intended to use the exact background that was in the photo and composite his headshot on that background to make it match very closely. I also wanted to study the image better and see what lighting was being used.
Analysis Of the Example Photo
Erica, I have shared the original image with you so that you can take a look and tell me what you think the setup was for the shot. I would post the image in the show notes but it isn’t my photo so I can’t do that. What do you see Erica?
- Subject very close to the background
- 1 light – likely a small light source because of harsh shadows beneath the nose and chin, positioned directly in front of the subject causing pretty flat lighting
That was my analysis too. The background was grey but it had some kind of design in it that meant I could just do a grey background that matched, I was thinking while sending messages through Facebook Messenger that I needed to use EXACTLY the background from the example photo by cloning or using content-aware fill on the CEO in the photo to get to a plain background and then composite my client onto that background.
Now I had two decisions to make. What background to shoot with for my client that would make the composite as easy and believable as possible? What lighting setup should I use?
Choosing a Background
The client contacted me on Friday, we scheduled to have him come to my house and do the shoot in my basement just 3 days later on the following Monday during my lunch break. Thinking through the composite, I had two options for the background. I could go green or white. Erica, what would you choose and why?
Erica: I generally prefer white, because it’s easier to deal with hair and clients aren’t limited to no green in their wardrobe.
I have a green background and have tried it before for composite work. While it may be almost a requirement for video work I had found white to be far better to work with for stills. Since it had been a while since I tried the green and my shooting and processing skills have developed a lot since then, I had to test it out. Yes, I had to take a break from all the Lightroom testing I have been doing.
I used content aware fill to take the CEO out of the image so that I had the gray background that was used in his image and then I took some photos of myself with both the green and white backgrounds to see which would be easiest to work with for the composite.
The green background made selection a breeze by doing select by color in Photoshop. I didn’t have any green on and it was a pretty good bet my client wouldn’t have green on in a corporate headshot, so that would have worked really well. The problem I faced in my testing shots of myself was no matter what I did with all of the color selection settings there was a little bit of green around the hair – what little I have.
There are things you can do with that like using color adjustment layers, but after comparing that to the work it took to use the quick selection tool and then the Select and Mask workspace to cut the model out of the photo when using the white background I was convinced that white would be better for what was going to be a really fast turnaround.
What would have been best, knowing that the background was a fairly dark grey color, would have been a grey background. I probably wouldn’t have had to do nearly the work of cutting the model at as precisely as I needed to with white. Unfortunately, I don’t have a grey background. That has been added to my list of things I need to add to my gear. So I decided on white with it be a little more forgiving where a little left over white just looks like hair light in the portrait.
I also had to test what my lighting setup was going to be. I did a single light setup like I thought was done in the photo I am mimicking, but I decided that I wasn’t happy with that. So I did a three light setup.
The pose had to be the shoulders at a very slight angle with the right shoulder forward from the left shoulder. I put a main light, the light that is the brightest and providing most of the light for the portrait, off camera right. I used a Fotodiox Deep EZ-Pro 36in Parabolic Softbox modifying a Godox AD200 flash with the bulb head instead of the fresnel (the flat rectangular) head.
I put a fill light, a light intended to gently fill the shadows of the model slightly and not be the equal of the main light, off camera to the left. I used a Fotodiox Deep EZ-Pro 28in Parabolic Softbox modifying a second Godox AD200 flash. Both lights easy choices because that is the lighting equipment I have and it looked really good in my testing.
Because I am using a white background I wanted to make sure I added a third light behind the model that helps separate the model from the background, often called a hair light. I wanted to use a 3rd AD200 with a MadMod MagGrid and MagSphere. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find them anywhere. Turned out those two MagMod pieces were in the car from my last shoot. Instead I opted for a Godox TT600 with the MagMod MagBounce modifier and I just turned it into the background until it didn’t produce hot spots on the model.
Surprises at the Shoot
Even though I had done testing before the shoot and put myself on the background so that it looked extremely convincing to me that the image was not a composite, as lunch approached on Monday I was getting butterflies with anticipation. I wanted to nail this shoot and I wanted to do it super fast. Not just for the client, I wanted to prove to myself I had developed as a photographer enough that I could nail this shoot very quickly.
Lunch came and the client walks in with 3 changes of clothes! I thought I would take a couple of shots in about 5 to 10 minutes to have a few options to work with in my composite. Instead, and this as my fault for not doing a better job at establishing expectations up front, he tells me he wants to actually do four different clothing options and to do toothy smile and non-toothy smile for each. So we are up to 8 different images I need to composite.
I created the shots. Everything was looking good in camera so I was feeling pretty confident. The client was in my basement no more than 15 minutes, most of that time being the wardrobe changes he was making. I finished working the day job and then was able to cut out and composite all 8 poses onto the background in about 45 minutes.
Jeff: Cable Matters 3 Port USB C Hub with Ethernet ($20) to help get older USB devices connected to MacBook Pro or PC with the newer USB C ports.
Erica: Toggl – free time tracking program. Useful for tracking how much time you spend on certain tasks, tracking hours for a client, etc.
- Facebook group is Master Photography Podcast
- Instagram account for the show is @masterphotographypodcast
- Find Jeff’s work at https://www.jsharmonphotos.com. Check out his Photo Taco podcast over at https://phototacopodcast.com where you can search all kinds of topics and find shows discussing the details. He is on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/harmon.jeff, Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/harmonjeff/ (@harmonjeff), and Twitter: https://twitter.com/harmon_jeff (@harmon_jeff)
- Find Erica’s work at ericakayphotography.com and on Facebook and Instagram under Erica Kay Photography.