There might not be much of a difference between taking environmental portraits of a person and doing a full-fledge photo shoot but in mind there certainly is. I don’t do many photo shoots in the sense that a commercial or wedding photographer would for a living so it’s been a challenge at times when I get ask to because I’m not too use to the skilled process of giving direction to a model.
With street portraits there might be a modicum of direction given but nothing in comparison to working with someone who assumes you know what you’re doing since you’re the one with the overpriced camera and photographer title. I get more nervous doing small test shoots than I do walking up to a complete stranger requesting a portrait and that’s simply because I do the latter on a consistent basis.
In addition to begin an accomplished photographer, Nick Onken is a upstanding person in that he’s always been really good at dispensing advice based on his practical knowledge of being a photographer now and recalling the steps he took to become one, one of which has to do with how to set up a test shoot in particular. He says:
When I first got interested in shooting people, I pulled some inspiration shots I found from other photographers that I could try and mimic then just grabbed a…friend, walked around the city and experimented with natural light. Starting out with friends gives you the flexibility to learn to direct, and practice lighting without feeling too uncomfortable.
I haven’t had the indulgence to do as many of these test shoots as I would like simply because there’s been a sense of embarrassment and discomfort that overcomes a few of my friends when I pitch the idea that I would like to take a few portraits of them. Part of me feels bad because a quality of being a good photographer is to also have that natural ability to make people feel at ease and secure of themselves even while having a bulky camera pointed at them.
At the expense of getting more acclimated with the process of taking portraits and so he could have new photos to brag about on Facebook, I took to a local above grown train station in Flushing, Queens with co-worker Howard for few test shots one evening. Practice makes perfect.