Get 50% Off Affinity Photo Today!

How To Capture Personality In Your Portraiture When You're Given Minutes

When time is of the essence, capturing a perfect portrait can be tricky but photographer Alex Lagarejos has a formula that will help you get the shot.

|  Portraits and People
 Add Comment

It’s great when you have plenty of time with a subject, you can gently ease them into the shoot, take the time to discuss any ideas they have and even try new things during the shoot to see where it leads you. Most people are not used to getting their photograph taken professionally. It’s a weird experience that makes people nervous, anxious and tense - the very things that are guaranteed to ruin an image. With the luxury of time, it’s actually quite easy to put people at ease and get them to relax in front of the camera but the reality is that in most cases, you don’t get that luxury.


Male portrait


The majority of my work involves 5-10 minute slots with a subject and in that time I’ve got to get them relaxed, at ease and rocking their shots. Sometimes you are blessed with luck, you instantly click with your subject and you know you’ve got your shot within the first few minutes but on those days when the photography fairies are busy, it’s good to have a formula to work through that will massively increase your chances of nailing that shot. Here are some of the points I always consider when setting up a shoot: 

Female portrait


1. Prep Your Subject

I have a detailed article that I send out to people before I photograph them. It gives them an idea of how I work, what to expect and some simple things they can plan for during the shoot. It takes away the fear of the unknown and gives them a bit of a game plan. People like to have an idea of what they are getting into and this helps stave off any anxiety.


male portrait


2. Keep Your Set-Up As Simple As Possible

There’s no time for adjustment in a tight schedule, you shouldn’t even be thinking about the technical side of things when your subject is in front of you. Keep it simple and have a quick to implement back-up in place just in case the worst happens. I always shoot with a spare light already rigged up so I can switch over in a matter of seconds as if I have 5 minutes, I can’t spend 4 of those switching lights around.


male portrait


3. Talk To Your Subject

It may sound obvious but silence only exasperates nerves. I spent a fair amount of time in front of the camera and can tell you that the one thing that so many photographers forget to do is talk to their subject. I don’t mean just directing them, it’s important to get into a conversation as it will help relax them and it opens up the possibility of getting them talking about a subject that they are passionate about. You want that energy and engagement behind their eyes and talking about a subject they care about is the quickest way. I like to keep things spontaneous but I do have a few set stories that I’ll bring out if I’m struggling.


Female portrait


4. Play Music

I never conduct a shoot without music playing. In fact, I have several carefully curated playlists to match what I’m trying to achieve and it makes a massive difference. Music can lift the mood, provide a distraction and inject energy. The few times I’ve been forced to shoot without it I’ve really felt the difference and it makes everything harder.


Male portrait


It can be easy on a shoot to let panic set in and focus on the lack of time but you have to fight it as your concentration needs to be razor sharp for every second your subject is in front of you. If your focus starts to wander so will your subject’s and it’s easy to lose someone and then spend the rest of your time trying to get them back in the moment. As long as you are confident and engaged with them, they will respond and reflect your energy and mood. On any shoot, you definitely get out what you put in!


Alex LagarejosAbout Author: Alex Lagarejos

Alex Lagarejos is an award-winning photographer based in South West London. Originally from Glasgow, Alex moved to London as a teenager and pursued a career in the arts. To fund his way through drama school, Alex was lucky enough to work as an assistant to some of London’s top photographers where he honed his craft.

Now, Alex has managed to forge his way as an acclaimed photographer and offers first-class headshot sessions in both the acting and corporate world. Commercially, Alex Lagarejos Photography has also secured several large editorial, travel and lifestyle commissions.

Support this site by making a Donation, purchasing Plus Membership, or shopping with one of our affiliates: Amazon UK, Amazon US, Amazon CA, ebay UK, WEX

It doesn't cost you anything extra when you use these links, but it does support the site, helping keep ePHOTOzine free to use, thank you.

Other articles you might find interesting...

4 Top Tips On How To Photography People In Markets
5 Top Gig Photography Tips Every Music Fan Needs
Shoot Better Environmental Portraits With These 5 Tips
3 Top Tips On Shooting Stunning Summer Silhouettes
12 Essential Tips For Capturing Images At The Edinburgh Fringe
How To Take Great photos At A Re-Enactment Weekend
5 Basic But Essential Top Portrait Photography Tips
7 Top Carnival Photography Tips


8 Dec 2016 12:28PM
That's a superb check-list Alex. Why, oh why, have I never thought about having music playing in the background? Such a simple idea and will give it a go next time.
4k78l 4 278 1 New Caledonia
9 Dec 2016 10:09AM
Seems like it's working for you, but I'll never look at people as subjects. We are not a couch or a lamp.
johnty 15 29 Wales
14 Dec 2016 8:28AM
Thanks for the tips Alex, there are obviously a lot of other background things to do before you 5mins contact time, but you have made this very concise and so easier to remember.

Sign In

You must be a member to leave a comment.

ePHOTOzine, the web's friendliest photography community.

Join For Free

Upload photos, chat with photographers, win prizes and much more.