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    A guide for beginners about portraits of older clients: part 1 – preparation and report


    The Post-A Beginner's Guide to Portraits of Older Clients: Part 1 – Preparation and Report first appeared at Digital Photography School. It is written by Clinton Moore.

    1 - Take portraits of older clients

    You often hear that excellent photography is about telling stories. An image may not have the perfect lighting conditions or the sharpness of the shaver, but if it makes contact with you, that may be all that matters.

    Working with older customers can be the ultimate storyline, because these people have experience with kicking!

    In this first of a two-part series about working with older customers, we will examine the practical and reporting aspects of creating a story by clicking on a shutter. Part two focuses on lighting and posing techniques.

    How old is old?

    2 - Take portraits of older clients

    Remember that there is a spectrum of seniors. Most do not see themselves as fragile or gray. Get to know your stereotypes and your subject.

    A place where your point of view can stand in the way of a large picture are generalizations about age. You have fallen into this trap from the moment you conceptualize your client as ' old ' or ' aged & # 39 ;.

    They tend to hate these conditions. Can you blame them?

    It is important to take a step back and remember that there is a spectrum of elderly people. A 65-year-old probably goes to a different place in their life, both physically and mentally, to a 90-year-old. This includes everything from their health and mobility to their attitude to what they want in a portrait.

    Try getting a 90-year-old for a brisk walk along the beach at dusk, just like in your standard family portraits.

    Step back once and remember that you need to know where your customer is before you pick up your camera. Finally, age is a state of mind.

    Build report

    Older customers tend to take a little more time to photograph. They have been around a few times and want to get to know you a bit first. Neither are they usually trained models who are looking for a glamor shot for their Instagram feed.

    For them, a photo is an event, not an addiction.

    3 - Take portraits of older clients

    Older generations may have had only one formal photo in their lives. Do not assume that they feel comfortable around the camera just because they are there.

    Communicate in their way

    You may be used to connecting through a world of emails and social media, but this is not always the case for older customers. For many older customers, their first instinct will be to pick up the phone (and we don't even talk about a cell phone half the time)!

    So make sure that you place your telephone number prominently on your website and other forms of marketing. This creates a sense of confidence that you don't just run away with their money.

    Of course many older customers do have e-mail, but they can probably hold you to a higher standard of communication than you are used to on social media. Make sure you address them formally (i.e., "Dear John"), do not use modern abbreviations or jargon and check your spelling and grammar!

    Create comfort

    When photographing a portrait, comfort must be your top priority, regardless of the age of your client. For older customers you may need to do something more than just make bad jokes behind the lens.

    Take the time to meet your client before the recording date. Sit down with them and be prepared to share part of your personal story. This means more than just your recording style. Tell them about where you come from, your family or your interests.

    This approach of the old school type may seem a bit strange if you are used to more modern online interactions. However, it builds trust for older customers.

    Try to keep in mind that older generations did not grow up with cameras that were stuck in their faces every second of the day. So your first task is really to make them feel safe. It is quite possible that the photo session was the idea of ​​their children and that the client himself might not have been completely on board.

    So make sure that they feel at ease. Communicate your process and timeline clearly and stick to it!

    4 - Take portraits of older clients

    Sitting with your client can be the most interesting part of the entire process. Take the time to do it right.

    Understand their purpose

    Who paid for the shoot? One of the difficult aspects of working with the elderly is that they may not really be the customer!

    If their children are aware of the bill, understand what they want from the session, in addition to the desired results for older people. This is often a compromise. This emphasizes the importance of communication and preparation.

    Assuming that the older person is your client, the first step is to determine how they want to be portrayed. Although this should be standard, regardless of age, there are a few areas that can stumble you.

    If they are quite old, this portrait may be the photo intended for the tombstone. No one will say it out loud, but people may think so. As such, family members can have different but strong opinions about how things should look.

    Keep in mind that some customers may want to be photoshopped again in their 20s, while others are proud to show their wrinkles. As always, communication is essential!

    Be careful when imposing your ideas about age photography on the session. Try to avoid the cliché images of the serious or delirious old person. Let their personality shine instead.

    5 - Take portraits of older clients

    Avoid clichéd shots and post-processing where older subjects are depicted as worn or childish. Let their personality guide your images.

    Get out of their sight

    Do you want to make an 80+ year old client feel uncomfortable immediately? Get straight in their face with a lens. Apart from the fact that it is unlikely to give a very flattering appearance, it can feel intimidating.

    They may also not be so happy that they are surrounded by multiple light standards, softboxes, flags and reflectors.

    Find the acceleration level at which you feel comfortable during your first consultation. If that just means natural light through a window, work with it.

    Posed versus public photos ' s

    One of the most important initial questions for the recording is whether the client poses or wants to take candid photos.

    Although the wishes of the customer must primarily guide this decision, you must take into account a number of factors.

    Clients experiencing dementia, especially frontal dementia, may have difficulty with a posed photo session. Frontal dementia influences a person's ability to plan and organize. So you usually get simple instructions, such as "open your eyes and smile on the count of three," can quickly descend into chaos.

    That said, if you're doing a family shoot, a bit of this chaos (if nobody is too embarrassed) can be a great natural ice-breaker.

    If in doubt, ask yourself in which style the client's personality is best reflected. A shot grandpa who is tinkering in his workshop can be infinitely more valuable than a measly headshot for the family.

    6 - Take portraits of older clients

    Sometimes the best photo is not the perfectly lit, composed and exposed image. A snapshot of a family can be infinitely more iconic if it captures the personality of your subject.

    Duration of the sessions

    When photographing considerably older customers, keep sessions as short as possible.

    The process of concentrating on a series of different instructions can be quite tiring. There is also a good chance that their preparation for the shoot starts well before you arrive.

    As mentioned earlier, clients suffering from dementia may also experience a phenomenon that ' sundowning ' and that tends to become more confused towards the end of the day.

    Do you see again how important it is to make sure you know your client before you organize something?

    7 - Take portraits of older clients

    Make a note of everything you can do during your preliminary consultation to create a detailed idea of ​​your client and his needs.

    Mobility and location of sessions

    Although a 60-year-old customer can probably go anywhere you can think of; a 90-year-old customer cannot. Something as small as a staircase can be a huge obstacle for a considerably older customer.

    Plan in advance where you are going and give your client plenty of time to get there.

    Asking them to cross a park to get to a nice place where you usually take your customers, would eventually take more time than you wanted for the entire shoot.

    As you can see, it becomes a bit more complicated when you leave the client at home. However, do not be discouraged from going outside. Perform the groundwork in advance and ensure that all involved are on the same page.

    8 - Take portraits of older clients

    Be realistic about the areas that an older person can access. A few steps can also be a mountain for some. It never hurts to send your assistant to view it first.


    Working with older customers is a wonderful experience. Their sincerity is hard to miss. To ensure that you have the best chance of a successful shot, take the time to prepare for more than just your light diagrams. Focus on understanding the goals and personality of the customer. Work with the family as needed and make their comfort your first priority.

    Next time we will review some ideas about lighting and older customers.

    Do you have any other tips that you want to share? If so, do this in the comments section.

    The Post-A Beginner's Guide to Portraits of Older Clients: Part 1 – Preparation and Report first appeared at Digital Photography School. It is written by Clinton Moore.

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