The 3p's of Fine Family Portraits

by Orange County Photographer, @Mark Jordan Photography - This post will soon been sectioned into 3 Parts (by readers requests). 

The planning, scheduling and creation of a Mark Jordan Photography portrait should be an enjoyable experience. To this end Mark Jordan has classified the entire portrait process into three detailed, yet simple, sessions:

1. Planning Session
2. Portrait Session
3. Preview Session

1. PLANNING Session
After an informal, informative talk, I will ask which of our three Portrait Sessions (and accompanying design services) best meet your particular needs. Your choice of the most appropriate Portrait Session and the corresponding nonrefundable commission retainer must be decided before we move ahead to the actual Planning phase. Therefore, if there is anyone besides yourself who might want a voice regarding the design of your portrait, it is vital that they accompany you.

Once I (Mark Jordan Photography) have been commissioned to create your portrait, I will segue into the actual planning/design phase. Besides discussing the spirit and style of your portrait, I will also assist you with clothing arrangements and consider possible portrait locations. Regardless of the vast majority of photographers in orange county not spending the time to plan the detail of your family portrait prior to your portrait session, I am convinced that the preliminary planning session is of utmost importance the success of your family portrait.

Lastly, I will also provide a Portrait Preparation Guide to serve as your personal, at home guide. If you already have clothing in mind, please bring them along. You’ll be one step ahead - quickly. We will never tell you what to wear but merely inform you of the consequences of the clothing you've selected. If requested, we will only help you choose and harmonize (not match) your clothing.
Though clients frequently want to wear "white" for their beach portraits, it's far from an ideal choice. I had to work
hard here to ensure there was ample white foam to balance their white shirts and make them appear not the focal point. 

2. PORTRAIT Session
• Once the preliminary design preparations have been made, a portrait date and time will be reserved.

Outdoor portrait sessions may be scheduled on most any day of the week and, depending on the desired location, are set 1-2 hours before sunset. Because of their more casual, unstructured feel, outdoor sessions are fast paced and last only 30-40 minutes - fun and painless.

Remember, the quintessential difference between Photographer and Painter is that the photographer has the moment. Thought it's fashionable these days among the MWACs (moms with cameras) to boast of sessions comprised of hours of "shooting time," reality is, the perfect golden light lasts but only a fraction of that, and the rapid fire, shotgun approach might yield a boat load of exposures, but so very few precious moments. The professional photographer is one who not only captures honest, spontaneous expressions, but "paints with light," taking full advantage of its brief moment of glory.

• When the inevitable risks of wind, sand, tousled hair/clothing, and managing the challenges of a host of imperfections are not 'your thing,' we advise keeping with the controlled setting of the Studio. Since Studio sessions tend to be more structured, where I have exact control over lighting (as well as environmental conditions such as room temperature, comfort, etc.), and we are in no hurry to catch the last golden rays of sunset, they can last about an hour or so. The length depends on three primary factors:

  1. number of people in your portrait
  2. varied poses you require
  3. number of groupings you request. 

The operative mindset we advise is "keep things simple"- less is definitively more

Again, I know the current trend (and I've seen many in the last 30 years) is to "shoot" everything in sight, create hundreds of exposures (hoping something of value might be found), toss them all on a CD and proclaim professional status. 

Regardless of the latest fad, at Mark Jordan Photographer, we remain committed not only to the art of photographing people, but to you and your family in particular. After all, you're not commissioning a photographer for what you know about photography, but rather for a professional photographer who has dedicated himself wholly to the mastery of his craft.

No Compromises: Mark Jordan Photography creates only one outdoor portrait per evening. Why? So that every creation is enveloped in that magical, setting light known as the golden hour. Besides capturing the moment, the quick setting sun is yet another reason for the fast paced nature of our outdoor portraits.

3. PREVIEW Session
• The final phase in creating your portrait is selecting your favorite expressions. Please note that I did say "expressions" and not "exposures." Why? Since the advent of digital capture, families today have the extraordinary option of choosing their absolute favorite expressions from each of their family members. I personally assist my clients through the entire selection process.

In brief, the selection process consists of viewing your previews on a large monitor (i.e. since we are a digital portrait studio, "proofing" is now a relic of the past), while "starring" each chosen expression to later compare. Our large monitor not only allows us to then zoom-in close to reveal expression details,  but also to evaluate as many as eight closeups at a time. For most, the expression that has had captured them best becomes readily apparent. For others, it might require a bit of nontechnical analysis on my part...

• There is no single best way to select your favorite expressions. While some clients prefer to see their previews for the first time sitting with me at our studio, others prefer the "sneak preview" approach, which simply entails me posting the images online for them to view at the leisure. Though both methods are valid, visiting the studio AND allowing me to help you through the process at our portrait studio is by far the most beneficial. I much prefer a combination of the two.

• Determine the appropriate portrait size requires another set of skills all together. While the vast majorit of clients instruct me to complete the digital retouching aspects of their portrait before selecting a size, some prefer to decide their favorite expressions AND their portait sizes all in one session. Regardless, of when, both approaches necessitate that I project their portraits. I perform this simply yet informative  task in our consultation room by projecting your selections onto a large screen.

While projecting every desired size, as well as alternative sizes in either direction (smaller and larger), we also consider the vital  elements of The ABC’s of Portrait Selection. Though you can learn more about the ABC's either in our blog post, or on our website, the primary factor that we must weigh is "head size." From temple to temple, an appropriate sized head must not be any less than 3 inches and no larger than 6 inches. Within this limited span there are some portrait dimensions that'll be more appealing while others that will not.

However, just as I cannot tell how much salt to pour on your popcorn, it's also not my place to tell you what size feels most lifelike and engenders the greatest degree of emotional impact.  Once you see it you will know. It's at this point we discuss the most appropriate surface finish as well as compare differing prices.

As always, should you have any questions, no concern is too small:

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