Updated: Jul 9, 2020
The thing with photographers is that we're always wanting to try something new, something different (new gear, new camera, new locations, etc.). Well, when I heard about this idea of virtual photoshoots being done through video chat, I got curious!
So, how is a Virtual Photoshoot done?
First, you find some models!
I've known my friend, Yvonne, since we were undergraduates in university. She is the sweetest and kindest, and she is also the best listener! Nowadays we bond over motherhood. She has an adorable, super smiley baby boy, and together with her husband in Vancouver, BC, Canada, they are one of the cutest, little families that I know! Hands down! Although I haven't gotten to meet her little guy yet or seen Yvonne with him in person, I can tell from her Instagram that she and her hubby are hands on parents, focused on meeting all of their baby's needs. I have loved their recent "cooking lessons" where their little guy gets to help mix, sprinkle ingredients and taste, while wearing an adorable baby sized apron to boot!
Since light is the most important aspect of photography, Yvonne and I discussed some potential areas in and around her home beforehand that have a good amount of soft or interesting natural light. I asked her to monitor the lighting over a couple of days, at different times, and then report back to me on locations and the times when the light level is abundant. She decided that her backyard was likely the best area. Then, she sent me some pictures of her backyard and I chose this final spot because of the lushness of the green plants. I love how it highlights the beauty of nature without distracting from my beautiful models!
I explained to Yvonne that we were going to use the Zoom video chatting app. Once we got connected and said our hellos, she would open HER camera app on her phone and then she would use Zoom to share her screen with me. That meant that what I viewed on MY screen would be whatever her phone's back camera was pointed at! Now I wouldn't be able to press the shutter button for her, so I told her that she would need to set up some books or other objects ahead of time that she could use to prop up her phone on a table. The other alternative was to use a tripod if she would be able to attach her phone to it.
The Virtual Shoot
Before we started taking pictures, I asked her to set up the camera to use a 10 second timer. Then, once I guided her into some poses and positions with her son, she or her hubby would press the shutter button. If Yvonne pressed the button, she would walk back into position and back into the pose that we just practiced. On my end, I could see the timer count down on Yvonne's camera app, so I counted backward aloud with it, and then the shots were taken! We repeated the process for different poses.
After the Shoot
Yvonne went through the photos on her phone and then sent me her favourite 5 based on focus, facial expression, emotion, visibility of faces and posing! She uploaded these to a file sharing platform, and then I got to edit them in my usual style using the same editing program that I normally use with regular client shoots. I presented them back to her in a beautiful online gallery that was ready to share with family and friends!
So, how did Yvonne and her family do?
They did SO well! I loved seeing her and her hubby interact with their sweet, little boy! They are all just easy-going, go-with-the-flow, lighthearted, good humans, which are the best kind of clients to work with! They were also so patient with me and trusting, as I navigated shooting virtually for the first time ever! I know that I had a great time, and Yvonne said that they all had fun, too! Thanks again, Yvonne, to you and your family for being your cute selves and for being so willing to try this out!
Would I recommend a virtual shoot to clients?
While this virtual photoshoot was DEFINITELY fun to try, I would still recommend in person shoots for my local clients. Here is why:
Although smartphones do come with some pretty great cameras these days, I still can't say that it beats the quality of a real, professional SLR or mirrorless camera. Subjects just truly pop with the latter, when the background melts away into bokeh, aka the blurriness that professional cameras are known for creating.
Professional cameras produce much higher resolution photos, too, which is important for those photos that just have to be big and framed on a wall!
I have better control over composition or how I frame the picture in person. I can also capture more pictures of greater variety in the same amount of time (different perspectives, angles, light, locations, etc.).
Lastly, in person shoots mean ZERO work for clients during and after the session! I do all the work, while families simply enjoy each other's company!
With all that said, virtual photoshoots can still be a fun way to connect with old friends and new clients that are not local!
Tips for doing your own virtual shoot.
Make sure that all parties involved have a fast internet connection, which will help with giving real-time guidance on posing, moving around in the frame and announcing the camera timer countdown as it happens (10, 9, 8, etc.). The latter helps the model return to their position on time after pressing the shutter, and it gives them an accurate countdown to when they need to hold still for the actual picture. With regards to internet privacy, while using Zoom, make sure to have a virtual "waiting room" for the other party to join the video chat and then close the chat to new entries after everyone joins.
Let your model know that it's a very low key, no pressure shoot. Lastly, have fun with it! The novelty will make it interesting and memorable for everyone! Plus, you can absolutely still end up with some pretty cute shots that are full of smiles, laughter and connection, which are my goals for any shoot! :)