My Five W’s of Portrait Photography

I’ve said before how I like to get in to the who, what, when, where, and why of anyone I’m lucky enough to photograph. So let me expand on that a bit. Here’s the things I really want to know to help me tell your story.


Is there anything that springs to mind that is characteristically ‘you’?  It may be useful to speak to your closest friends and family for help with this one.  If I asked them about you, what do you think they would say? For example, is there a particular habit, a personality trait that you have?


You know that good old conversation starter ‘so what do you do?’.  Yeah, that’s what this bit is about.  Except, unless you’re booking with me for a corporate headshot, it doesn’t apply to your job.  I’m fascinated by entrepreneurs, the challenges they face and how they overcome those challenges.  These are the kinds of story I love to tell.  Outside of that, people are so much more than their jobs.

I’m equally excited to tell stories about the dedication and commitment people show to their hobbies, or anything else you may be particularly passionate about.  Athletes, for example, put themselves through all kinds of physical punishment to raise themselves to the top of their game.  When their friends are going out for a beer, they’re hitting the gym for the second/third/fourth time that day.  I want to get in to the psychology behind what drives people to that kind of commitment and tell that story with my images.


What times of day or year does your ‘what’ happen?  If you’re a musician, it’s likely that you practice all hours to play gigs until 2/3 in the morning and then go to work for 9.  Is what you do limited by the seasons?  Do you have to put up with sub-zero temperatures or extreme heat?  This an essential part of your story that tells the viewer about your commitment.


If I’m following the examples of the athlete or musician mentioned above, this applies to both where you practice and where you might perform.  So often your friends and family only get to see you when you’re up on that stage, the finished article, ready to rock it! This is your chance to give them a peek behind the scenes.


This is a lot more difficult because I’m looking for an answer that goes a little deeper than ‘because it’s fun’. Unlike the section about ‘Who’, the only person that can answer this is you and may require some soul searching.  If you’re interested in spending some time on this, check out ‘Start With Why‘ by Simon Sinek.  It’s geared towards business owners and leaders, but if that’s not you, there’s still some relevance in it.

Here’s a short version of a video where Simon Sinek does a TED Talk on Start With Why:

Simon Sinek – Start With Why

I hinted at my own ‘why’ in the section about ‘what’.  People face challenges all the time in different areas of their lives.  I want to capture the story of those challenges and how people overcome them.  Maybe there’s something in there that connects us all.

I’ll follow up this article next week with a more in depth look at my own ‘why’. Subscribe to this blog if you’d like to be notified when I share it.


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