3 min read

Interview with Serena Bolton | GBPW Episode 138

3 min read

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Serena Bolton.

It’s really important to reassure each subject that there is nothing they can do wrong.

Serena Bolton

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This week, portrait photographer Serena Bolton talks about her journey, from studying art to finding photography inspiration in India. Serena is a generalist, which means that she specialises in a variety of photography genres. Her portfolio is full of stunning business, family, wedding, and portrait photos.

In this episode, we talk about:

  • How India inspired Serena Bolton to pursue photography
  • Her diverse portfolio and why she enjoys being a generalist
  • How to connect with clients that aren’t professional models

& much more!

This episode is ideal for anyone who’s interested in portrait photography. Whether you’re a family or business photographer, you’re likely to find some valuable tips in this conversation.

Here is a preview of our conversation with Serena Bolton.

Q: Do you have any tips for aspiring headshot photographers?

Serena Bolton: I often work with large organisations, and there are quite a few people to photograph in the day. I can photograph up to 27 people in a day. For me, it’s important to find out what the clients want to achieve from their session. At the first consultation, it’s really listening to the client and what their brief is. Then, I explain to them how I work.

Because I’m a people’s person, I advise them that I’m not a conveyor belt photographer. I don’t want a line of people waiting for their shoot. Generally, I need at least 15 minutes per person. Initially, I get them to start off by taking a deep breath and just grounding themselves. Most people have their headshots done in the office, so it can be quite awkward. We have a couple of minutes of just decompressing.

Then I say to them, “There’s nothing you can do wrong during the session at all. How do you feel about having your portrait taken?” We start the session, and I explain to them exactly what it is we’re trying to achieve. I want to capture a good, professional, friendly, and approachable headshot. One quite serious, and one kind of fun. And then we go from there.

Q: When you initially started, you didn’t charge anything. Is this something you would recommend to beginners in photography?

Serena Bolton: I’m getting a lot of interest from people who are just starting out in photography. I normally recommend to just take photographs. If you have a willing person, take photographs. Just practice and practice. If you can charge for it, great. If you don’t, it’s really about building up a portfolio, confidence, and expertise.

I wouldn’t recommend not charging forever because what I have found, once you start charging, is that people treat you more professionally. When I didn’t charge, people would take advantage sometimes, but it was a great way of building a portfolio and building confidence.

Q: One of your biggest strengths as a photographer is connecting with models and making them feel comfortable. How do you achieve that?

Serena Bolton: I’m a naturally curious person and I like people. In portrait photography, it’s great if you’ve got good social skills and that you’re interested in people. Portraiture isn’t something that’s there for everybody.

Initially, I introduce myself. I put them at ease by asking them questions. I’m curious about what they do. Asking questions distracts them from the nerves of having a shoot. I work with people, not supermodels. Most of the people I work with are very nervous about having their photograph taken. The more you make them feel at ease by just asking them questions, finding out about them, giving them a cup of tea, the more at ease that they feel.

I’m not attached to my camera, so I don’t have a strap around my camera. It’s almost like I’m having a conversation with my subject with my camera at my side.


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Taya Iv is a portrait photographer, 500px ambassador, and host of Great Big Photography World podcast.
Taya Iv is a portrait photographer, 500px ambassador, and host of Great Big Photography World podcast.

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