A Day in the Life of Portrait Photographer Sam ‘Portraitsbysam’

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Have you ever wondered what a day in the life of a professional photographer is like? Wonder no more! Every week, we ask a top-notch 500px photographer to document a day at work — be that in the field, in the studio, or both.

From curious urban exploration shooters to surreal underwater photographers, they offer you an exclusive, behind-the-scenes look at their shooting schedule and techniques in the field.

This week, we’re spending some time in Rennes, France with photographer Sam ‘Portraitsbysam’, whose portraits draw you in and don’t let go. Often moody and deceptively simple, the quality of Sam’s work is an inspiration to anybody who loves portrait photography.

Each of Sam’s photo shoots has both an outdoor and indoor component, and he approaches each one differently to suit the mood.

He’s careful to make the models he works with comfortable, is very aware of the effect small changes in atmosphere can have on a photograph (music, for example) and finds himself spending more and more time on post-processing as quality becomes FAR more important than quantity for his photo shoots.

But you’ll find all of this out from him, so without further ado, we give you a day in the life of Sam Portraitsbysam. Enjoy!

24 Hours with Portraitist Sam Portraitsbysam

8 A.M. Waking up for a new day, yesterday’s ideas have kept me awake quite late but night helped me sort things out. I have a photo shoot in a few hours… quick look out the window to check the light… hold out hope the model will be on time (you never know).

9 A.M. As I always offer both studio and outdoor pictures to the models who come to me, I’ve made up my mind that we’ll start outside today. It’s a bit cold, but the cloudy weather is just too perfect to miss — the kind of soft light I just love.

10 A.M. The model arrives on time! We’ve never met before, I’ve only seen her through the pictures she displayed on her site, which may have been retouched. Good news is she makes a great first impression… she looks beautiful beyond my expectations.

11 A.M. After a quick cup of coffee, I ask her to show me the clothes and accessories she’s brought and I choose the ones I prefer. The more she brought, the better for me… I hate having too little to choose from. We now have everything ready for both the studio and outside shoots.

12 P.M. We arrive at the area I’ve planned for today. Either Nico Luz or Baptiste Rvr will be my assistants for the day; always great to have photographers to assist you. One of them grasps the reflector, I gather the few ideas I’ve prepared, check the light, and ask the model to stand where the light is best — things are getting serious…

1 P.M. We‘ve now been shooting for an hour, and I’ve used the first part of the photo shoot to shoot simple portraits, get to know the model and “get connected.” I’m now going to give some of the more complicated ideas I’ve prepared a try, either in the emotion I want to get or for some more sophisticated poses. I’ll probably click the shutter 10 to 15 times for every idea, to make sure I have the perfect combination of expression, light, framing, and the perfect setting.

2 P.M. Two hours in the same location is more than enough, we’ve moved around to exploit it all, time to go to the studio. Half of the photo shoot was improvised on the spot, some of the best shots are usually the ones I hadn’t planned beforehand.

3 P.M. Big change of atmosphere: we’re now in a quite small room for the next two hours, music will help everybody escape from that confined space — I always do studio photoshoots with music.

4 P.M. The playlist is now moving to some more entertaining, high-energy stuff after a soft start with folk music. Hopefully all these styles of music will allow different atmospheres to show through in the pictures. Everything is more precise in-studio, I take the time to place my lights carefully and often guide the model to a better pose, paying close attention to how the shadows are falling on her/his face.

5 P.M. I’m not tired, but the model probably is; I’ll keep the remaining ideas for next time. We‘d better take some time to have a look at today’s pictures and check what we should keep and what to throw out.

6 P.M. It’s taken half an hour to view and try to find 5 to 10 pictures that stand out above the 400-some pictures we took today. As usual, we kind of agree on the two or three shots that deserve to be post-processed but I’ll allow the model to have a few more for herself. We’ll talk about it again tomorrow, as our vision will change on our pictures after a good night’s sleep.

7 P.M. I can’t wait to start post-processing the two or three shots that met my expectations and share them with 500pxers, but now that I think about it, it might be a better idea to wait until tomorrow…

8 P.M. I might now be post-processing shots from a few days ago and doing some other boring stuff (answering e-mails and messages of course).

9 P.M. I’m now working on a shot from a few days ago. It might take me one hour to try everything I’ve learnt for the past few months before I feel “satisfied” with it — the more I learn, the more time I spend post-processing. Fewer, better pictures is what I try to learn to do. I have a long way to go…

10 P.M. Call it a day.

Note: Obviously, I also dedicated time to my family, but I excluded these details from what looks like a typical day of photography in my life…


We hope spending this virtual day with Sam gave you useful glimpse into the day-to-day of a successful portrait photographer — perhaps you’ll apply some of his ideas to your next shoot, or maybe this was just a source of inspiration to craft your own style.

Here’s a look at a few more of our favorite portraits from Sam’s impressive portfolio:

If you’d like to browse through more of Sam’s work, be sure to give him a follow on both 500px and at his Facebook page. And don’t forget to check back in next week for another installment of A Day in the Life featuring another awesome 500px photographer.

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