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My First Photo Shoot by Avril McPherson

By Avril McPherson

I first picked up a camera five years ago, aged 50. Nothing fancy, a bridge camera, the Canon PowerShot SX60, but it has been a good learning tool and has been a great ‘friend’ over the years.  

Little did I know how hooked I would become – my mediation, my passion, my obsession.

Photograph by Avril McPherson for iPhotography.com

Image by Avril McPherson

What Type of Photographer Am I?

For the most part I have been drawn to landscapes, seascapes, wildlife, and aircraft. The first three because of the beauty only photographers get to see through the lens.

The vibrant colours of trees and flowers, the sheer force of nature that makes beautiful waves. The latter is of interest because I love aircraft and just happen to live on the flight path for Edinburgh Airport.

My First Portrait Photo Shoot

The one thing I was sure I did not want to photograph was people. In an age of ‘selfies’ I figured people already that angle covered themselves.  Well, excluding me that is – ironically, nothing makes me more uncomfortable than being in front of a camera.  

COVID-19 and lockdown brought a change of heart. Not directly linked to COVID-19 of course, but somewhere amidst the chaos I had an epiphany. Life is short and you should not dismiss anything when you still have time to try.

I also came across photographer Sue Bryce via Creative Live and was thoroughly inspired by her straightforward talk and passion for her craft, not to mention her brilliance.  And I thought why not give portrait photography a shot (excuse the pun).

Photograph by Avril McPherson for iPhotography.com

Image by Avril McPherson

How I Found a Model to Photograph

Of course, I first had to find someone to photograph.  Option 1; walk up to someone in the street and ask, ‘do you want to model for me?’ Nope, that sounds a bit creepy lol.

Instead, I posted in the village neighbourhood Facebook page. Surprisingly, I had a great reaction and within an hour had four possible shoots and had to take the post down because I knew I shouldn’t over commit. I finished my first one last weekend with a young girl called Andrea. 

As luck would have it, she was perfect for my first attempt; so beautiful that even with my limited skill the camera loved her anyway. And she was great to direct – even climbing on a log, through a broken fence and climbing up a tree trunk!

Photograph by Avril McPherson for iPhotography.com

Image by Avril McPherson

The Day of the Shoot

First, a word of caution to any overthinkers like me about to embark on a new direction in their photography. In short, don’t feel the need to mess around with your camera settings immediately before an important event because you think it make will your photos better.

Unless you know what you’re doing I would advise you leave well alone. Leave such notions for your practice sessions on the ducks.

Of course, I impart this wisdom because I speak from experience, for that’s exactly what I did the night before my shoot with Andrea. I moved a setting to Spot AF and then on the day forgot about it.

I couldn’t understand why I the camera light meter was all over the place.  To add to my trauma, I moved the camera to auto to see if I could get a rough idea of what settings I could use back in manual – and yip, I forgot to switch back. 

Photograph by Avril McPherson for iPhotography.com

Image by Avril McPherson

Lessons Learned About Portrait Photography

Many lessons learned. Here are some of the issues I’ve found with my images because of how my shoot went. Plus, I’ve outlined the consequences as to what this meant when it came to editing.

• Photos over or under exposed
• Some in JPG and not RAW – that was fun trying to fix the photos afterwards in Photoshop
• Hours of work learning Photoshop to give me any chance of saving them.



I have just finished the post-production and whilst not thrilled with the results I think they are ‘okay’ for my first attempt. And I have learned many lessons:

• Don’t use settings you don’t fully understand at an important event.
• Practice, practice, practise
• Learn your settings and lighting inside out
• If something doesn’t seem during a shoot take the time to stop and work out what the problem is – don’t panic and plough on regardless.
• You’re never too old to find a new passion and pursue it.

My First Photoshoot Conclusion

More importantly, I absolutely loved doing the shoot and undeterred by my baptism of fire into this genre it has been the validation I needed that portrait photograph is most definitely a route I want to pursue.

Luckily for me, Andrea also enjoyed the day and has agreed to do another shoot with me.  And I have two more lined up in the coming weeks, so plenty of practise to help with my journey.

Andrea hasn’t seen the photos yet. Will be sending her them this week and hoping she likes them.


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