As a corporate and editorial portrait photographer, it's my job to take great shots of whomever I'm assigned to photograph. To that end, my number one rule for getting those shots is to establish a great rapport with the subject.
Last week I photographed a prominent art collector who made a sizable gift of works to a museum; I was given one hour to shoot. My assistant, Presley, and I arrived at the upper East Side apartment and were escorted to the office to meet the gentleman. We sat down to talk. Thirty minutes later we had to hustle to set up two scenarios for the portrait (I always like to give the editor at least two choices). While walking in, I noticed both the living room and the dining room had big windows and wonderful natural light as well as plenty of artwork on the walls; I chose those two areas for our shots. Because of the natural light, we needed only to set up a key light and let the natural light fill in the rest of the set; in the living room I did need a kicker in the back to even out the shadows in the far corner. The set up was fast and we were shooting in less than 20 minutes. Total shots per set were about 20, allowing for slightly different angles, poses and expressions. We shot for ten minutes and the gentleman was off to a scheduled phone call. We beat the clock.
In the cab back to the office, Presley asked why we spent so much time just talking to the guy instead of setting up. To me, it's more important to establish a great rapport with my subject so they are comfortable, natural and completely confident that I'll make a great photo of them. Since I could see the set up was pretty straight-forward, spending half of my allotted time with the gentleman was well worth it for a better final result.