John DeMato - NYC Branded Lifestyle Portrait Photographer

NYC Branded Lifestyle Photographer - Blog

NYC Branded Lifestyle Portrait Photography Blog | Hi, I'm John DeMato, and I collaborate with thought leaders to create powerful, purposeful and authentic images. This is my blog where I talk all about the magic behind the portraits we create.

Structured Fluidity


Structured fluidity?


...what is it with me and oxymorons? I dunno, but, here’s why this one matters...


Over the years working behind a camera, I’ve enacted several strategies and tactics with respect to how to structure the course of a branded lifestyle portrait session.

I’ve also done jack shit to prepare before a session, and some of those turned out to be real doozies, lemme tell you…, I have no one to blame but myself in those instances, but, I digress…

The current, and most successful way that I run my portrait sessions these days is through a concept known as structured fluidity.

Although it is oxymoronic, it nails the sentiment behind how I work with my clients.

The “structure” is established during the pre-session strategy call - this is where I learn about who the person is, who they serve and why they do what they do.

I also get clued into their uniqueness based on the answers they provide during the call.

As we go through the lengthy questionnaire together, we establish all of the locations we need to secure to shoot, the types of outfits the client will wear, the types of activities in which the client will engage and the types of objects/books/props/tools that they need to bring with them to the session.

This questionnaire then morphs into a highly specific shot sheet with the different activities, props, and special outfits and jewelry highlighted.

Once this piece is in place, that makes the portrait session a lot easier to tackle, because, otherwise we’d have to wing it for 4-6 hours, and that would be a huge waste of time and effort.

Does that mean that there is no room for creative latitude?

Well, that’s where “fluidity” enters the conversation. :)

Although we have a shot sheet at our disposal with everything that we need to capture during the session, there always needs to be room for some extemporaneous playtime and discovery.

In fact, every single session that I’ve conducted over the past couple years, we’ve gone off-script more than once and captured some really interesting - and extremely valuable - portraits and other image content in the process.

Whether it’s incorporating a last-minute prop into the session, working in a location that wasn’t discussed in the pre-session call, or shooting a specific activity that was thought of minutes prior to shooting it, it’s worth giving these added ideas a shot because it could lead to some of the best images of the session... could also be a complete crash and burn job, as well - yup, that’s happened, too - but, with no risk, no adventure, no attempt, there is no reward, my friends. :)

Ultimately, it’s no skin off your back by giving the freestyled ideas a shot - the fact that a structured schedule exists allows for you to easily deviate from it.

Once the client and I crawl back up from deep within the rabbit hole, we know exactly where we are and can proceed accordingly.

I remember, years ago, when I would go down creative rabbit holes with clients, and we didn’t have a plan to return to, it became a bit chaotic and counter-productive, to the point that the level of usable photos was significantly decreased.

Needless to say, I learned from my mistakes and that’s why I’m sharing this with you, hopefully BEFORE you set up your next branded lifestyle portrait session.

When you are qualifying potential photographers, make sure to ask them about how they prepare for their portrait sessions:

  • Do they conduct a strategy call? If so, what types of questions do they ask?

  • Do they create a shot sheet, or just wing it on the day of the session?

  • Do they allow for a certain amount of freestyling during the shoot?

The answers to these questions will go a long way for you to discover the right type of photographer for your business and brand.

Have you experienced “structured fluidity” during your past portrait sessions, and, if so, how were the results?

PS - For those of you who aren’t in the know, I mail out these blogs 3x a week, and lemme tell you, they’re a real party, so, if you’d like to get in on this, sign up for it here and I’ll throw in a free gift for you, because I care, :)