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B&H Photography Podcast

The B&H Photography Podcast, a weekly conversation about all things photography. With insightful and entertaining guests, we discuss the issues most important to the contemporary photographer.

Sep 1, 2022

A well-crafted portrait is a beautiful thing, and this week’s podcast takes a deep dive into creating individual, group, and family portraits, both on location and in the studio. Our guests are master portraitists Monica Sigmon and Michael Taylor, co-owners of SigmonTaylor Photography in Williamsburg, Virginia. Please join us for tips on everything from how to arrive at a signature style when working on location to the practicalities and pitfalls of establishing a dedicated portrait studio and turning client’s heads in today’s competitive marketplace. 

After listening, if you’re still hungry for more portrait photography insights, look no further than Sigmon Taylor’s six-part series Portrait Studio Intensive, produced by the B&H Event Space in February 2022.

Guests: Monica Sigmon and Michael Taylor

Photograph © Sigmon Taylor

For more information on our guests and the gear they use, see:

Episode Timeline

2:37: How does one arrive at a signature style when shooting portraits in an infinite variety of different locations?

4:03: Building a visual library and exploring your photographic personality to make your portraits stand out.

5:52: Location portraits are more about the story you are telling than what the background looks like.

6:49: Use of lighting conditions as a common thread in defining your signature portrait style.

8:40: How to establish a high-end portrait niche and deliver the goods from the start. Creating work and an experience the client will love.

11:14: Every portrait is a self-portrait, and the value of stepping back to look inside yourself.

13:24: The skill of cultivating an interest in your subjects. People all have stories to tell.

14:18: Tips for expanding from an individual portrait to a group session, and the importance of scheduling a preliminary design session.

16:20: The smallest children rule the day. Keeping the attention of the adults while keeping the children entertained.

17:26: The portrait photographer as symphony conductor. How to take control of the portrait session and bring everything together in a single moment.

21:52: Valuable advice for new portraitists: Understand your limitations and have joy in what you are doing.

22:26: How to even the playing field when photographing powerful subjects who are hesitant to relinquish control.

27:30: Getting out of your own head and being in service to someone else.

27:58: Compositing elements within a group portrait: Is or isn’t it cheating?

30:19: Commanding the set and taking the time to finesse the pose. Anticipating the rhythm and flow of a shoot.

33:33: Number one creativity killer: Feeling rushed for time. Slow down and manage expectations.

34:44: An inside look at the design consultation: Establishing the rules of engagement.

36:10: Making the sale up front: Explaining to the client what their investment will be.

41:12: Working on spec vs invitational portfolio building to create the work you want to shoot next.

43:44: Episode break

44:42: How practical is establishing a dedicated portrait studio today?

46:28: Creating a unique style to turn peoples’ heads and make them into clients.

46:44: Can higher prices result in increased sales?

48:22: A fair payday leads to a different attitude and better pictures.

50:12: Finding a feasible studio space to work in: Renting space vs a brick-and-mortar address.

53:18: A creative approach to personalizing your office in a neutral space.

55:18: The creation of Sigmon Taylor’s signature look: Black Label portraits.

57:31: The Black Label lighting style: A marriage of classical lighting with a contemporary personality.

1:00:08: Vehicles for Sigmon Taylor portraits: Prints, wall portraits, and coffee table books.

1:01:33: Digital files of client portraits: Selling them vs gifting them.

1:03:15: Sigmon Taylor’s approach to printing portraits through relationships with various labs across the country.

1:05:50: Photographers show too many images. Do not put images online.

1:06:24: Considerations for camera gear when establishing a portrait studio.

1:09:34: Effective portrait studio lighting: Profoto and Elinchrom One.

1:11:40: Connect with Sigmon Taylor on social media.

Stay Connected:
Studio Instagram:
Monica’s Instagram:
Michael’s Instagram:
Twitter Feed:
Sigmon Taylor’s six-part Portrait Studio Intensive: