Arash Afshar

Photographer, Host of Burner Podcast and Founder of Justified Hype

Portrait Photography
Let’s get the basics out of the way: Booking a classic portrait session is the best bang for your buck. It’s easy and fun and yields the most universally applicable deliverables. We’ll meet at a previously agreed upon location, play with two or three different looks and shoot for an hour or so. The experience is generally light and playful. Afterwards, we’ll review the photos and select some finalists from which I’ll edit and send you 5-7 processed photos that can be utilized for a large variety of scenarios such as personal websites, LinkedIn, Facebook and business cards or holiday cards.


These simple portrait photography sessions are also what I’ve probably been doing the longest. In fact, until not too long ago, I wouldn’t even accept solo headshot clients. I’d found that the best headshots always came from portrait sessions. There is a flow to the experience. Unless my subject is a professional model, it’s pretty rare for people to show up fully locked in and ready to pose and feel natural in front of the camera. (Even models aren’t necessarily ready 100% of the time right out the gate) But most of all, I’m not quite there yet. I need to get to know you. How you move, how you hold your head and what you do with your hands when you’re feeling antsy.


In addition to all that, there is the often amusing experience of figuring out what descriptives and directions mean to different people. The directives “tilt your head” or “turn your chin to the left” can mean very different things to different people. The first 10-15 minutes of a session is often dominated by the two of us (assuming it’s just my subject and I and no makeup artists or assistants) coming to an agreement on some nuances of the English language.


It’s rare that the first few images shoot are the winners. When I begin hitting the shutter, we’re just dipping our toes in the pool. It’s a dance. An energy exchange between us where guards begin to go down so that those perfect moments of sincerity are allowed to present themselves. Once we really get going and I get you to forget about the camera for a few seconds here and there, there is this perfect moment when I’ve just hit the shutter I just know we’ve got ourselves a magic shot.



One of my favorite magic shot moments was with Eddie Bee. Eddie had just moved to San Diego and needed multiple images for various websites and his dating profiles. While he was sitting on a bench I asked him to play with his phone. No part of my thought process included the possibility that we’d have a great “guy on his phone” photo. But there was this exact moment where he looked up at me in between words and we snapped this perfect still of him looking right into the lens. And I knew, immediately, that this photo would get him a lot of digital catcalls. Eddie’s a really handsome guy that doesn’t walk around calling himself a handsome guy and this photo showcased that energy in him perfectly. My prediction war correct. The instant we posted it a stream of women friends objectified him on Facebook comments and neither of us were complaining.


It is such an honor and privilege to be asked to photograph someone. It’s intimate and vulnerable. The sessions very often fascinated a bonding experience between my subject and I that’s hard to replicate. I’ve been told after multiple shoots, “thanks for the therapy session.” The most common review people leave of their experience with me is that I made them feel really comfortable, which is, to me, the highest compliment. I believe portrait photography is not only about technique but more about energy. My ability to use a camera is only one small aspect of what I do as a portrait photographer. I have a million and one portrait stories, many of which I’m looking forward to sharing with you right here.


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