What I learned:
Everyone is beautiful. She kept insisting she "wasn't photogenic", and I was set to prove her wrong. She has a beautiful, happy spirit, and I wanted that to come through in the pictures.
Who needs a studio? Getting pictures in real places rather than contrived ones might be harder- because you can't control the lighting or the weather, for example- but allows for lots more creativity. Because of some statues I knew of and scouted our beforehand, we were even able to do the classic "senior portrait with the grad year numbers" photo. We used the IUPUI campus and downtown Indy as well, with great results. The increasingly hard part: when we started the evening, the light was bright and easy to work with- almost too bright. By 8-9:00, after dinner, the sun started to set and clouds rolled in, and the light needed to be used more creatively.
Always have your eyes open. One of the best "sets" of day wasn't the gardens at the art museum or the picturesque canal, but the building we went in so she could change into comfy clothes. While we were sitting waiting for her, I opened my eyes- and saw that light was coming in through a wall of frosted-glass windows, and the blue couch, light wood table, and red wall across from me made for a very clean, colorful backdrop. I snapped a few pictures of Josh's cousin, and when his wife was done changing, got her to sit there too. The simple background with consistent lighting worked as well as any studio.
Have fun! I read up on "how to take portraits" on various websites before I went out Tuesday, but, besides keeping framing and the rule of thirds in mind, I just did what I always do with my camera in hand- capture life as it happens. We hung out, laughed, talked, had fun, and didn't do anything uncomfortable or serious, and the result was delightful.
See a few portraits from the adventure:
Don't worry, I'm not quitting my day job.