KISS: Keep It Simple, Stupid

Getting great shots of people is always a challenge. Since I always struggle with it, I’ve complied a list of the most important portrait photography tips (mainly from 101 Portrait Photography Tips) that every photographer should know. 

From taking portraits of your friends to shooting in a pristine studio, here are a few tips that will help you become a better portrait photographer.

A Model in their Environment

Not all of us are Gigi Hadid or Kendall Jenner and photograph well in a studio. I know I definitely don’t belong in a studio. I would rather have the photographer come to my house and take pictures of me in my own environment. Whenever someone asks me to look natural in front of a camera, I always get awkward and trust me, it shows. Instead, place the subject on one side of the frame and have them look into a space away from the camera or throw another person into the frame. A lot of times people are camera-shy but if you let them interact with another person, they will lighten up.

The Perfect Candid

One way to make your subject more comfortable is to use a prop. Pick a flower and give it to the bride to play with or give the couple bubblegum and snap a picture of them blowing bubbles together. Never tell the subject they look stiff or that they need to loosen up. Telling the subject that they don’t look good only makes it worse and will backfire 100% of the time. To make your picture more interesting, have your subject look through a window or have them lean up against a door frame.

Light Light Light

Learning to control the amount of light can make a huge difference in the feel of your photo. Your photo will never be better than the quality of light. Normal lighting in a house or during the heat of the day is never good lighting for pictures. However, once light passes through a window, it becomes more soft and diffused. Try placing your subject next to a window so the light hits the model at an angle.

If you’re shooting in poor mid-day lighting outside, always have the subject face away from the sun. This way, their face will be in the shade and always have the photographer over-expose the picture so the face looks properly exposed.

Also, never use the on-camera flash. Flashes cause light to hit the subject squarely and creates a light that is far from flattering. However, when you’re editing the picture, sometimes over exposing will give your portrait a clean and simple look.

Sunset portraits are always a fan favorite but many photographers struggle with doing it right. Since the light from a sunset is warm (think red, yellow, purple) buy some gels and warm up that flash to make the picture look more natural.

The Little Things

It doesn’t all have to be perfect and pretty. Sometimes its not the face of your subjects that will give you the best pictures. Try photographing a child’s sandy feet while he plays on the beach or capture the two year old throwing a tantrum on the kitchen floor. You don’t always have to look for the pretty stuff because sometimes the tiniest details speak volumes.

Editing to Perfection

No one wants yellow teeth in their pictures so always whiten teeth properly in Photoshop. Try to brush brightness onto the teeth (not exposure). If your subjects are wearing bright colors, throw them against a muted background. If your subjects are wearing muted colors, throw them against a bright background. This will help the models stand out.

The Frame

If you’re taking photos of a group, always make sure that the focus is on the closet person to the camera. Trust me on this one. Group photos never look good if people are lined up in perfect rows. Instead, try to get their heads uneven by varying the different heights (very effective in family photos). If the subject is the only part of the portrait, de-focus them. Sometimes focusing on a subjects’ hat or high-heel shoe can give you a fun and creative shot. However, always remember to fill the frame. This will show great detail and will set your photo apart from the millions of pictures we see everyday.

It can be really hard to tell if your shot is in focus by looking on the back of the camera screen. One easy way to check for sharpness is to zoom in on the subject’s eyelashes and if you can see individual lashes, your photo is good to go.

Be Yourself

Always be yourself and shoot what you love! Do what you like and always let your photographs represent who you are. If you’re serious, shoot traditional portraits in a studio. If you’re fun and flirty, shoot models in an ice cream shop. Instead of re-living your mistakes, learn from them. Don’t just get rid of your bad photos, study them and see what you could’ve done better.



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