Portrait Photography Tips Part – 1

1. Photograph the subject with its native environment. Some people just don’t belong to a studio. And when they feel awkward and it really shows in camera. So instead of driving Grandpa into a Photo Studio, let him go to work in his workshop & photograph him doing what he loves. Instead of tears and tantrums when you try to dress up your child all pretty for studio punishment, let him play with the toys and snap pictures of every moment.

2. Never ever shoot babies or kids from your normal standing height. This is the view we have of kids every time–the tops of their heads. Get down on the ground and try to take images from their level.

3. Think over giving the subject space to look into. Place the subject on one side of the image & let them look into space (not the camera) towards the other side of the frame.

4. Use Window light. Want to get more natural portraits and don’t have an expensive studio? Normal lighting during the heat of the day or in a house is not pleasing on skin; nevertheless, after light passes through a window, it is very soft & diffused. Place your subject next to a window & let the light hit the model at an angle (not looking straight out the window). Without much effort, you can generate beautiful light which studios strain to copy.

5. Don’t use the on-camera flash. On-camera flash bounces with a deer-in-the-headlights look to even the most beautiful subject. Since the light is perfectly in line with the lens, the light hits the subject squarely & forms a flat light that is far from flattering. If you pick to use a flash, it’s truly necessary to get an external flash that can be mounted to the side of the photographer.

6. We know everyone wants pictures of the face, but also consider going smaller at times. Try capturing your grandmother’s hands or, a child’s sandy feet as he plays on the beach or your friend’s eye. Sometimes the smallest details speak volumes.

7. Overexpose. I know I have just shared some tips telling you not to do this, but over exposing (making the image too bright) is a general & beautiful method for giving a clean and simple look to a portrait.

8. Do something totally out of the world. Want cute pics of a baby? Put them in a huge basket like Anne Geddes or dress them in clothes that are 5 sizes too big. Want cool pictures of your friend in her prom dress? Throw her in the pool with the prom dress on.

9. Give a break to smiling & waving. While shooting family photographs, nothing can ruin the moment more than saying, “Hey, look at the camera!” Your picture will just be destroyed. No one’s asking you to shoot candid photography all along, however when you are going to have the subject know you’re taking the picture, at least pose the subject correctly rather than having them just face the camera blankly.

10. Shoot up to give power; Shoot down to take power away. In second tip, I mentioned that it generally isn’t good to shoot down on babies and kids. Reason being that kids are already small, thus shooting down on them is so common that the photo would not look as it should have been. Likewise, you can make a subject seem more dominant by shooting from a lower angle up to the subject. For instance, it would be silly to shoot Michael Jordan from above. As you want to make a sports star look powerful, to shoot that subject from a lower angle, it would make much more sense.

11. If one person is a bit shy, two people would be just perfect. Whenever I’m shooting a subject that becomes a bit camera-shy & won’t give me much of an expression, I always try to let the person interact with somebody. For instance, trying to get kids to have fun and smile will be tougher without a parent present in the studio too. This method works as good with adults. If your subject looks a bit flat, wait till they talk with someone else to capture the best expressions.

12. Whiten teeth appropriately in Photoshop. Since a long time, I brushed exposure onto the teeth to make them look whiter. I never got the results I wanted until another friend told me that it was better to brush brightness onto the teeth rather than exposure. Instantly, my digital teeth whitening improved significantly.

13. Contrast location & clothing. I recently shot a couple’s engagement and they chose to wear bright colors. The groom wore a light blue shirt & the bride wore bright pink. Those colors certainly catch anybody’s attention, so I chose to place them in front of muted backgrounds. For this shot, blurred out dark backgrounds, I chose old grey brick walls, etc. The results were just perfect! You can also try this tip when shooting a model who is wearing muted colors. In such situations, shoot the model besides a brightly colored background and make the model stand out.

14. You’re missing out on half of your model. No, I ‘m not telling that you should shoot twice as many people. I mean that there is a whole other side of your subject that you aren’t shooting at all. And what’s that side? It’s the back side. Shots of head facing the camera and the model walking away from the camera, or of the model’s body turned away from the camera can be quite fascinating.

15. Think application before taking the portrait. Where is the photo going to be used? While many of our pictures are just used normally for looking at, some photos would be better either horizontal or vertical if it is going to be used for a particular purpose. For instance, if you’re taking a portrait for someone’s Facebook profile, you can get a considerably larger picture by shooting it in vertical orientation (up-and-down). If you’re shooting for a wedding announcement, it would be probably better to shoot it horizontally so there is enough space for some text on the side of the couple.

16. While shooting in poor mid-day lighting, have the subject face away from the sun. I see this done wrong more often than not. Mostly, photographers let the subject face the sun so that their face doesn’t look dim and shadowy in mid-day lighting. This is disastrous, as the hard light will make unflattering shadows on the face. The correct way for shooting mid-day portrait is to let the subject face away from the sun so that their face stays in the shade, and then let the photographer over-expose the picture so the face looks perfectly exposed.

17. Spot metering is your friend. If you can’t comfortably set the exposure manually to do the technique taught in tip #16, then learn using spot metering. With spot metering, you can simply let the camera meter on the subject’s face to expose it properly, and then let the background be slightly overexposed. Spot metering may be a better option for some people, than setting exposure for the face manually.

18. Whip out the CTO. While shooting with lower light (or if you have a really powerful strobe), you can put an orange gel on your flash so that the light that hits the subject is, well… orange. Then, you will just have to adjust your white balance (I always do it later in Lightroom) so the subject looks neutral, which also makes the background go blue. Here is a great collection of examples of using this color shifting technique. If you’ve never heard of gelling a flash, you will be surprised to know that a gel is not exactly “jelly-like” in consistency. It’s of plastic colored transparency. You can buy a set of gels for around $10 on Amazon that fit most flashes.

19. Rather than focusing & re-composing, compose & then focus. It is usually better to compose the shot and then change your focus point on to the eye of the subject rather than focusing on the eye and then recomposing.

20. Models relax as soon as a prop is introduced. Being a model is scary stuff. It’s just you vs. the guy with the giant lens. Whenever I see a subject feeling uncomfortable, I instantly hunt for a prop. Give the couple bubble gum and take a photo of them blowing bubbles together, give a kid a toy, pick a flower and give it to the bride to play with, etc. You don’t to necessarily include the prop in the frame (though it generally looks cool), but it is an assured way to relax the subject a bit.

Prepared By Studio BeUnique

About the Author:
Maulik Patel is a self-taught photographer by passion and profession, Loves food,dogs and creative people.


  1. Anand
    July 06, 2016

    Wonderful artical.

  2. Neha Bapat
    July 07, 2016

    All tips are useful Thanks

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