9 Portrait Photography Tips You Won’t Find in Your Camera Manual

Portrait photography tips are as simple as altering your camera’s default settings to more elaborate tricks that can take your photography to a whole new level. While a lot of portrait photography tips are technical aspects of the art, such as lighting and shutter speed, this article tackles something beyond the camera; the photographer. While a good camera is important to getting great shots that is only a small part of the whole equation. The most vital aspect of photography is the person taking the photo and their knowledge of the subject. In this article, you will learn tips for portrait photography to help enhance your work no matter what you previous photography experience.
portrait of a bearded man with blue eyes

1. Make Your Model(s) Feel Comfortable

A lot of people suffer from camera shyness and can clam up when faced with having their picture taken. Your goal as a photography is to make them feel comfortable in front of the camera. This can be easier said than done but it’s not impossible. For example, when taking engagement photos, avoid just having the coupon look into the camera and instead ask them how they first met and snap some shots while they are telling their story. You would be surprised at the wonderfully real images you get.

2. Prepare The Pose

The pose can make or break the shot and when you’re just learning how to take portraits, it can be difficult to know how to properly pose your clients. What makes it harder is that most people don’t know how to pose themselves and often the natural “poses” they put themselves in come off as weird and distracting in pictures. The best way to learn poses is firsthand experience and a lot of practice, but until you get to that point, you can research photography poses. No matter what pose you choose, your client should feel completely comfortable, and if a pose isn’t working, don’t try to force it too. Instead, communicate with the client in a friendly and encouraging tone.

portrait of a child

3. Add Props

Another portrait photography tip that can drastically improve your shots is to add props. Children, for example, often give the best reactions when presented with a toy that they can interact with. This is the same for pet photography as well. Props are more than just something for the subject to interact with, and they can bring interest and color to the photos. They can also bring a bit more of the subject into focus, metaphorically speaking. When taking senior pictures, for example, adding the client’s guitar will add a bit more of the client’s story to the photograph.

4. Understand that Shooting Angles Are Not Set in Stone

Don’t just shoot in the traditional “at-eye-level”, mix it up and change the shooting angle. Move around your subjects, get down on the ground, get higher up; anything to bring different and exciting angles to your photograph. Just don’t forget to keep lighting in mind when shooting at varying angles.

portrait of a young man in blue shirt

5. Consider the Clothing

The clothing your clients wear for the shot is an important part of the photo. Family portraits can be enhanced if everyone in the picture is wearing clothing that matches. This doesn’t mean, however, that everyone has to dress the same, just that their clothing should complement each other. You should also have the clients change their clothing in between shots to get better results and give your clients a wide array of options.

6. The Environment Can Set the Right Mood

Avoid a dull and mundane session by taking the photos in various environments. This will give your photographs a wide array of textures and your clients will have more options to choose from. For example, you can take some indoor shots for a more traditional look and then switch it up by having your subjects pose outside. Brick buildings, wooden barns, waterways and fields are just a few of the popular areas for portraits. Out of all the portrait photography tips for portraits outside, one of the best is to choose a location with visual interest that is also well suited for the client.

portrait of a girl with backlight

7. Get Help

No matter how good of a photographer you are, there is no shame is asking for help. In fact, many professional and seasoned photographers have regular assistants that help them during the shoot. An assistant, for example, can hold a light diffuser or fix a stray hair so you don’t have to move once you have framed the shot.

8. Don’t Tell your Secrets

With the age of digital photography came the ability to see the shot seconds after taking it. Because of this, some clients want to see the photography right on your camera’s screen. In fact, some clients even demand that photographers give them every unedited image that they shot that day. Would you expect an author to hand over their work in its manuscript form without any editing whatsoever? Then you shouldn’t let the client see the images until you are ready.

portrait of a blonde girl with blue eyes

9. Put your Best Work Forward

Out of all the portrait photography tips that we have discuss, this last one is often overlooked by photographers of all experience. During a shoot, you will probably take hundreds of shots and may feel compelled to show all of them. But do you really want to show 30 pictures of the client in the same pose? No, you really don’t. Instead, you must be very selective and learn how to pick only the best shots from that session.

The above portrait photography tips are a mere guideline to help improve your photography and are not set in stone. Instead they are here just to help you enter into the next leg of your photography adventure. Now that you have learned the above tips for portrait photography, I want to hear you thoughts and experiences on the subject, or your own personal tips you would like to share.

Image sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6.

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