Editing

10 Tips for Portrait Photography


Portrait photography can be a lot of fun. There tends to be some higher expectations when you do portrait photography though. With landscape photography, you can take photos of mountains or trees, and they won't care if the pictures don't turn out, but with portrait photography, there are people who hope and expect the photos to be the best possible quality. Here are some tips on how you can acheive that.

1. Always be on the lookout for good spots. Know which spots work.

This is something you can do before you ever think about doing portrait photography. When you are on the move or in a new place make mental notes of areas that might be good for portrait photography. Old buildings, train yards, farms, fun parks etc. How easy is it to get to these places? Will you have access? Is it going to be too crowded? If you do a lot of portrait photography, it would be good to keep a list of places. When clients are ready for a photo shoot and don't have any ideas, you could share with them some of these places. This will help give them ideas for what they want to do or perhaps help them figure out what to wear.


2. Timing. If you are doing outdoor shots, timing is going to make all the difference.

If you have a date set, check the weather. Is it going to be cloudy or rainy? In some cases, you may need to reschedule a shoot.

Check out the "Golden-Hour" calculator. The hour after sunrise and before sunset can make for some spectacular photos. Find out when those hours will be for your area. You may not want to shoot at these times, but you certainly do need to be aware of where the sun is and how that is going to effect your photos.

3. Know your client.

If your client is not totally comfortable with you, it will show up in the photos. If you don't already know your client well, make sure you spend time getting to know them. Have conversations during the shoot. Do whatever you can to make the situation more natural. You may have to go outside your comfort zone a bit for this.

4. Have fun! Be spontaneous!

In this digital age we live in, it does not hurt or cost any money to do unique or goofy shots. Go crazy! You probably won't end up using any of these pictures, but they tend to bring out personality and help people loosen up. Have people run around, jump up and down, jump off objects, stand on their hands. Anything. You will find that some of the most genuine smiles come right after someone does something crazy or unexpected.


5. Keep your distance at times.

People act very differently depending on how close you are to them. The closer you are, the more aware of the camera they are; sometimes this will cause tenseness. Stand back. Give them their space. Another advantage of this is that with a telephoto lens, standing back and zooming in will blur the background more than if you are standing close.

When this picture was taken, I was changing lenses and away from the couple. They were just goofing off as they were waiting for me to get ready.

This was another shot taken with me in the distance. I just put on my telephoto lens. You can notice how blurry the background is without me having to play with the aperture settings.
As we were walking back to the car, I let them walk a bit in front of me. The lighting was doing fun things. This is why waiting for the "golden-hour" can be nice. The lighting slowly changed and added new dynamic as the day went on.
6. Check your viewfinder often.

When you are setting up your shot, you look in your viewfinder frequently to make sure everything is how you want it. Don't forget to keep checking when you are taking all your photos; light is constantly changing and if you are moving your subject around, chances are the lighting will be slightly different  depending on where you are. Make sure that you are adjusting your settings accordingly.

7. Switch it up.

Don't get stuck doing the same thing. Same pose, same face, same position, same spot etc. Try different things. Something you might think doesn't work could surprise you!

8. Shoot RAW.

I usually shoot jpg. This is because most of my photos are just landscapes for when I go on hikes. The pictures are for me. I don't mind the size and I don't want to worry too much about pictures. When you are shooting portrait photography though, you are shooting for other people. These photos are for them! Make sure they are the best quality possible by shooting RAW.

9. Take plenty of pictures.

OK... this can be a controversial topic among photographers. Many would argue that it is much, much better to take the time to setup your camera, place your subject perfectly, position yourself, then wait for the right moment and take the perfect photo. While I agree that you should try to do all these things, the reality is that with portrait photography there are too many moments you cannot anticipate. If you wait for the perfect moment, you will most certainly miss it.

Even though taking more photos means more time sorting and editing, if it means getting that "one" photo, it will be worth it.

10. Play with interaction. Movement.

Take advantage of what you have. If you are at a park, play on the swings. If you are a train yard, walk on the tracks. If you are at a farm, interact with the animals. All these things can bring life and reality to the photos.

About McKay Christensen

After having lived in Oregon, Alaska, and China for the past 10 years doing landscape design and English teaching, I have returned to my home state of Utah and currently work for a growing tech company.

In my free time I enjoy working on my TutorialGeek.net website where I post tutorials and reviews (and anything else I think is geeky) and I also like to write songs for my Super English Kid Youtube channel.

My favorite things to do include anything with my wife and son. Hiking, camping, and photography (or anything else outdoors). Playing Ultimate Frisbee or Ping Pong. Listening to 60s, 70s, or 80s, music. 

Feel free to contact me using my contact page. I would love to hear from any of you!

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