8 Tips Every Portrait Photographer Should Try Right Now

December 12, 2018

Everyone needs a mugshot of one kind or another, be it for their corporate website, LinkedIn profile, or to stick on the wall of their office. 

Getting them right, though, is hard. As a commercial portrait photographer, I’ve seen a few duds in my time. 

If you’re new to the game, here are some of my pro tips to get you started. Don’t worry: it’s nothing tricky. 

Fill The Entire Frame:
When you’re taking a portrait shot, fill the frame. You don’t want the subject’s head taking up a small section of the total space available. It looks awkward and isn’t flattering. Where possible, try to fill all of the available headroom. It'll improve your shots.

Pay Attention To Catchlights
You want portraits the hold the attention of their intended audiences for as long as possible. That means paying attention to catchlights.

When taking portrait shots, ask the subject to look directly into the camera. Then get them to swivel around until there’s an interesting reflection in their eyes. If you’re somewhere dull and there are no catchlights, do something to create your own, such as introducing artificial lighting.

Pay Attention To The Direction Of Your Subject’s Gaze
Some subjects who are shy in front of the camera will often face away. When a subject’s face is pointing in a different direction from their eyes, it can make the sclera - the white part of the eye - appear too big in relation to the iris. To correct this, ask the subject to look in the same direction as their nose is pointing.

Sort Your Lighting
Even if the background to your portrait is breathtaking, your photos will come out poorly if the lighting on the subject is too dim or harsh.
To get around this, wait for more mellow lighting conditions in the evening or place your subjects in the most well-lit space available, like by a large window or looking out from a door way.

Get The Subject To Provide A Great Expression 
Not all subjects provide you with the most flattering expressions to work with. So, your job, as a portrait photographer, is to bring them out. Sometimes just telling them that they “look great” and that “they’re a great portrait subject” can open them up and provide you with a bounty of authentic expressions.

Understand The Law
You’re allowed to take portraits of adults in public in the UK. The rules are different for kids, so don’t go around randomly snapping them.
Also, don’t take photos of people with restraining orders against you.

Try Not To Care Too Much 
This is one for people who don’t feel confident in their photography skills. Know that other people are much more interested in their own lives than they are in yours. It sounds harsh, but it’s actually quite liberating. Most people are focused on what they want to get out of life and aren’t hell-bent on ripping your photographic efforts to shreds.

Technical Know-How Isn’t Everything
You can follow all the rules, and still wind up with something disappointing. If in doubt, listen to your gut.

I’m an award-winning commercial and editorial photographer and a real people person. I’ve worked with clients of all shapes and sizes to deliver everything from advertising images to corporate portrait shots and glossy lifestyle photography.

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