Ten Tips

Portrait Photography

Bathe In Perfection
Holding the Power

Having worked at LifeTouch Photography in the past has definitely taught me a lot about how to take the perfect portrait. I'm not talking about the school I.D. sort of photos but the artistic portraits, emotive portraits, and, if you must, even your senior portraits.

I have seen one TOO many times a "snap shot" quality photo of someone labeled a "portrait". No. There is such an amazing difference between the two. So here are some tips and examples on how to take portraits of people.


This is one of the most IMPORTANT parts about taking the picture and I will be obnoxious about this throughout the tips for if the model is uncomfortable it'll show in the final product. Everybody has something about them that they're self conscious about. For me, personally, it's my chin. Now, I know I am not fat but at certain angles I have a double chin so the only way I feel good is if the person is taking the picture from above at a downward angle. So find out what it is that they don't like and stear clear of it. You must also know their limitations as to what they'll do and where they'll go.


Never ever call someone a "subject" because they do have a pulse and a personality. So to make sure that your model is comfortable with the shoot, talk to him/her. Find out the sort of things they like and are interested in then try and set the shoot along those things. I.E. If they are into football then do a sports themed picture. So don't be afraid to ask them they're favorite color, favorite things to do, etc.. The more you speak to them the more they'll feel comfortable, the less they'll look posed and the happier they'll be with the pictures and the experience.


In portraits you want everything to be off center and angled. Get your model into their pose then have them tilt the head, adjust the hands and legs. Even try tilting your camera for an added effect and try not to put them in the very center of the photo. You should always try and remember the Rule of Thirds. For those of you that have never heard of this rule look at a photograph and break it up into nine even squares. Three lines across three lines down. The main portion of the picture shouldn't be placed in the center but thrown off to the sides or off into the corners.


If the person you are photographing is resting their face on their hand then that pushes up their cheak and makes them look weird. Have them pretend to rest their head so as there is no bunching of the face. The same goes with the rest of their body in other poses. If they're grabbing their arm have them loosen the hold so no dimples occur.


There are so many different ways you can light the person you're photographing. The main four are usually; Butterfly, Monster, Split, and Rembrandt. I would highley recommend you playing with the different types so as you get comfortable with knowing how they look and how to do them. Each light effect works for different people and poses. I.E. Monster is great for a man in a strong stance for it creates an eary, domineering look hense the name.


It is rather important that you photograph your model in the proper setting. It would be quite odd to take a bubblegum punk to a field of daisies or a preppy girl to an abandoned warehouse full of graffiti. So you should find different types of locations and keep them in mind for the different personalities you'll be photographing. It also helps to have a few that are similar in taste not too far from eachother so that you can change the shoot up a bit which brings me to my next tip.


Having many choices to choose from is a major plus in the photography industry for the more choices someone has the more they'll end up deciding to buy. Have the person you're photographing bring two to four outfits, depending on the length of the shoot, that they feel comfortable in. Also, as I said before, get a couple different places that you can shoot at as well as try many different poses and lighting effects. Even when you go to edit the photos you may choose to have one photo in color and black and white to see which they'd prefer more.


Once you've got the right clothes, location, pose and angle down perfect before you click that shutter button look over the person once more to be certain that they don't have a rubberband on the wrist or hair in the eyes or even the clasp of a necklace showing. It may seem like no big deal but if you're going for a certain look/feel one tiny thing could ruin the whole photo (I've seen it happen). Now unless this is a personal friend/family member you're taking pictures of you need to ask him/her if they're comfortable with you fixing the obscure item on them. If they don't want you touching them then just give them a heads up on what needs to be fixed so they can handle it themselves without any boundaries being crossed.


Now that you're all finished, the shoot went wonderfully and you got a variety of different photos it's time for you to go through and put the final touches on the pictures. The main choices I fiddle with in my photoshop (cs2) are the; color balance, levels and curves. Those three tweaks have the ability to turn a good picture into an amazing photograph. So once I've set everything the way I feel looks the best I'll proceed onto burning the edges for a vignetting effect then maybe also do a black and white version and maybe even a gradient. After just those few things one photo has now turned into three to choose from.


This last tip is more for an artistic photo or one that you chose to do not one someone was paying you for. Many people don't realize that the name of a photograph leaves such a great impact on the photo and the people who are viewing it. Even before they see the picture they see the name which sets them up for what they should expect in it as well as what they should expect to feel. I get ever so disappointed when people just put "no name" as their title. It makes me feel as thought they didn't take the time to trully create a feeling for the picture. My photography teacher told me, "Every photo needs a past, a present and a future. It needs to answer the questions of who they are, where they came from and where they're going." That is even the case for photos that don't contain any people in them at. So take the time to sit down and look at your art. How does it make you feel? What does it make you think about? If you're still not sure, get an outside opinion. "You are your worst critic" so a lot of times getting a fresh pair of eyes can help you drastically.

I trully hope that these tips help you to grow and broaden your world of possibilities in the art of portraits.

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