Top Portrait Photography Tips

1. Photograph your model in the shade or on a cloudy day

A cloudy day gives more flattering facial illumination and the even light will be easier on your model’s eyes. Sunlight is too harsh for portrait photography unless you have a very large diffuser to soften the light. The sun casts excessively harsh shadows and it makes people squint. For a more pleasing portrait, choose a cloudy day for more flattering facial illumination.

2. Choose a slightly longer than normal lens

An 85mm lens or a 105mm lens is ideal; or use a zoom lens that you can set to an 85mm focal length. A long lens is beneficial here because it enables you to take a head-and-shoulders shot from a bit further away than normal. This distant shooting position gives better facial perspective and thereby eliminates the risk that your subject’s nose will look too large.

3. Blur the background to make the model’s face stand out

To blur the background, choose a large aperture to achieve a shallow depth of field. With an 85mm lens, f/4 would be good, or f/2.8 if you have a fast enough lens. If your camera has a depth of field preview button, use it to confirm that your chosen aperture is making the background sufficiently blurred. Since a large aperture is required for this shot, use a low ISO setting such as 100 or 200.

4. Pose the model

Most portrait subjects don’t know how to pose and often feel uncomfortable in front of a camera. Think of yourself as the director who is telling the model what looks good for them to shine in the photograph. Start with a classic portrait pose; have the model turn their shoulder slightly to one side. This gets you away from the square-on look of a passport photo. Next ask your model to tilt their head a bit to one side. If the head is tilted towards the shoulder that is nearest to the camera, it’s considered to be a traditional feminine pose. For the traditional male pose, have your subject tilt their head the other way, towards the shoulder that’s farthest from the camera.

5. Make the model feel comfortable

As a portrait photographer, it’s your job to make the model feel at ease. The best way to do this is to chat with your model to him or her feel at ease. Don’t make any discouraging remarks about your subject’s appearance or demeanour. Instead, tell the people in front of your camera how well they’re doing and how good they look. Bring out the best in your sitters.

6. Have the model look straight into the lens

Eye contact always makes for a strong picture, so make sure that your model looks straight into the lens. A warm smile is the final touch that brings a photo to life. Do whatever it takes to bring a genuine smile to your subject’s lips.

7. Pay attention to the person’s hands

Hands are surprisingly big and can look very unattractive if you don’t pay attention to their placement. With the glamour style portrait, you don’t want the hands to steal attention away from the model.

8. Pay attention to all the small details

Be aware of details such as a stray hair in the face of your model, a visible bra strap, or a pole in the background “sticking out” of your model’s head. Typically, everything should be neat and tidy to avoid spending hours fixing imperfections in post-production work.

9. Show the images on the camera LCD screen to the person you are photographing

Showing the photos is a reassurance to the model that everything is under control. You are also showing the lighting, style and creative approach to the photo session.

10. Shoot from many different angles

The beauty with digital photography is the ability it gives you to keep on shooting without worrying about costs or space. You only pay with your time it takes to sort through all the photos taken of your model. Shoot many but show few. Be careful in your selection and show only the very best of the pictures to your model.