- These Portrait Photography Techniques Will Vastly Improve Your Images
- How to Use a Reflector for Portraits
photo by FG Trade via iStock
If you’re trying to learn how to take better portraits, then you’re going to be disappointed to learn that there really is no one-size-fits-all solution to this art. So long as you know the portrait photography basics, then a lot of portrait photography tips aren’t actually going to be very useful for you. You just need to get out and experiment for yourself.
However, there are a few portrait photography hacks that were shared with me when I was a beginner that are always in my head every time I am shooting a portrait.
Some of these portrait photography hacks are discussed in Miguel Quiles’ video above - the video is filled with basic portrait photography techniques.
Though none of these portrait photography hacks are going to be a cure all for whatever problem you’re facing with your portrait skills, they will help you to focus on your technique again.
Fill the Frame
photo by AlexeyVladimir via iStock
I’ve actually discussed a lot of these portrait photography hacks in some other articles I’ve written before with beginner photography tips. This is one of them.
I’ve noticed a lot of beginner photographers tend to give their subjects way too much headroom. So, instead of their photos ending up looking like a really gorgeous painting of what this person is like, they end up looking like something out of a public television documentary.
In essence, the photo becomes a lot less about what this person looks like and what their personality may be, and it becomes a lot more about their surroundings. So, if the sky above their head isn’t particularly interesting, the photo isn’t going to be either.
In order to avoid this problem, get rid of any notion of head room that you’ve ever been taught. You can and should fill your entire frame with a person’s face.
photo byRichLegg via iStock
Take the photo above as an example. The background that this healthcare worker is against is incredibly boring.
It looks like he may still be working a shift in a hospital and the photographer threw him up against a hospital wall in order to take the image. If the photographer had given this subject any more headroom than he has, the image would be incredibly boring because the subject is the only thing of interest in it.
Use Catch Lights
photo by Igor Alecsander via iStock
Good portrait photography hacks help you to add interest to your subject’s face, since you can’t actually change the way your subject looks or it won’t be an accurate representation of them and who they are.
One way to make a subject far more interesting is to use catch lights. If you can get their eyes to shine a little brighter just by the way you adjust the lighting in your studio, or by moving the person if you’re shooting outside, why wouldn’t you?
It’s far easier to use catch lights if you’re working in a studio. If you are, you can just move your lights until you’re satisfied. However, even if you’re working outside, you can still use catch lights.
One way to do so is to bring a reflector with you. Of course, if you use the reflector route, then you’ll either need an assistant to hold the reflector for you, or you’ll need a remote shutter so that you can frame your subject, then run over and adjust the reflector.
Another way is to simply use the sunlight. You’ll just need to adjust the location of your subject (and it can sometimes be uncomfortable, depending upon the time of day).
Watch Out for the Whites of the Eye
photo by Rawpixel via iStock
Another one of my favorite portrait photography hacks is to watch out for the whites of your subject’s eyes.
In case you haven’t noticed, the whites of a person’s eyes are pretty boring, at least in comparison to their irises. But, a lot of subjects are too camera shy to look directly at the camera, which means that a lot of portraits end up with far too much whites of the eyes.
In order to combat this issue, you can simply direct your subject to look in the direction that their nose is pointing. This way, their irises will be positioned directly in the center of their face.
Another way to combat this issue is to simply make your subject look at the camera. Of course, if your subject is camera shy, then you probably shouldn’t bust out this instruction until you’ve built some rapport with them.
It’s All About Lighting
photo by DisobeyArt via iStock
Your portraits aren’t going to be interesting to look at if your subject is strongly backlit so that you can’t actually see the expressions on their faces (unless a silhouette is what you’re going for). It also won’t be interesting to look at if the lighting is dull.
You should shoot portraits during golden hour as often as you can. This will give your portraits a soft glow that lends a beautiful quality to the image. Trust me. I’ve tried the trick myself.
If you are in a studio, make sure you invest in some quality lighting gear.
You don’t need to spend thousands of dollars here (though you certainly can). Instead, focus on purchasing lighting equipment that offers good, clean light and gives you the flexibility to make adjustments to the color temperature and brightness.
photo by len4foto via iStock
One thing that children are absolutely excellent at is expressing their emotions loudly, whether in public or private. It’s why children are such a pleasure to work with for many photographers. You don’t have to illicit anything from them because they are more than happy to be themselves in every scenario.
However, if you’re working with adults, you may need to get a little more creative. A blank face isn’t very much fun to look at and your clients aren’t going to like their portraits if this is what they’re giving you.
So, you may need to figure out ways to get your clients comfortable enough to laugh or genuinely smile. One hack I’ve seen a lot of photographers using lately is to have one individual in a couple loudly sniff their partner’s neck. It always gets a smile. You may need to come up with your own ways to solicit expressions from your clients.