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If you’re learning how to take better portraits, then you’re probably looking for some portrait photography hacks. Unfortunately, figuring out how to take better portraits is harder than it looks because the way your portraits turn out completely relies on where you’re shooting, who you’re shooting with, and how you’re shooting.
What I’m saying is that there are a lot of variables.
Miguel Quiles, one of the YouTube photographers that I really enjoy, has a great video filled with portrait photography tips to help you get started.
I obviously recommend that you watch the entire video, but if you don’t have time to, I’ll give you a short breakdown of all of his recommendations. If you implement some of these tips, you will take better portraits almost immediately.
Fill the Whole Frame
photo by DaniloAndjus via iStock
I see a lot of photographers take documentary-style images where they leave a ton of headroom above their model’s face in their photos.
This does a few things, which can be negative when not taking a documentary portrait.
First, it makes the model look small. You obviously don’t want your model to look small, you want them to look bigger than life and powerful. Second, it indicates to the viewer that you, as the photographer, don’t really know where you want them to look. You are essentially taking your subject and obscuring it.
If you want to take better portraits, you should use your entire frame. Make sure that your subject is the only thing your viewer sees when they first look at your image.
Use Catch Lights
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Another way to take better portraits is to use catch lights as often as possible.
Catch lights are when you use a light source to create a highlight in your model’s eye. This light source could be natural, like the sun, or it could be artificial, like from a studio light or a portable reflector.
Catch lights help to keep your viewer’s attention for just a little bit longer. With catch lights and a filled frame, your model will look powerful and interesting.
I love this tip especially because of how easy it is. If you forgot to bring a light source or a reflector, then you can simply move your model around until you find a light source to use. Plus, whenever you get to your location, it only takes a minute to check your model’s eyes to see if you have a catch light that will hold your viewer’s attention.
Pay Attention to the Model’s Eyes
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I know that I just talked about this with catch lights, but your model’s eyes are so important that I need to talk a little bit more about them quickly.
You not only need to ensure that your model’s eyes have some catch lights in them, but you also need to ensure that you aren’t seeing too much of the whites of their eyes.
If you are shooting with someone who is uncomfortable in front of the camera, then they may naturally want to look away from it. Since their eyes are the most interesting part of their face, this will mean their images will turn out disappointing.
In order to get around this problem to take better portraits, you can either have your model look directly at the camera, or you can have them keep their eyes straight above their nose.
Don’t Forget About Lighting
photo by Anton Abramov via iStock
One thing that I love about portrait photography is that you can cheat. If you genuinely don’t know what you’re doing in terms of lighting, then it’s always a safe bet to take your model out during golden hour in the morning or in the evening. This is because you’ll always have warm, beautiful lighting during this period.
Otherwise, you can learn a little bit more about lighting and start playing around with bringing your own light sources.
photo by MStudioImages via iStock
While you definitely need to be thinking about all of the technical aspects of your photo when you are taking portraits, you also need to be in the moment with your model. This is because when you get too caught up with your camera and your composition, you could be getting technically good images with ugly facial expressions.
You need to find the emotions in your model. It’s why you’ll hear about couples photographers who suggest that one individual whisper their dinner order in the other individual’s ear in their sexiest voice. It gets everyone laughing and ensures that they can calm down enough to genuinely be themselves.
You can also help your models to be more comfortable by reassuring them that you’re a professional and it’s your entire job to get a shot that they’re going to love.