- 3 Portrait Photography Techniques You Can Master Today
- Advanced Portrait Photography Tips That Will Immediately Improve the Quality of Your Portraits
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Many of our portrait photography tips cover the technical aspects of the exposure, lighting, or composition. Interaction with our portrait subject or model, making them comfortable in front of the camera, is another aspect well within our ability to control.
Posing the subject so that they feel natural is often an important part of our portrait tips or modeling session tips. It goes right along with composition when considering how to do portrait photography or how to work with portrait models. In addition to good posing techniques, what else can we do to help our subject be more comfortable in front of the camera?
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This is what you talk about right after booking or, if it’s an informal photo shoot, simply a pre-session conversation of what to expect. Some of the things that your portrait subject may need to know before the shoot is what type of clothing or makeup to wear, how to prepare their hair, and whether the shoot is just them or are others getting photographed too.
You may also tell them or show them what type of lighting, whether it’s strobes or continuous light, if you’ll be shooting indoors or out, and if they’ll be standing, sitting, or other poses.
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Use a Posing Guide
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As we’re discussing with our client or subject how to do portrait photography, we may figure out that they might need a little extra guidance for posing for them to be comfortable in front of the camera. A printable or sharable posing guide is often just what’s needed.
We could also show them previous work we’ve done, but a posing guide helps make it more personal to them since they won’t be seeing someone else’s face as they think about posing. The posing guides I prefer are monochrome illustrations that are easy to distinguish.
Most subjects, even some professional models, are going to be unsure about what to do with their hands. Nothing makes a portrait subject feel uncomfortable quite like the nervous indecision of how to pose their hands, so be sure to concentrate some effort on that, especially for those not used to being in front of the camera.
photo by fizkes via iStock
All of that rapid fire, witty banter or nonsensical pratter you hear on TV shows and movies depicting a photographer interacting with the model isn’t necessary, or even realistic, but it does help for the subject to hear positive words from the photographer to make them more comfortable in front of the camera.
So, what do you say? Unless you’re very familiar with the subject, you may want to avoid appearance specific compliments or suggestions that may either sound judgemental or perhaps even risque.
As you have them go through the poses you worked out ahead of time, generic compliments are certainly welcome. “Good job!” “That looks nice. “ Tilt your head a little, put your chin up.” will all work. Even as you’re directing to avoid unflattering posing or expressions, try to keep the directions simple and upbeat. Instead of saying no or don’t do something, just direct to the good pose or expression you want.
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Your business model may have time constraints for the portrait or model shoot, but you may want to pad your schedule a little bit to include short breaks within the actual photo shoot. Don’t shortchange the client or cause schedule conflicts, but there’s only so much in a row most portrait subjects can pose. Professional models, not so much of an issue.
With a non-professional client or a friend, you might take some time during a short break to let them see some of the images you’ve captured. If that’s not your shooting style, that’s fine, too. A tethered or wirelessly tethered computer or tablet will make this an easy step.
Seeing their good poses and expressions will motivate them to have a good time in what time is remaining, no need to discuss what went wrong in any not so great shots, just compliment and build on the good things.
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Even if you’re not a professional or aren’t charging for the portrait session, maintaining a professional demeanor will go a long way towards inspiring confidence and helping the subject stay comfortable in front of the camera.
If you are confident in your skill and ability, that confidence is reassuring to the portrait subject, leading to them being more likely to be comfortable in front of the camera, resulting in more natural posing and expressions.
Which in turn will lead to better portrait images, which is our main goal with all portrait photography tips.
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You may have noticed that we didn’t recommend any equipment choices in this portrait tips article. Not any camera, lens, or lighting gear will automatically make your portrait subject more comfortable in front of the camera.
The best things to do are to communicate well, before, during, and after the photo shoot, be confident in your ability and familiar with your equipment, whatever it is, and act professionally whether with family and friends, a portrait client, or professional models.