The right lens
Lower your angle
Reduce and soften shadows
Dressed for success
Know the right poses
- Portrait Photographer's Handbook
- 500 Poses for Photographing Women
- 500 Poses for Photographing Men
- Posing for Portrait Photography: A Head-to-Toe Guide for Digital Photographers
- Doug Box's Guide to Posing for Portrait Photographers
- Master Lighting Guide for Portrait Photographers
- Light It, Shoot It, Retouch It: Learn Step by Step How to Go from Empty Studio to Finished Image
If much of your professional work is photographing women for portraits, then invariably they will often ask if you can create images that will magically eliminate a few pounds or inches, and a few years. When you’re confident enough in your technique to answer “Yes,” then you will exceed your clients’ expectations and create an opportunity for repeat business and maximum word-of-mouth advertising. You can bet that any female client that you’ve been able to look better in her portrait will be eager to show the photos to her friends…and her friends will want the same magical treatment.
The techniques that will allow you to apply this magic to a growing female portrait clientele are not particularly difficult once you know how to use them correctly.
Excellent portrait photography, as with most genres, starts with the right lens. For portraits, this is any lens with just enough focal length beyond normal for your camera to eliminate any possibilities of body, and especially facial, distortions. For a full-frame DSLR, this is approximately 70mm to as much as 200mm. Your portrait lens doesn’t have to be a fixed focal length, but if you use a zoom, 24–70mm, 24–105mm, 24–120mm or 70–200mm, for example, then choose the highest quality zoom lens.
Positioning your camera parallel to a portrait client’s body or face typically makes her look heavier. Try a low angle instead, which will typically give her more height and a thinner body. Be aware that this doesn’t always work for every woman, so you shouldn’t shoot low-angle shots exclusively. Some clients will be quite happy with a portrait from a parallel camera position.
Nothing will cause unhappiness among your female portrait clients more than photos with enough shadowing to reveal blemishes, wrinkles and a few pounds of extra baggage. The solution is to use plenty of light, so shadows are virtually non-existent. If the portrait is outdoors, then shoot on a cloudy day or use a diffuser or reflector. For studio portraits, bounced light and softboxes are excellent tools to give your clients youthful faces and body proportions.
Knowing your client’s body type prior to the portrait photo shoot will allow you to make clothing suggestions that will be more flattering. Women carrying a few extra pounds will look trimmer if they dress in a dark or black wardrobe. In addition, they shouldn’t wear tight clothing that overemphasizes their body shape. Neither should you suggest clothing that looks like they are wearing a bag. The combination of dark-colored choices and just enough shape to the clothes will strike a good balance between looking thinner and still showing a few, subtle curves.
Consider offering the option of a makeup professional to apply or modify or fine-tune the client’s makeup job. You can also create a portrait package that includes a makeup professional. Some women are simply not that good at using makeup correctly; and a portrait shoot can require a slightly different application of makeup to help the client look her best. This is a strong point you can use to sell clients on the value of having a professional apply or check her makeup.
One of the secrets to successful female portrait photography that the top pros know is the importance of understanding what poses the client thinks make her look her best. You may not always agree with her, but your job is to give the client what she wants. Not all clients will tell you which poses they prefer and absolutely abhor; and it will make for a better client relationship if you don’t ask them directly. The top pros know how to “read” their clients during the pre-shoot meeting/interview and during the shoot and recognize in which poses she seems the most relaxed and confident. In most cases, however your best strategy is to shoot enough images to cover a good range of poses, so you’re assured you have captured those that will please your client.
Try these tips during your next, and future, female portrait shoots and you’re sure to create happier clients…and that almost always leads to more business for you.
Photo copyright PhotographyTalk member Laura
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