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Portraits are one of the most popular genres and they get a lot of attention. Many beginners try their hand and quickly get discouraged because they’re not getting the kind of portraits they admire in other photographers’ portfolios. This is usually due to a series of avoidable mistakes. We’re showing you some of them in hope that you will avoid them the next time you have a portrait session with someone.
Never put the subject too close to the background
This is a bad thing to do for two main reasons. The first one is that you won’t have a clear separation between the two elements. That wonderful blurred background, or bokeh, is only possible if you put some distance between the subject and the wall or whatever background it may be. Second, the body will cast a shadow on the background because of the sun or your flash. It’s definitely not something you want.
Never pose a guy in a feminine pose
This should go without saying, yet I’ve seen a lot of dudes looking all girly, sometimes without knowing it. When you photograph a man, you should only use masculine poses. Your model doesn’t always know how he looks and it’s your job to bring out the best. How does a 6.2f ft. guy look in a ballerina pose? C’mon!
Be careful when shooting head on
Photographing somebody with their entire body turned towards you can be unflattering. The position of the body determines the flow of light. With that said, if you still want to photograph a person head on, make sure you put your creativity in lighting. Photographers like Michael Schoeller are amazing at this.
Don’t shoot your subject from behind
Unless you are taking a street photo or photographing a baby, you shouldn’t take pictures of someone’s rear. It’s unflattering and unexpressive most of the times.
Don’t make your subjects too uncomfortable
I know that art demands sacrifice, but putting your models in uncomfortable positions will most likely cause them to feel really bad and that will show in the images. Instead of focusing on expression, they will probably be trying to figure out how not to fall or thinking about how much longer they have to stay like that. It will also look unnatural most likely. However, uncomfortable positions are good for fashion photography.
Never make your subject stare into the sun
This should also be a no brainer, but still I see it while effortlessly browsing through Flickr. Making people stare at the sun is good if you want to shoot the movie poster of a ‘70s karate movie. Otherwise, put the sun on the side or behind the model and create some nice backlight. Ideally, you should only be out shooting at dawn or dusk but I know you don’t always have that luxury. In broad day light when the sun is the most powerful, try using a reflector or a fill flash to get rid of unwanted shadows that might come from putting the sun behind or to the side of your subject.