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If you’re learning how to take better portraits, then you’re in the right place. Portrait photography can be a lot more difficult than beginning photographers expect and the best way to learn is to do so from others who have done it before you.
Manny Ortiz, one of my favorite YouTube photographers, released a video earlier this year that follows him on a portrait shoot with his wife. It’s jam packed with portrait photography tips that are easy enough for anyone to follow.
While I highly recommend that you watch the entire video, I’m going to take his portrait tips and condense it below so that you can start to implement some of them into your own photography right away.
Play with Symmetry
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You don’t necessarily need to find twins to try out this tip (though it may help).
By making your images symmetrical, you are forcing your audience’s eye to be automatically drawn to your subject.
You can make your images symmetrical by placing your subject in the middle of any type of background, be it a couple of windows, a series of paintings, or a row of trees.
Like most of the portrait photography tips on this list, you’ll need to pay close attention to your background in order to complete this successfully.
But, this is a good lesson to learn early. Most portrait photography tips play into one another.
Pay Attention to Your Background
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Considering the fact I just talked about this, I may as well make it its own tip too.
You need to be incredibly cognizant of the background of your images, for a few reasons.
For starters, really distracting things can be in the background of your images. For instance, if you put your model in front of a telephone pole and it looks like the pole is growing straight out of their head, this is going to be really distracting.
But, you also want to pay attention to your background because there can be important information that you want to include in your shots.
In the video, Manny notices that there is a lot of greenery behind his wife at one point and so he decides to change his angle in order to include it in his shot.
But, there could be more information you would like to include in a shot in order to either make the shot prettier or to tell your audience more information about where your model physically is.
Most portrait photography tips for beginners are exactly like this one. You just need to learn to keep your eyes open.
photo by Cecilie_Arcurs via iStock
This is one of my favorite portrait photography tips for a number of reasons. First, I hate standing still and I think a lot of other photographers are the same way.
But it’s also one of my favorite portrait photography tips because it keeps you from getting too comfortable during a shoot. If all of your images are similar, but just barely different, you could get into a rhythm and you’ll definitely lose out on good shots because of this.
Though, this is one of those portrait photography tips that is easier to do if you’re on location somewhere. It obviously won’t work if you’re in a studio.
Don’t Be Afraid to Try New Angles
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A lot of easy portrait photography tips are just about getting outside of your comfort zone. This one included.
If you’ve never played around with angles before, it is high time you do. Shoot up at your model. Shoot down at your model. Shoot your model from the side. Don’t be afraid to try as many angles as possible because you never know when you’re going to find something that you love.
Keep the Model Comfortable
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Most portrait photography tips are tips that apply to the photographer. I don’t think enough portrait photography tips are about the other side of the equation: your model.
If your model isn’t comfortable during your shoot, then none of the photos you get are going to be good.
So, always be thinking about your model. Are they cold? Are they hungry? Are they squinting into the sun?
Fix as many problems for you as you can and they will be far happier and they will trust you more.
Add Movement Into Shots
photo by Carlos Barquero Perez via iStock
Some of these portrait photography tips sound really similar. But, they are very different. When I talked about moving more earlier, I meant that you needed to move around a city or park more often. Change up the scenery. Change up your background.
This tip, though, means that you should actually include that movement in your shots.
If you’re shooting with a model in New York and you need to ride the subway to get to your next location, take photos of your model as you’re moving through the subway terminal. Take photos of them next to the moving train. By actually including movement in your shots, you’ll make them far more interesting.
Use Shadows to Your Advantage
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I swear this is one of the last portrait photography tips I’ll give you that deals with your background (but it’s really that important).
You should always be focusing on where shadows exist at your shooting location. If you’re shooting in a city, you can include shadows from skyscrapers into your shots. If you’re shooting in a more natural environment, you can play around with the shadows on your model's face.
In just the same way that you should always be using natural light, you should always be using shadows as well.
Take More Photos Than You Think You Need
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The beauty of modern photography is that you don’t need to be worried about running out of film.
Obviously, taking as many photos as possible isn’t the way to go, because you’re a hobbyist photographer and you should be using all of the tips and tricks you’ve picked up along the way. But, when you’re still learning, there is absolutely no harm in taking more photos than you think you need.
This is especially true if you are working with a paid client, since you need to ensure they get at least a couple of shots that they love.