photo by 123ducu via iStock
Given the fact that so many people are looking for photographers right now, I’ve been hearing a lot of stories of photographers who are attempting to branch out into different photography niches in order to fulfill the need.
This means that a lot of photographers who haven’t really worked with people before are trying to. And, subsequently, they’re learning just how hard it is to work in portrait photography.
Still, portrait photography is one of my favorite photography niches because you can help people to feel so much more confident in themselves, so long as you’re doing it right. So, in order to help you do this, I’ve compiled this list of basic portrait photography tips.
If you’ve been in the portrait photography game for a while, then these portrait photography tips aren’t for you (though, they are if you need a refresher). These are beginner portrait photography tips designed with novices in mind.
Choose Your Location Wisely
photo by MStudioImages via iStock
There are about a thousand things that go into choosing a location for portrait photography. So, one of the most important portrait photography tips I can give you is to do enough research about your location before your shoot.
The first thing you need to determine is whether you are going to be shooting inside or outside. Outdoor shoots are typically preferred, since natural lighting can lend a warm glow to portraits. But, if you live in a particularly volatile part of the world, where the weather is always changing, then it may be a far wiser decision to shoot indoors.
The absolute worst thing you can do for your client is to plan for an outdoor shoot and have no backup if it’s pouring outside the day of.
None of the portrait photography tips on this list are that simple, though, because you also need to be thinking about what sort of location will best exemplify your client’s personality. If they love art, then maybe you should be doing their portraits in a downtown setting where you can easily find murals. If they love nature, then maybe somewhere green is the best way to go.
Focus Less on Posing Your Clients
photo by Atstock Productions via iStock
I see a ton of portrait photography tips that are all about posing. If you’ve seen these portrait photography tips before as well, then I basically want you to throw out everything you think you know.
The best portraits are ones that aren’t posed at all and when you give your client poses that feel unnatural, you are not only going to miss every opportunity to get spur of the moment shots, but you are going to make them feel uncomfortable in the meanwhile.
I typically come to every photoshoot prepared with under 10 poses. I usually only need a few of them. I’ll help my client pose when we get to the location and then I basically let them do whatever feels comfortable from that point on.
Find Your Clients’ Emotions
photo by LumiNola via iStock
A lot of these portrait photography tips work in tandem. Like this one and the one about using posing less. When you pose your clients either more naturally or not at all, they are going to be more comfortable and more willing to express themselves in front of you.
Since all of the best portraits are those that capture true emotion, your best bet of getting the best shot of your client is to focus less on the technical aspects of your shoot and more on the way your client is feeling.
Let me give you an example. I was working with a professor the other day. She needed a headshot for a book that she was publishing. So, we met up on campus to get it.
I could tell she was very nervous to be having her photo taken, but I could also tell that she had a really big personality. She was almost 60 years old, and she was in great shape so I started just asking her about what she does to look so good.
She was telling me about her yoga classes and her climbing classes and, in the long run, I had her climbing a tree on campus. She absolutely lit up with this childlike wonder and the shot that she ended up choosing was a photo where she was hanging off of a tree.
Of course, it was a headshot, so the tree didn’t make the final shot. But, that raw emotion, that amazement at life, did. She looked great.
Pick a Color Palette
photo by Tassii via iStock
Some of the portrait photography tips on this list are more traditional. This one is not. But, I love choosing a color palette that I’m going to work with, especially if I’m shooting with kids.
For instance, if a kid has bright blue eyes, then it makes a lot of sense to find backgrounds that will help bring out that feature. Or, if a kid absolutely loves the color yellow, I’ll encourage their parents to dress them in a bright yellow outfit and shoot during golden hour when I can catch the sun in their shots.
You likely won’t see this recommendation on a lot of other portrait photography tips lists, because if you do it wrong it can look really cheesy, but parents love it.
Give Them Great Prints
To round out these portrait photography tips, I thought it prudent to include at least a few photography business tips.
No matter how good your shots are, that doesn’t mean much if you aren’t able to wow your clients with a physical memento that will allow them to remember their shoot (and you).
It’s why I recommend that you upsell your clients with canvas prints from CanvasHQ.
CanvasHQ is a small, family-run business that actually cares about the products they create. This means that every canvas print they make will last your client over a century. So, they will not only remember you and this photoshoot for decades to come, but they will have an antique to pass onto their children and grandchildren.
It also means that they understand budgeting, which is why their prints start at just $20.
Beautiful prints on a budget are a dime a dozen...and CanvasHQ is certainly at the top of the heap!