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How to Take Better Portraits

Updated on July 14, 2015
LuisEGonzalez profile image

I enjoy photography and have been doing so professionally and independently for over 30 years. Hope you enjoy my hubs!

How to Take Better Portraits

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 3.0 License. | Source

Tips for portrait photography

Sooner or later, most photographers will photograph people, whether formally or informally, posed or not. For most some tips on photographing people or portrait photography are in order.

Like with every photographic subject attention has to be placed to the light, the aperture, shutter speed and the mood that you want to create. It is always appropriate to use diffused light for people. This light is softer than direct lighting, say from a flash, or direct sunlight.

Diffused light is quite simple to recreate by placing diffusing material in front of the light producing element. In a camera mounted flash unit, a simple way is to place a handkerchief in front of the flash's lens, you can also aim the flash head to the ceiling, (should be a white surface).

If you are using modeling lights, then placing a diffusing material in front of the light hood does the same. You can buy diffusers, but they can be expensive.Photographic umbrellas not only serve to diffuse light but they double as reflectors too.

Another technique is to place reflectors at angles to the person. A reflector is nothing more than a white, silver or gold panel made of reflective material that will reflect light back to the subject.

Cardboard panels, like the ones used for school projects, work great. Which color for the reflector depends on what mood you want; white for general softer light, silver for stronger light, and gold for a general warming touch.

Place the reflector at a 45 degree angle to the subject. They also serve to enhance whatever light is available when you lack a flash or shooting in less than perfect light conditions, say in a wooded area.

CC BY 2.0
CC BY 2.0 | Source

Posing your model: Standing straight looking into the camera is not only uncomfortable, but makes people rigid and it will show in the photo. Instead have your models sit or recline with hands in normal positions.

Have then relax by closing their eyes and opening them after 10 seconds, and perhaps starting a conversation about their interests. A relaxed and comfortable person will reflect this on the photo.

Shutter speed is not as crucial if the model is posing, as they are not going anywhere, but it is important to take into account as it relates to how much light you have available. F-stop or aperture should be calculated with how much sharpness in the background you want present.

If photographing outdoors, reflectors can be used provided that you have some help. When posing your model, plan each pose, discuss the set up with the model and take several shots of each pose.

Unless you hire a professional model, involving the model, which often can be your friends or relatives or volunteers, in the planning process is paramount as they will feel that their input is important to you and will take stock in the photo shoot.

Makeup: Most models know how to apply their own makeup however, you can often procure the services of a make up artist by promising promotional credit for their work. Wardrobe: Plan and discuss the shoot with your model.

Be creative but keep the location in mind and use wardrobe that is appropriate for it. Fashion stores will often donate wardrobe pieces for a promotional promise. Note: Do not reuse intimate apparel or beachwear.

Model releases: Even if your model is a friend or relative it is always a good idea to have a signed model release in the event that one day you may have the opportunity to sell the photo, and it is always the norm for professional models. If your model is a minor, then have a parent or legal guardian sign on their behalf.

The idea is to plan the shoot a few weeks in advance, select and scope the location, inquire about obtaining permission if it's needed.

Arrive at the location with plenty of time, seek the assistance of friends and have the equipment ready for when your model arrives. Although sometimes shoots just happen, this is rarely the case.

Good preparation and planning can most often than not lead to pleasing results.


Portrait Photography

© 2011 Luis E Gonzalez


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    • katrinasui profile image

      katrinasui 5 years ago

      My friend is a photographer. I am going to share this hub with her.

    • Alladream74 profile image

      Victor Mavedzenge 6 years ago from Oakland, California

      Really good tips and advice here.Voted up and useful

    • danthehandyman profile image

      danthehandyman 6 years ago from Maryland

      Just read a couple of your Hubs on photography. Outstanding advice and illustratons. Thanks.

    • SamboRambo profile image

      Samuel E. Richardson 6 years ago from Salt Lake City, Utah

      Thanks for the advice. My daughter is a beautiful woman, but her last photographer made her look like she was from Mars. I think I know why, now.

    • energydrinks1 profile image

      energydrinks1 6 years ago

      great hub! thanks for commenting on mine!