7 Tips to improve your portrait photography
1) Use Window Light
Long before flash was invented artists used windows, in particular northern facing windows. This gives a lovely diffused light, which is soft and flattering to the skin. Actually something that studio photographers spend a lot of time and money on re-creating.
2) Never say "Cheese"
I know you want nice smiley photos of your friends and family, but lining them up in front of something and then going "cheese" is always going to look stuffed shirt posed. Instead keep your camera out while you're enjoying your al fresco picnic, barbeque, time on the beach, and keep snapping away while they are not paying attention.
3) Two people are better than one
Especially if the one person is feeling a bit awkward in the eye of the camera. Two people interacting is much more fun and natural. You can keep them separated so that you are still only shooting the one person - or sit them close together. Give them the job of making the other laugh for a natural smiley picture.
4) Shoot your subjects backside.
Now I sort of mean that literally. We rarely shoot the back of people, but actually when you've got your subject walking away and looking back over their shoulder that can be a really lovely photo. Especially if they are walking into the sunlight. It's a shot I make of my wedding couples, they walk away holding hands and turn and look back to me through the middle - it is always selected for the wedding album. (and shows off the brides dress)
5) The sitter is never at fault.
The worse thing you can say as a photographer is "You look so stiff - you look awkward - you are doing it wrong". It only makes them more aware of themselves and more stiff. Instead give them things to do, talk to them, make them laugh, make them jump and up down or run around - anything to loosen them up.
6) Get in close, get in closer
Head and shoulders is good, just the face is better. Now, some sitters may not see it that way, my older clients are less happy about seeing all their wrinkles, but their offspring love it because that IS how see they see their parents. For younger faces - you just can't go wrong here. If you want a powerful portrait get in close.
7) Don't take 1 shot when you can take 20
We're all digital these days, just keep shooting. Tell them you've got the shot, let everybody relax and keep shooting, shoot before they are ready, shoot after they are finished. And unless you are a complete hoarder, afterwards throw away the ones that don't work.
The more people there are in the group, the more you have to shoot, because at different times 1 or more of your sitters will be blinking, looking away, chatter, coughing or something else.
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