101 Potrait Photography Tips

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  • 7/30/2019 101 Potrait Photography Tips


    101 Potrait Photography Tips

    I am currently planning out the lessons for my 30-Day Portrait Photography class

    (sorry, its sold out now). Ive been eating, sleeping, and drinking portraiture this

    week. One thing I noticed is that all portrait photographers have a tough time

    pushing their photography constantly to the next level. This article will help you getout of a creative rut in your portrait photography.

    To write this, the Improve Photography community submitted some of these tips on

    our Facebook page. Together, we made the largest collection of portrait

    photography tips ever assembled.

    1. Photograph the subject in their native environment. Some people just dont

    belong in a studio. They feel awkward and it shows in camera. So instead of

    forcing Grandpa into the Walmart Photo Studio, let him go to work in his workshop

    and photograph him doing what he loves. Instead of tears and tantrums when you

    try to dress up your child all pretty for studio punishment, let him play with the toys

    and snap pictures of every moment.

    2. Never shoot kids or babies from your normal standing height. This is the view

    we always have of kidsthe tops of their heads. Get down on the ground and take

    images from their level.

    3. Consider giving the subject space to look into. Place the subject on one side of

    the image and have them look into space (not the camera) towards the other side

    of the frame.

    Portrait photo of a boy looking out through a window at a rain storm.

    Window light

    4. Window light. Dont have an expensive studio or want to get more natural

    portraits? Normal lighting in a house or during the heat of the day is not flattering

    on skin; however, once light passes through a window, it is very soft and diffused.

    Consider placing your subject next to a window so the light hits the model at an

  • 7/30/2019 101 Potrait Photography Tips


    angle (not looking straight out the window). Without much effort, youve created

    beautiful light which studios strain to copy.

    5. NEVER use the on-camera flash. On-camera flash gives a deer-in-the-headlights

    look to even the most beautiful subject. Because the light is perfectly in line with

    the lens, the light hits the subject squarely and creates a flat light that is far from

    flattering. If you choose to use a flash, its truly necessary to get an external flash

    that can be mounted to the side of the photographer.

    Macro portrait photography

    I call it a "macro portrait." It's a picture inside a larger picture.

    6. I know you want pictures of the face, but you might also consider going smaller.

    What about photographing a childs sandy feet while he plays on the beach or your

    grandmothers hands, or your friends eye. Sometimes the tiniest details speak


    7. Over expose. I know I just spent two pages telling you not to do this, but over

    exposing (making the image too bright) is a common and beautiful technique for

    giving a portrait a clean and simple look.

    8. Do something totally off-the-wall. Want cool pictures of your friend in her prom

    dress? Throw her in the pool with the prom dress on. Want cute pics of a baby?

    Put them in a huge basket like Anne Geddes or dress them in clothes that are 5

    sizes too big.

    9. Stop the waving and smiling. When shooting family pictures, nothing can ruin

    the moment more than saying, Hey Dan, look at the camera! Your picture will bedestroyed. Im not saying you have to shoot candid photography all the time, but

    when you are going to have the subject know youre taking the picture, at least

    pose the subject properly rather than having them just stand off squarely at the


  • 7/30/2019 101 Potrait Photography Tips


    10. Shoot up to give power; Shoot down to take power away. In tip #2, I

    mentioned that it generally isnt good to shoot down on babies and kids. The

    reason is that kids are already small, so shooting down on them is so common that

    the photo does not look as it should. Similarly, you can make a subject seem more

    powerful by shooting from a lower angle up to the subject. For example, it would be

    ridiculous to shoot Michael Jordan from above. Since you want to make a sportsstar look powerful, it would make much more sense to shoot that subject from a

    lower angle.

    11. If one person is a bit stale, two people are perfect. Whenever Im shooting a

    subject that gets a bit camera-shy and wont give me much of an expression, I

    always try to let the person interact with someone different. For example, trying to

    get kids to have fun and smile will be tough without a parent being in the studio too.

    This technique works the same with adults. If your subject looks a bit stale, wait

    until they talk with someone else to capture the best expressions.

    Bride with whitened teeth

    Especially where brides are wearing white dresses, the bride's teeth need to be


    12. Whiten teeth properly in Photoshop. For quite a long time, I brushed exposure

    onto the teeth to make them look whiter. I never got the results I wanted untilanother photography told me that it was better to brush brightness onto the teeth

    rather than exposure. Overnight, my digital teeth whitening improved drastically.

    Try it!

    13. Contrast clothing and location. I recently shot engagement photos for a couple

    who chose to wear bright colors. The bride wore bright pink and the groom wore a

    light blue shirt. Those colors undoubtedly catch the viewers attention, so I chose to

    place them in front of muted backgrounds. For this shot, I chose old grey brick

    walls, blurred out dark backgrounds, etc. The results were perfect! You can alsoapply this tip when shooting a model who is wearing muted colors. In this situation,

    shoot the model against a brightly colored background to make the model stand


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    14. Youre missing out on half of your model. No, I dont mean that you could be

    shooting twice as many people. I mean that there is a whole other side of your

    clients that you arent shooting at all. Whats that side? The back side. Shots of

    the subject walking away from the camera, or of the subjects body turned away

    from the camera and head facing the camera can be quite compelling.

    15. Think application before taking the portrait. What is your photo going to be

    used for? While many of our photos are just used generally for looking at, some

    photos would be better either vertical or horizontal if it is going to be used for a

    specific purpose. For example, if youre taking a portrait for someones Facebook

    profile, you can get a much larger picture by shooting it in vertical orientation (up-

    and-down). If youre shooting for a wedding announcement, its probably better to

    shoot horizontal so there is enough room for text on the side of the couple.

    A model is backlit as a photographer takes a portrait photo of her.

    Backlighting is great for hard mid-day light.

    16. When shooting in poor mid-day lighting, have the subject face away from the

    sun. I see this done wrong more often than not. Most of the time, photographers

    have the subject face the sun so their face doesnt look dim and shadowy in mid-

    day lighting. This is unfortunate, because the hard light will create unflattering

    shadows on the face. The best way to shoot mid-day portraits is to have the subjectface away from the sun so their face is in the shade, and then have the

    photographer over-expose the picture so the face looks properly exposed.

    17. Spot metering is your friend. If you dont feel comfortable setting the exposure

    manually to do the technique taught in tip #16, then learn to use spot metering.

    With spot metering, you can simply have the camera meter on the subjects face to

    expose it properly, and then let the background be slightly overexposed. For some

    people, spot metering may be a better option than manually setting the exposure

    for the face.

    18. Whip out the CTO. When shooting in lower light (or if you have a really

    powerful strobe), you can put an orange gel on your flash so that the light that hits

    the subject is, well orange. Then, you adjust your white balance (I always just do

    it later in Lightroom) so the subject looks neutral, which makes the background turn

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    blue. Here is a great collection of examples of using this color shifting technique.

    (Side note: I couldnt remember the term color shifting this morning, and several

    helpful readers reminded me on the ImprovePhotography Facebook fan page). If

    youve never heard of gelling a flash, you will be surprised to know that a gel is not

    jelly-like in consistency. Its just a plastic colored transparency. You can buy a

    set of gels for around $10 on Amazon that fit most flashes.

    19. Compose and then focus rather than focusing and re-composing. Could I have

    made this tip any more confusing? Probably not. What I mean is that it is generally

    preferable to compose the shot and then move your focus point on to the eye of the

    subject rather than focusing on the eye and then recomposing. For more on this,

    check out this previous post on focus.

    A young woman gets a portrait photo tip when using bubblegum as a prop.

    Bubblegum can be a fun prop to help the model get a few casual shots.

    20. Models relax immediately when a prop is introduced. Being a model is scary

    stuff. Its just you vs. the guy with the giant lens. When I see a subject feeling

    uncomfortable, I immediately search for a prop. Pick a flower and give it to the

    bride to play with, give the couple bubblegum and take a photo of them blowing

    bubbles together, give a kid a toy, etc. You dont necessarily have to include the

    prop in the frame (although it usually looks cool), but it is a guaranteed way to getthe subject to relax a bit.

    21. Book a real photo shoot. Contrary to popular belief, models are a dime a

    dozen no matter where you live. Head on over to ModelMayhem.com and find a

    local model. Many of them will not even charge you if you give them copies of the

    pictures you take. Its called TFPtime for prints. Oh, a warning on ModelMayhem

    90% of the models think their best pictures are when they are disrobed. I always

    have my wife go on the site and choose a model for me so I dont have to see the

    nastiness. Not cool.

    22. Buy a few scarves. My wife, Emily, made me include this tip for the ladies. She

    said its a great tip for dressing women for a portrait photography shoot, but I think

    its because she has an obsession with Confessions of a Shopaholic (the girl the

    green scarf). Anyway, it has worked wonders for me in the past. For $15 you can

  • 7/30/2019 101 Potrait Photography Tips


    buy probably 10 scarves at any many stores. Then, you can have your female

    subjects wear plain colors (such as a white T-shirt and jeans) and then wear

    different colors of scarves. I found that this works GREAT for senior portraits,

    because teenage girls like accessorizing and changing clothes every five minutes.

    Big time saver and youll get many more looks out of one subject.

    23. Raise that light for stunning catch lights. Catch lights are a type of specular

    highlight (the tiny bright spot on any shiny and round object). If you have no idea

    why catch-lights are cool, check out this article where I explain it. If youre really

    picky, the best place to put a flash to get perfect catch-lights is high and a few feet

    to the side of the subject. This will create catch-lights at 10 oclock and 2 oclock,

    which is optimal because then the catch-light doesnt cover the pupil.

    24. The worst way to get a candid expression from your subject. Whenever I go

    on a shoot, I always try and get an assistant that can help pose the subject and

    make them laugh and play so that I can focus on the photography. My pet peeve is

    when the assistant says something like, You look so stiff! Loosen up! Ugh!

    Telling the subject that they dont look good only makes the situation ten times

    worse. Never tell the subject they look stiff or they need to loosen up. It backfires

    100% of the time.

    A beautiful woman gets a portrait photo taken of her while sitting in a window sill

    and looking out.

    To have your subject framed, she doesn't have to sit in the middle of the frame.

    This window frames the subject and still follows traditional rules of composition.

    25. Use framing in a creative way. Have your model look through a window or

    have them lean up against a door frame and your portrait composition can look

    much stronger and more interesting. I like using this technique to take pictures of

    babies and toddlers by placing the child in a crib and having them peer through the

    bars of the crib at the camera. Always makes for a great shot. Ive tried doing the

    same thing with people looking through prison bars, but its never been quite as


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    26. Try high-key or low-key lighting. Some photos look great overexposed for a

    clean and bright look, but the same model in the same pose can look scary and

    moody in low-key lighting. Learning to control the amount of light can make a huge

    difference in the feel of your photo.

    27. Quit being a pansy. Many portrait photographers would love to get out and

    shoot more, but dont have the opportunity to find models to shoot. Fortunately,

    any human can be a portrait model (although you probably want to find someone

    better looking than Scottie Pippen. Yikes). I was teaching a sunset portraiture class

    in Naples, Florida a few months back and no models were available for the shoot.

    Did I crawl into a fetal position and cry in the corner all afternoon? Yes, but that

    was for a different reason. Actually, we just asked random people on the beach if

    they wanted their pictures taken. By offering to email them the picture, we had

    tons of different people to practice on and got some fantastic shots.

    28. Use ultra-wide lenses for a cool perspective. Shooting portraits with an ultra-

    wide lens can cause some serious problems if you dont know how to do it correctly.

    Wide lenses generally distort facial features, which the subject will hate you for;

    however, check out this article on wide-angle portraits, and this article on using

    fisheye lenses creatively and youll be on the right track to capture awesome and

    unique portraits.

    29. Warm that flash for sunset portraits. Sunset portraits are a favorite among

    portrait photographers, but few people do it right. A sunset is not daylight

    balanced. The light from a sunset is quite warm: red, yellow, and purple. Buy some

    gels and warm up that flash to make the picture look more natural.

    Depth-of-field shot with a model standing in a street.

    Since the photographer is further away from the model, the photographer has to

    use a very low aperture to get shallow depth-of-field in this shot.

    30. Crank that aperture for full-body portraits. I am shocked on almost a daily

    basis how many photographers fail to understand that aperture is not the only

    camera setting that impacts the depth-of-field. To learn the four (or five, depending

    on how you count) factors that impact depth of field, check out this article. When

    shooting a full-body portrait, the photographer is obviously further away from the

  • 7/30/2019 101 Potrait Photography Tips


    subject. This means that the depth-of-field is much deeper. For full body portraits,

    remember that your aperture must be significantly lower (or your focal length

    significantly longer) to get a blurry background. To get shallow depth-of-field for

    full-body portraits, you might check out the 85mm f1.8 for Nikon, or the 85mm f/1.8

    for Canon.

    31. Throw horizons to the wind for fun portraits. Landscape photographers, who

    are typically quite picky about horizons being perfectly level, would want to cry if

    they heard this tip. But, giving the composition a good tilt can create a fun and

    unique portrait. I took ONE TILTED FRAME onthree different senior picture shoots

    and all three seniors chose the tilted picture. Its a fave of clients, even if some

    photographers think its cliche. To learn more, check out this article on tilting.

    32. When taking a portrait of a group, always focus on the closest person to the

    camera. Youll regret it if you dont, because the front person will be out of focus

    even if you have a slightly higher aperture. Trust me on this one.

    33. Get that model release! I have a library of dozens and dozens of great portraits

    that I cant use commercially because I never got a release. I did a black-and-white

    of a homeless man that became quite a popular photo, but it will spend its life

    collecting dust on my hard drive because I cant sell it. Ugh!

    34. Try out electronic model releases for simplicity. My life changed when I

    downloaded an app for my smart phone that includes a model release that the

    client can sign by writing with her finger on my phone. It makes things much

    simpler for me and I am now much more likely to get the release. Just search

    model release on the Android or iPhone App Stores to find an app for you. I also

    keep a few paper releases in my photo bag since iStock and other microstock

    agencies still dont accept digital model releases.

    35. Learn the famous S pose. Every human being who could ever be considered a

    portrait photographer must know the s-curve. Its essential posing education, and

    Im definitely going to be teaching it greater detail in my 30-day portrait

    photography class. Basically, the model does this pose by making the (camera

    right) side of a model make the shape of an S with the shoulders and hip creating

    the right edges of the S.

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    Message in a bottle with a portrait photography model in the background.

    This is a fun portrait-ish shot with the model out of focus.

    36. De-focus the subject. Sometimes the subject is only part of a portrait. To apply

    this technique, you might focus on the subjects hat and have the person standing a

    few feet away, reaching for his hat. Or, you could do the same thing with a kids toy

    or a womans high-heel shoe. Its a fun and creative shot.

    37. Fill the frame. Zoom way in on the subjects face, eye, or hands. Filling the

    frame shows great detail and will set your photo apart from the millions of

    snapshots that we see every day on our friends Facebook pages.

    38. Check for sharpness on the eyelashes. It can be very tough to tell if your shot

    is in focus by looking on the back of the LCD screen. The way that I check for

    sharpness is to zoom in on the picture on the LCD to look at the eyelashes. If you

    can see individual eyelashes, then you know you have a tack sharp photo.

    Eyelashes look like a blur of black? Not so sharp.

    39. Get a vertical battery grip. Battery grips are large attachments that clip ontothe bottom of the DSLR and include an extra battery. While the battery is handy,

    the real advantage of a battery grip is that they give you another shutter button.

    This extra shutter button can be pressed when the camera is in portrait (up-and-

    down) orientation so you can hold the camera more steady without sticking your

    elbows up and contorting your body to get a vertical shot. This will make you more

    likely to change your camera orientation and your shots will be much sharper.

    Battery grips are typically pretty expensive ($200+) but head over to Amazon and

    search battery grip and the name of your camera model. For most popular

    models of DSLRs, you can pick up a third-party battery grip that is every bit as good

    as the name brand battery grip for around $50. Click here to see the cheap battery

    grips on Amazon.

    40. Get out of the models face. I did something incredibly stupid while shooting a

    black-tie event for a company last year. I totally forgot my 70-200mm f/2.8, so I

    had to shoot with a short 50mm lens for the candids while the guests had dinner.

    To get a decently tight shot with a 50mm lens in this situation, I needed to be about

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    5 feet from the subject. It was a failure. Everyone froze up and looked terribly

    uncomfortable when I got that close with my camera. I couldnt get any decent

    candids that way and it ruined the shoot. Personally, I shoot most of my portraits at

    100mm or more unless its a full-body shot, in which case I shoot at about 70mm.

    Many photographers crowd around a model and use reflectors for a portrait.

    Reflectors everywhere!

    41. Use the correct side of the reflector. 5-in-1 reflectors are both cheap and

    incredibly useful for portrait photography. Still, most photographers buy one and

    have no idea when to use the different sides. You can read more about what side of

    the reflector to use, but the basic idea is that the translucent side goes between the

    sun and the model, the white side is for use in studio or bright light, the silver sideis for low-light or when you need a lot of light, the black side is to subtract light and

    cause a shadow, and the gold side is useful for warm shots like sunsets.

    42. Dont cheat yourself into thinking that you can make a great portrait without

    great lighting. Your photo will be no better than the quality of the light if the light

    is mediocre, do not expect anything more than a mediocre photo. Tip by Deon

    Odendaal on the Improve Photography Facebook fan page.

    43. Be yourself and shoot what you love. I think it is unfortunate when

    photographers do downright strange things to try and make a creative portrait. Do

    things that you like. If youre more of a serious type, then shooting traditional

    portraits in a studio is probably what youll do best. If youre more fun and flirty,

    then shooting models in an ice cream shop or jumping on a trampoline will probably

    produce your best work. Let your photos reflect who you are and what type of

    photography you are passionate about. Tip by Christine Whelan on the Improve

    Photography Facebook fan page.

    44. Use the right tool for the job. Softboxes, beauty dishes, shoot-through

    umbrellas, and reflective umbrellas all produce different qualities of light. Many

    photographers simply buy one and think soft light is soft light, but using the right

    tool for softening your flash actually makes a huge difference in the portrait. Check

    out this article to learn more.

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    This great expression on the groom's face will be gone in half a second. You better

    rip that shutter!

    45. Let that shutter rip to get great expressions. Youll never get the perfect

    expression if your hand isnt beating the living daylights out of your shutter button.

    Getting great expressions means taking a lot of photos and trying to stay alert when

    the perfect moment occurs. Tip from Celicia Steidl on the Improve Photography

    Facebook fan page.

    46. Stop re-living your mistakes. This takes discipline, but it will probably help to

    advance your portrait photography more than all of these other tips combined.

    After every shoot, instead of just throwing away the shots that dont look good, sit

    down and study every single one. Photographers have a bad habit of only studying

    their good shots, but looking at the bad ones and forcing yourself to determine why

    it doesnt look good can help you to prevent that mistake from happening again.

    Tip from Levi Moore on our Facebook page.

    47. Photos werent made to be bits. It isnt always convenient to print photos, but I

    have found that few things help to motivate me than seeing some of my photos

    printed large on my wall. Make a few prints of your portraits and youll be more

    motivated to keep going. Also, it helps you to keep thinking about the picture every

    time you see it so you can improve it a little bit the next time. Tip from Doug


    48. Keep your model warm. It is summer in the Northern hemisphere, but trying to

    keep a subject in the cold will backfire 100% of the time. Nobody looks good with

    frostbitten ears and a red nose. Also, keep a few spare batteries in a pocket

    because batteries die fast in the winter. Tip from Pat Glass on our Facebook page.

    Portrait photography

    49. Learn the lingo when working with models. When trying to find a model for a

    shoot, youll need to learn to speak their language. They are fluent in the language

    of money, which makes it easy to find a model; however, models also say things like

    TFP, which means time for prints. If a model says he or she is willing to do a TFP

    shoot, that means you wont have to pay them, but can compensate them with the

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    photos from the shoot instead. Also, watch out for acronyms like TFCD (basically

    the same as TFP, but this time they want the digital photos). Oh, and sometimes

    the model gets really lazy and just says they want to do a TF shoot. You can

    translate TF in your mind to mean give me the photos and Ill pose for free.

    50. Superglue your camera to your hand. Okay, dont. But it will help you to

    capture photos when you bring your camera everywhere. Sometimes you might

    find an interesting homeless person on the street to photograph (I actually do this

    pretty regularly), or an interesting person for street photography. Terasa Lewis

    submitted this tip on Facebook.

    51. For street photography portraits, go incognito. Cameras are everwhere, but

    carrying around a giant camera bag tends to scare people when doing street

    photography. Terasa Lewis recommends using a low-profile camera bag for doing

    street photography. This bag is a popular one for street photographers to choose.

    52. Bring a Save the Shoot kit. Bring a few non-photography-related items in

    your photo bag that can help save a shoot when something goes wrong. The kit

    might include safety pins for wardrobe malfunctions, Band-Aids, a bottle of water,

    an extra battery and memory card, etc. Tip submitted by Jenny Yates on Facebook.

    53. Find interesting-looking models. It seems that photographers always seem to

    pick models who look similar to them, but trying to find someone completely

    different can really add to your portrait photography. Im not much of a motorcycle

    goth tattoo type, so when I get the chance to photograph that type of person, Im

    amazed by everything about the person. This difference makes me interested in

    the shoot and helps me to get great shots.

    Man with a surfboard gets a portrait taken on the beach.

    I'm sure this photo uses fill flash as well, but notice how the sand and the white

    surfboard can be great reflectors?

    54. Use natural reflectors. When shooting at the beach, the white sand will act as a

    giant reflector if the model is sitting down and close to the sand. When shooting in

    the city, the top of a silver trash can lid can be a reflector. When shooting near the

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    water, the water can act as a reflector. Remember that the sun is not the only light

    source. In fact, sometimes what the sun is reflecting off will throw more light on the

    subject than the direct light from the sun. Tip from Ross Phillips on Facebook).

    55. Wait for a cloudy day. Nothing makes me happier when shooting portraits than

    a cloudy day. It makes the lighting even and soft because the clouds act like a

    giant reflector. Also, it cuts out some of the light from the sun so that I can

    overpower the ambient light with my flash.

    56. Ditch the light stand and use a broom handle instead. When shooting with an

    assistant, I find it much easier to attach the flash to the end of a wooden dowel or

    broom handle rather than using the light stand. This way the assistant can just hold

    it instead of putting the light on a stand and worrying about the light getting

    knocked over in the wind all day. Makes things much faster to work with.

    57. Protect your flashes with air-cushioned stands. If you choose to use stands

    (when you dont have an assistant or youre shooting indoors), spend an extra $30

    to buy air-cushioned light stands so that the light wont come crashing down if you

    release the clamp without holding the extension pole. Its definitely worth the extra


    58. Put three (or more) photos in a row. I love shooting in continuous high mode

    when I photograph kids. Inevitably, they dump a bucket of sand on their head, trip,

    or do something funny. Take the three or four pictures and combine them into a

    little film strip in Photoshop to show the short story.

    59. Never allow the model to wait on you. Nothing kills the excitement and energy

    of a shoot more than making the model wait for 10 minutes for the photographer to

    work on getting lights set up and camera settings properly prepared. Get your gear

    ready before the model ever shows up so you can keep the energy moving.

    60. Contrast clothes and environment. When I shoot portraits for clients, I love to

    take couples who are dressed nicely into old rustic city locations, and when the

    subject is dressed casually, I like to take the subject into a more formal location like

    a church or garden. The contrast makes for interesting portraits.

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    61. Get a proper system in place for your memory cards. Portrait photographers

    commonly come home from a shoot with thousands of photos, which usually means

    that more than one memory card is being used. If you arent very careful, you

    might slip a card with photos from the shoot back into your camera, format it, andre-write on top of it. Get a system in place of where you store your blank cards, and

    where you store your full cards that need to be transferred to the computer. Tip by

    Eric Brundige.

    62. If you havent yet learned your lesson, pay attention to the background.

    Nothing is worse than a great expression on the model with a lousy telephone wire

    or power pole distracting the viewer. Tip by Shannon Craycroft.

    Simply putting one flash behind the kids would make them look less... bald.

    63. Get a hair light. Putting a flash or the sun behind the subject is perfect for

    making the model pop of the background. This is especially true when the subject

    has dark hair and the background is also dark.

    64. Dont delete photos in-camera. Especially for portraits where tiny things like

    where the models eyes are looking and if any strands of hair are out of place make

    a big difference, it would be crazy to delete photos by judging the shot on the LCD.

    Just wait until you can put the photo on the computer before deciding what photos

    to keep and what photos to obliterate. Tip by Doug Williams.

    65. If you accidentally use a bit too much flash, it can be fixed in post. Im not

    talking about when you had the flash on so bright that your neighbors complained,

    but if the flash was a little too hot, then use the brightness setting in Camera Raw or

    Lightroom to help take the edge off the lighting. Many people try to do this by

    changing the exposure or recovery settings, but I usually get much better results by

    adjusting the brightness.

    66. Buy a 50mm f/1.8 lens. Its an incredible lens for $100! Enough said. If you

    dont own one, youre crazy. Heres a link to the Canon 50mm, and heres a link to

    the Nikon 50mm (Caution Nikon users, this 50mm doesnt have a focus motor, so if

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    you use a D3100 or D5100, it wont autofocus. This is the 50mm f/1.8 that has a

    built-in motor. Tip by Eric Brundige, saying to get a fast lens.

    67. Use windows as a giant softbox. To get the light even softer, you can hang a

    frosted plastic shower curtain over the window as a diffuser. Its PERFECT light for

    those who dont have fancy flash gear!

    68. Predict how people will interact when shooting candids. Candid portraits are

    tough to get unless you can act quickly when just the right expression or action is

    taken by the model. One way to predict when the right moment will happen is to

    pay attention what the person is doing. The person on the sidewalk will raise his

    hand and yell when the taxi cab drives by, the groom will smile when the bride

    walks up the isle, the opposing team will look devastated when the game ends and

    they lose. Predicting what will happen can help you to get candid photos with

    dramatic expressions.

    Group picture with uneven heads.

    69. When shooting group portraits, try to get the heads uneven. Group photos

    never look good when the people are lined up in perfect rows. Next time you shoot

    a small group like a family, try to vary the heights of their heads to get a moreinteresting and natural composition. I like to do this by finding some large boulders

    or a hill for the group to sit on so they are uneven.

    70. Spacing is key for group portraits. It would be almost impossible to get the

    people in a group portrait too close together. The people will feel more comfortable

    with more space between them, but the photo always seems to improve when the

    group is tight together.

    71. KISS your model. Okay, that was just a catchy title to get you to read this tip.

    What I mean is to Keep It Simple, Stupid. Fumbling around with softboxes and

    backdrops wont improve the photo all the time. Sometimes its best just to sit

    down with a camera, a lens, and the subject being themselves.

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    72. Get to know your subject. This tip is often overlooked by photographers who

    frankly dont have the skill yet to take a portrait that reflects the persons

    personality, but it is absolutely vital. I recently shot my brother-in-laws

    engagement photos. Since I know he is more of a traditional person, I already knew

    what type of shot he wouldand would notlike. Take the time. Tip by Will via


    73. Long noses should look straight at the camera. To minimize the distracting

    look of a long nose, shoot the model head-on and with the chin slightly up. This

    helps to mask the flaw so the viewer can see the person without distraction.

    74. Know your gear by heart. The expression of a person can change rapidly from

    one instant to the next. Knowing how to change your camera settings without even

    looking can improve the number of times youre able to capture the moment.

    75. Try not to show the flat portion of the hand. Hands can look distracting and

    unnaturally large in a photo of it is turned 90 degrees to the camera. Its best to

    have the hand curved away slightly from the camera.

    A dancer does a move with her hand on the ground.

    Great poses like this don't happen on accident. Take the time and plan it out.

    76. Choose your poses before the shoot. Making a shoot list and possibly printing

    off some examples can help you to keep the energy of a shoot moving. Like the

    picture of the model dancing on the left, youll never get the great and creative

    poses that you want until you work for it. Sit down and spend some time thinking of

    creative poses, and when you get out to shoot portrait photography, dont be afraid

    to try some new things.

    77. Use a polarizer to minimize reflections on glasses. Nothing is worse than

    coming home from a shoot of someone who wears glasses only to realize that there

    was glare on the glasses for the whole shoot. Just put on a polarizer and the

    problem is largely solved!

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    78. Learn to use the golden mean rather than the rule of thirds. The difference

    between the golden mean and the rule of thirds is only slight, but I find that the

    photos often look much more natural when I place the subjects eye slightly more

    toward center than the rule of thirds.

    79. Dont be a DSLR snob. I know you can get a better picture with your DSLR than

    your cell or your point-and-shoot, but dont miss the opportunity to catch a great

    expression or a great moment just because you dont have your DSLR with you.

    Shoot it with whatever you have. Tip by Beverly Humphrey.

    80. Make a list and check it twice. Even if youve packed your gear a thousand

    times, create a pre-shoot check list just like airline pilots use and use it every time.

    Empty your shooting bag or vest and put everything back in its proper place. Check

    the Batteries, Re-format your cards, test fire every camera and lens combo to make

    sure you are ready for anything that comes your way. Tip by Ramon Llorens.

    Wet hair on a model.

    This photographer obviously made a pre-shoot checklist. Had he not, he might have

    forgotten to bring a large bucket of water to dump on the model's head.

    81. Get involved in photography. Go out and shoot with other photographersnot

    just in your interest area, but anyone that will go out. Watch their style, packing

    tips, equipment, how they shot, what they shotand then spend time reviewing at

    the end of the dayhopefully on a computer, but even looking at each others LCD

    screens of what they shot can be a big help. I learn something new everytime. Tip

    submitted by Deb Ausen.

    82. Think like youre shooting film. Sometimes its helpful to shoot a ton of pictures

    to catch the perfect expression, and sometimes its better to slow down and think

    methodically. Make each picture perfect before you press the shutter and use an

    exposure. Think and slow down. Tip by Alison Williams.

    83. Watch for elastics! I laughed when I read this tip on the facebook page by

    Alison Williams, because I cant tell you how many hours Ive spent in the last few

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    years Photoshopping hair ties out of the picture when the client or model forgot to

    take them off.

    Little kid gets a picture taken of him by a portrait photographer while playing on the


    Get low to the floor and let the tantrum run!

    84. It doesnt all have to be perfect and pretty. For example, shooting a two year

    old throw a tantrum on the kitchen floor can actually make for a great shot if the

    photographer is shooting from down low. Similarly, photographing a guy all sweaty

    and dirty can make for a dramatic shot. Dont always look for the pretty stuff. Tip

    by Trish Phillips.

    85. When shooting for clients, write their name on a sticky note and put it on the

    back of your camera. You can also use medical tape and write with a marker. I

    really hate it when I forget the clients name mid-shoot. Very embarrassing to keep

    saying, And uh.. will you yes, you please move your head forward?

    86. Soften your on-camera flash. I personally use the Gary Fong Lightsphere to

    soften my flash when Im shooting a reception or event photography indoors. It

    works fairly well and certainly looks better than shooting bare flash.

    87. Perfect your on-camera flash. While getting a perfect photo with a softbox

    takes a lot of skill, its pretty hard to get a BAD photo with a softbox. On-camera

    flash is totally different. It takes a lot of practice to get it to look just right. To learn

    more about on-camera flash, check out this book.

    88. Adjust the lighting to fix deep-set eyes. Some people, like me, have their eyesa little further back from the eyebrow. This often causes deep shadows in the eyes.

    To fix this problem, simply lower the lights a little so they throw light under the


    The classic "warm cookie" smile (from tip #89)

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    89. Know how to direct the client to give the look you want. It takes practice to

    learn how to communicate your posing ideas to the client. With time, youll learn

    how to give directions clearly. For example, I commonly tell clients and models

    Dont show any teeth for this one, but just think about smiling as you pose. Theclient always understands that direction easily. Other photographers ask the client

    to think about warm cookies, but thats just way way way too corny for my taste :-)

    90. Know the tips for hiding wrinkles. If your subject is a bit more mature and has

    wrinkles or heavy laugh lines, follow these tips (1) Use more frontal light rather than

    side-light, (2) bring the light in close and use a large light source to get it unusually

    soft, and (3) rather than have the client smile, follow tip 89 and just have them

    think about smiling.

    91. Choose your model carefully. I always laugh when I see the models that

    photographers choose for a shoot that will be used commercially (even iStock).

    They always seem to choose the hottest girl they can find, rather than a nice-

    looking person who is attractive and approachable. The truth is that sometimes the

    hot girl also looks kinda mean and unapproachable. How many companies do

    you know of that want an unapproachable person to be the face of the company?

    Not many! Pick someone who is attractive and approachable, who has that girl

    next door look. Tip from Yuri Arcurs.

    92. Set your picture style to portraiteven if shooting in RAW. Canon calls them

    picture styles, and Nikon calls them picture controls. Whatever you call it, the way

    the camera processes the photo will have a (fairly significant) impact on how the

    final picture looks. Many photographers are taught that the picture style doesnt

    matter if youre shooting in RAW, because you can change it later without any loss

    of data. While this is true, it fails to take into account the fact that the photo shown

    on the back of the LCD is a JPEG preview that uses the picture style. This can

    impact the way you expose the picture and how you set up lighting. Since Im

    mostly a landscape photographer, I always have to remember to change to the

    portrait picture style when I shoot people or else I will mess up the lighting if I think

    there is too much contrast between foreground and background.

    93. Quit sharpening blindly. It is absolutely necessary to sharpen portraits, and no.

    Sharpening and the Clarity slider in Photoshop or Lightroom is not the same thing.

    Unfortunately, many photographers sharpen portraits globally by using unsharp

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    mask on the entire image or the Sharpness slider in Lightroom. Portraits

    absolutely require selective sharpening. The eyes and hair should get quite a bit of

    sharpening, but the skin should usually be blurred rather than sharpened. Take the

    extra 30 seconds on your portraits to sharpen selectively and youll see a significant

    improvement in your image quality.

    Sunset silhouette.

    This is a perfect silhouette portrait because the shape of the model is more

    important than seeing the facial features.

    94. Try a silhouette! The best time to shoot a silhouette is when the sun is low on

    the horizon and the shape of the model is clear and distinctive. For example, little

    girls running across the beach at sunset would be a perfect time for a silhouette.

    95. Artificially light your subject naturally. Some of my favorite portraits use light

    sources other than outdoor lighting or flash. There are many other natural light

    sources that you can use to get a dramatic mood, such as a person holding a

    candle near their face, or being lit by the light that comes off a computer screen in

    the dark, etc. This type of lighting sets a mood that cant be recreated any other


    96. If youre going to use HDR, use it wisely. HDR has many negative effects that I

    discuss in my eBook on HDR. For example, HDR increases the grain (not noise!),

    brings out texture, produces unnatural colors, and fills in all shadows. While the

    magnitude of the impact of these drawbacks can be minimized, HDR will always

    increase these things. Unfortunately, all of those things are negatives for portraits.

    While HDR can be perfect for shooting a portrait where detail and grunginess is the

    style of the photo (like a black and white of a bearded man in a third-world country),

    most models dont want to look grainy, shadowless, and textured. But sometimes

    we want to shoot an HDR portrait anyway to get a cool look on the background.

    To get the best of both worlds, process the HDR normally and then process one ofthe single RAW images as a traditional portrait. Then mask together the two

    images so the skin of the traditional image is shown, but the HDR of the background

    is shown. Now you have the best of both worlds.

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    97. If you are going to crop it, give it a full amputation. Cropping in on a person

    can be difficult. Beginning photographers commonly shoot only full body shots

    because they arent quite sure where to crop the body. The best tip I can give is

    not to crop off part of the body half-way. For example, if youre going to crop off

    part of the head, make sure it isnt just skimming off the top of someones scalp. If

    you are going to crop the top of the head, then crop down into the forehead so theviewer feels that you did it on purpose. Many photographers teach not to crop

    along the joints (knees, elbows, wrists, etc). That is also good advice, but I think

    that what it is trying to teach is to crop intentionally. If youre going to crop a little

    of the body, crop a lot.

    98. Use backdrops creatively. Studio backdrops (you know, the splotchy colored

    ones that look like they were tie-dyed by a two year-old) generally make for a pretty

    dull portrait, but there is a way to fix it! The reason the textured background looks

    boring is because it is evenly lit. Remember, light is EVERYTHING! By turning thebackdrop so it is at an angle to the camera, part of it will fall into shadow while the

    other side will remain brighter. This contrast makes the backdrop look ten times

    more interesting. You can do the same thing with a white background. The side

    closer to the camera will be white, and the back side will look dark gray because it

    wont catch the light as much. This gradient can be a really creative background.

    99. Bring a cheap romance novel to the shoot. One cool tip I thought of the other

    day is to play a game when on a shoot. For example, I thought I could bring a

    cheap paperback romance novel to an engagement shoot. If the couple is a bit stiffand wont play with each other and laugh, I bring out the book and have them start

    playing a game. They have to open the book and read one full sentence of the

    romance novel to their partner without laughing or smiling. Inevitably, it leads to

    hysterical laughter, smiling, and natural-looking expressions. All the while, Im

    standing 20 feet away capturing the moment.

    100. Use the correct focus mode. When in the moment of a portrait photography

    shoot, its easy to forget the little things. For 99% of portraits, I use single-shot

    focus mode. However, if I switch to a shot of someone walking down a path towardthe camera or a groom jumping as the couple runs to the chapel, then I need to

    remember to switch to continuous focus (Nikon) or AI Servo (Canon) so that the

    photo is sharp even though the subject is moving.

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    101. Pay it forward. This information doesnt write itself. It takes me a LOOoong

    time to write posts like this for the community, so I would appreciate it if youd

    share this post on your Facebook/Twitter/Google+ by using the buttons on this

    page. The Facebook and Twitter share buttons are way back up at the top-right of

    the page, and the Google+ button is right below this. Thanks!