Five More Tips For Better Portraits

When I wrote the first edition of this, I realized nearly a week after that I had even more ideas for ways to create better portraits, so we’re back with more ways to better your photography and step up your portraiture work! I hope this is informative and easy enough to understand so you can get out there and attack portraits!

Let’s get into the tips!

(1) Side Lighting vs. Back Lighting vs. Direct Lighting

So, studio photography will tell you that a good photo is to be taken Rembrandt style, with light coming in down at a subject at a 45 degree angle. This works very well for studio photography and generally creates very lovely tones on a subjects face. But, the vast majority of us freelancers don’t have access to studios, so we work with natural light. Here’s a couple photos and a short little description with each kind of lighting scenario!

These are good examples of side lighting, creating a pretty even glow on Emmy’s face. This is a good example of Rembrandt lighting *without* a studio light or flash.

The above are excellent examples of back-lit photos. The sun is obviously directly behind her, and since the sun is setting, it still gives off a lovely even light but makes the background that much more dramatic, and adds a splash of golden hues to the photo.

Finally, direct lighting. This is achieved by putting the subject directly in the sunlight, as illustrated above with Hannah. The left photo perhaps illustrates this the best, and it can give for some interesting photos!

(2) Working With Lines

Working with lines can have great advantages and disadvantages. For symmetry purposes, it’s generally important to make sure lines are straight and coherent in a photo, and in some cases, lead to the subject. Let’s look at a couple!

These lines are similar – they both lead directly to the subject and stop once the person interferes with the line. This is a fantastic way to draw attention to your photos – our eyes naturally follow lines, so anything with leading lines should be done with intent!

Another example of leading lines, but this time, on both sides. This might further illustrate the point better! They lead directly to the subject, which is good for catching attention very quickly.

Aligning your lines – say that five times fast, huh? If there are lines in a photo and it makes sense for them to be straight, make sure they’re straight, especially if they’re taken with a traditional sense of photography in mind.

(3) Natural Movements

Honestly, some of my best photos are the result of the most random movements in the world. Besides signed models, dancers and actresses are probably the best for this because they’re already so mindful of their bodies and do really random things. Like, really random things. Let’s dive into a couple of my fave “random movement” poses!

Any sort of flowing attire always work so well in these scenarios. Get creative with it and use it for dramatics. It makes a more powerful photo for sure! These are two very different examples but both tell a very different story. I’ll let you write your own story.

Kaila is literally taking her scrunchie out of her hair and I took a photo of it. What does that tell us? Well, judging by happiness on her face, her attire, and the caption, maybe it was a warm day, and she was joyfully letting her hair down. And Maddie in the right-hand photo? Something completely different. It’s clearly cold and she’s adjusting her hood – maybe to pull over her head? Again – natural movements: they go a looonnnggg way!

Perhaps two of the more dramatic photos I’ve taken. Guess how? Natural movements. 🙂

(4) Creative Options

This point can expanded into very different ways, so let’s just look at some photos and maybe think about them a little. We can shoot through objects, or use very dramatic lighting, or use props available to us. It depends greatly on what the limits are to your creativity. Let’s have a look, shall we?

As you can see, my creativity comes out in darker places. It creates such a different mood when shooting at nighttime, something I don’t visit often enough. Maybe we’ll see more of that from me?

She is beautiful.

You didn’t really think I’d leave out my best shot ever…did you?? Silly you. (By the way, check out that blog – I didn’t even realize how good of a shot it was until later on! GO, READ IT!!)

(5) Beware of Your Surroundings

Focus on where you’re shooting and make sure the mood is set. Shooting in a city, or a park, a nature landscape, or abandoned buildings are all completely different and give off very different vibes. Let’s take another look at the moods portrayed by each location and what the model is doing in each photo. Generally, the overall mood of the photo and the expression of the model indicates mood immediately.

The mood of an abandoned building conveys different things to different people. For me, having models not look at the camera conveys some physical distance between the photo and the viewer. And for shots like these, it’s executed perfectly.

Emotion is my favorite thing to capture in a photo and hey, that caption from months ago shows I still stand by that rule! I never do fake smiles, and every girl I’ve posted a picture of in this blog can 100% tell you that’s true. I say it at least a hundred thousand times per shoot. I want REAL emotion. And the two above photos show that pretty well, don’t they?

And finally, the dramatics. The more dramatic, the better. Sometimes you can achieve it with the location, like photo of the water splashing on the beach, by shooting from a low angle of a girl looking up and off in the distance, or by having a dramatic backdrop. Or, you could just be Kaila and be insane and try to hug your reflection. Or go nuts during a snow storm. Or just flip your hair! C’mon now, you didn’t really think I’d go a WHOLE learning blog without putting a hair flip in there, huh?

Well, there ya have it. Some of my favorite tips I’ve been wanting to share with you all! I hope you learned something from this! If ya did, leave me a comment, I’d love to hear from you! And hey, if you try any of these, I’d love to know as well!

I’ll see ya on the next one!

~ Justin

Parting shot:

Dec 1. Lauren. Buffalo.

Next blog: Little change in scenery, water, and dogs coming your way. Stay tuned, we’re going for a beautiful hike!

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