AmSnaps - Digital Photography Basics For Amateur Snappers

Use These Portrait Photography Tips And Techniques To Give Your Portraits The WOW Factor

These portrait photography tips will help you create portraits that really WOW your viewers. You will learn to make the most of lighting, props and location to produce stunning portraits.

I am also going to share with you some tips on getting good portrait poses, taking individuals and groups such as families and babies, finding good locations and what lighting works best.

There is also a video tutorial by Erin Manning on directing people to achieve the best portrait photos. She shares with you her top 5 portrait photography tips for getting your subjects to pose properly.

Portrait Photography Tips - Lighting

Full on lighting can wash out skin tones so bounce the light or lights from the sides.

If using a flash, try bouncing the light off of a white ceiling. Play with it a little to find what flash positions work best.

Portrait Of Man With Sun On His Face
Photo by Karalyn

Use Back lighting to create dramatic shadows.

When shooting outside, noon time sun can be harsh. Try shooting at sunset when the sun casts a golden glow and position your subject so that the golden glow washes over their face.

When setting up a shot, lookout for shadows that may cast awkward angles across the subject's face.

Super Woman - Natural Backlit Photo
Photo by Joshua Targownik

Portrait Photography Tips - Posing

For traditional portraits, sit the subject on a stool at a 45 degree angle to the camera. Place the subject's hands in their lap. The upper thighs should be at a 90 degree angle from the body. You may have to have them put their feet on something.

For women, a head tilt in (toward the body, the direction that the body is angled) is warm, traditional. If the head is tilted back (over the shoulder, away from the body) it is more playful and flirtatious.

Portrait Picture Of Beautiful Female
Photo by Joshua Targownik

Use a board to do arm poses. Pay attention to details that may draw the eye such as bruises, crooked fingers, stiff hands and other un-natural or awkward positions or details.

When shooting a woman, sit her on a stool, positioned at a 45 degree angle from the backdrop (her back is to the camera). Put a stool behind her and have her lean on her arm or hand on that stool, looking over her shoulder at the camera. Try different head tilts.

Erin Manning's Top 5 Portrait Photography Tips Video

Portrait Photography Tips - Location

When doing location shoots, pay attention to awkward shadows, areas of intense light and objects that are in the foreground or background that may draw the eye and distract from the subject.

When framing a shot, pay attention to what is behind the subject. For instance, if they are placed in front of a pole, the shot could wind up looking like they have a pole coming out of their head. Instead, position them to one side or the other.

Great Color Photography Of Girl Posing In A Window
Photo by Delaluz

Find interesting locations that offer variety.

Don't limit yourself to certain areas. The side of a brick building or the white wall outside a grocery store can make for some awesome shots.

Portrait Photography Tips - Young Girl Against A Wall
Photo by Taylor McCutchan

Portrait Photography Tips - Props

Encourage your subject to bring props such as school jacket, football, musical instrument, dance costume, decorative fan, stuffed animal, favorite toy, or anything that is special to them.

Portrait Photo Of The Trumpet Man
Photo by Trombontim

Use the prop in different ways to give variety to the shots. For instance, a child who has a stuffed animal can be holding it in one shot, sitting by it in another shot and laying down with it in yet another shot.

Have your subject drape their jacket over their shoulder and stand at a slight angle with their back to the camera (with the jacket showing) and have them look over their shoulder.

Light from one side and have your subject hold their musical instrument. The lighting will create dramatic shadows and will lend a great mood to the shot.

Portrait Photography Tips - Cereal Killer
Photo by Reegone

Portrait Photography Tips - Individual

Shoot individuals in positions where they are sitting or standing.

Use the three point system for individual portraits: head shot (head and shoulders), three quarter shot (to the lap) and an arm pose.

Portrait Of Individual Girl Photography Tips
Photo by Natasha

When shooting a subject standing up, avoid having them stand square to the camera or face straight to the side. Angle them slightly at 45 degrees.

Pay attention to double chins. This can even show up on thin people. Remedy it by shooting at an angle that is slightly above the subject, causing them to angle their head upwards a bit.

Pay attention to glare on glasses. If the subject wants to wear glasses in the shot, bounce the light or angle the glasses so that they point slightly downwards.

Portrait Photography Tips - Family or Group

Position a family or group so that they form a triangle or circle but avoid having any two subjects at the same level.

Avoid having a smaller person stand beside a larger person, they will look even smaller and awkward.

You can put a smaller person behind a larger person when shooting couples or a parent and child. The smaller person can put their arms around the larger person and lean over their shoulder. This gives a feeling of closeness.

Women generally look most flattering when they are lit from the right side.

Portrait Photography Tips - Sensual Poses

Sensual Portrait Photography - Lovers On The Beach
Photo by Abnelphoto

Sensual portrait photography focuses on creating a piece of artwork that allows you, the subject to express yourself. As an individual or couple you want to convey your passion and emotion through romantic, tender and sensual poses.

Portrait Photography Tips - Children

Work quickly with children. Don't force a child into a pose that they don't want to do.

Allow the child to move about, play and guide the shoot somewhat.

Portrait Photography Tecniques & Tips For Photographing Children
Photo by Mike

Use plenty of props and be somewhat loud, making silly noises and faces to get the child's attention.

Have fun with children. Peek-a-boo often works to get a child to smile. Setting a toy on your head and pretending to sneeze so that it falls off is also effective.

Portrait Photography Tips - Babies

Don't expect a small baby to smile. If you do try to get a smile, be prepared to shoot very quickly. Get mom or dad to help, but gently position them so that they are out of the shot.

Portrait Photography Tips - Baby
Photo by MIAD

MIAD writes: "The photo is of my daughter, taken with her mother just to the right and very close by in case she tries to move off the coffee table I was using for the shot.

Taken using a Canon 70-200mm L series lens at 200mm from memory to keep mother out of shot and have the baby as the main focus of the shot.

Having her close to the baby worked well to get a smile and look towards the camera. Flash was bounce from speed light set at 45 degrees off the roof. Made sure it was the time of day she was generally most playful and had the whole scene ready beforehand so just needed to add baby, working fast is easiest with them."

Even if you are doing shots of just the baby, having mom or dad step in for a shot together is usually well received.

Have mom stand with her back to the camera or at a slight angle and put baby over her shoulder. Have her turn her head so that she is looking at baby and you can see her profile or a bit of her face.

This is a great pose for moms who were not prepared to be in the photo, but it is also a pose that moms love.

Mom & Baby - Portrait Photography Tips
Photo by leonmoss77

Portrait Photography Tips - More Information & Ideas

Pay attention to the details. Hair that is sticking up or a finger in an awkward position can ruin an otherwise fantastic shot.

Shoot wide. That is, leave extra space around the edges of the shot. You can always crop, but shooting wide will give you room to do larger prints.

Shoot tight if you plan to do some artistic cropping, but leave some room for cropping. Try to get a variety of expressions and looks. Make sure that you and your subject have a blast!

Digital Photography Success

Tried Everything To Improve Your Portrait Shots?

Finally, a digital photography ebook that guarantees results. Amy Renfrey has dedicated two sections of her Digital Photography Success 'SUPER' e-package to teaching you Portrait Photography.
Click Here For More Information.

Useful Books From Amazon About Portrait Photography

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Digital Portrait Photography
Digital portrait photography sounds like an easy task, but a certain approach is required to make sure you do your subjects justice. Learn the basics of posing and tips on the correct Aperture.

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Wedding Photographer
Northern Ireland