Portrait Photography Basics

It’s been a while since I’ve written about portrait photography. Probably because my friend was getting married and I was all about wedding photography tips and tricks. But the other day I was taking some photos of my kids, and we had so much fun in their grandparents’ backyard, I thought why not share some nuggets of wisdom on the net, pieces of the things I’ve learned over the years of being a photographer.

One of the most important things for taking stunning photos is your subject’s background. It has to be visually alluring, and paying attention to the colors can really help you with this. For example, green and red are complementary colors, so if your subject is wearing something red, you could place them before a background that has a lot of green in it, and it’ll help your subject to stand out.

If, on the other hand, you shoot in black and white, then you should pay close attention to the shapes in the photo. You don’t want your background to be too crowded or seem disorganized. Even if it’s full of objects, make sure you get the angle where the background doesn’t take the attention away from the subject.

For example, one time I was shooting in black and white for a pocket watch commercial, and I was supposed to take some photos of the model holding the watch near his face. They picked a bar for the shooting location and the background was really crowded with chairs and tables. I told him to stand in front of the shelves behind the counter where the bottles were very neatly and symmetrically arranged. It was a great contrast to the rounded shape of the watch.

Next, pay attention to the lighting. Shooting in the early morning, or at golden hour is best. The shadows aren’t too harsh and the colors have a nice tint. If you want to shoot during high noon, I’d recommend capturing those harsh shadows in black and white. It turns out great.

And always make sure the light either hits the model from the front or the side. Rarely from behind – this makes a nice effect only if you’re going for a more experimental approach. But, if you’re trying to take a clear portrait of someone, then try to avoid it.

And lastly, get some props and have some fun with your subject! Communication is important during shooting, and props are great for breaking the ice.

Good luck!