My Digital Photography

Enhance Your Digital Creativity

Archive for the ‘Portrait Photography’ Category


Photographing Toddlers – 5 Tips for Keeping Your Sanity

Filed Under Digital Photography School, Photography Tips and Tutorials, Portrait Photography

“Having a two-year-old is like having a blender that you don’t have the top for.” – Jerry Seinfeld

No doubt, you’ve experienced the frustration of photographing your own toddler or a family with toddlers. Frustration and anxiety come from not knowing how to relate to toddlers and get them to cooperate for photos. But there is a way to have a great experience photographing toddlers even if they are grumpy, unruly, shy or scared.

I’ve developed five strategies based on my own career as a portrait photographer and insights from childhood psychology.

If you struggle when photographing toddlers, these five tips will transform your experience and theirs too!

Photographing toddlers 1

This is often how a sibling photo with toddlers goes! There are times when you need to forget about the perfect photo and go for comical instead.

1. Meet the toddler where they are

“The fundamental job of a toddler is to rule the universe.” – Lawrence Kutner

Most toddlers are not interested in sitting for a picture. For them, life is all about exploration. They don’t understand the picture taking process. Photography is about cherishing their childhood and marveling at their growth.

Photographing toddlers 2 rec

Toddlers love to explore. They were born for picking up sticks and wandering off.

Begin by realizing that a toddler does not know what a photography session is about. They may even be confused or scared during this new experience.

I was photographing a family and the mom and dad told me that their little guy was terrified of the camera. When he saw my camera he burst into tears and ran away. It seemed like an impossible situation.

Photographing toddlers 3

Never fear when a toddler runs away from a photo. Turn it into a fun game of chase.

2. Promise to be patient

“You can learn many things from children. How much patience you have, for instance.” – Franklin P. Jones

If you’re planning to photograph your own toddler or another family, you must begin by promising to be patient.

This should happen long before you pick up your camera. Patience must be built into your photo session. Make the decision in advance that nothing will cause you to become upset.

Photographers only feel impatient with toddlers because they’ve lost control and don’t know what to do. When you promise to be patient, your mind will be clear to think of solutions.

Photographing toddlers 4

Embrace a variety of emotions. Sometimes a grumpy look adds an interesting mood to the photo, especially in black and white.

When that little boy ran away from the camera, I had to be clear in my thinking and figure out what to do next.

Promise to be patient no matter what happens and then begin to create an environment in which toddlers will thrive.

Photographing toddlers 5

3. Develop a friendship

“My best friend is the one who brings out the best in me.”– Henry Ford

Kids love to make new friends. During photo sessions with toddlers (or older kids), you must make time to befriend them. A fun grown-up is like a superhero leading them into adventures.

When a toddler is shy, give them time to warm up. They’ll let you know when they’re ready to be friends.

Photographing toddlers 6

Go ahead and provoke a great expression by being a comedian, toddlers will love it.

You can even make friends with misbehaving toddlers. Give them time to run free and pretty soon they’ll pull you by the hand to go play. This will give you great opportunities for candid photos.

The terrified little boy took about 20 minutes to calm down. In a few more minutes we were friends and my camera was no longer a threat to him.

Photographing toddlers 15

This was actually a grumpy moment, but nobody can resist a funny photographer!

4. Give the child high fives

“Our chief want is someone who will inspire us to be what we know we could be.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Toddlers love to show off and make you laugh, and they love to receive praise from grown-ups.

When they do something well, give them a pat on the head or a high five. Simple gestures like this bring them to life.

Note: Be aware of cultural differences. Touching an Asian (or more specifically, Buddhist) person on the head is an insult.

If they give you rocks, leaves, or sticks as gifts, receive them with excitement!

Photographing toddlers 7

Allow time for true joy to emerge.

Now that you’ve established an encouraging friendship, you can ask them to sit or pose. Get your pictures quickly, give the child a high five, and move on.

I didn’t force the terrified little guy to sit and smile properly. There was nothing but friendship, encouragement, and high fives. He would gladly sit for a moment or two. I was quick with my camera and captured many candid photos too.

When you focus less on telling the toddler what to do, and more on drawing out genuine happiness and laughter, you’ll get the photos you want without the stress.

You won’t even need patience if you create a toddler-friendly experience.

5. Don’t force the moment

“The quickest way for a parent to get a child’s attention is to sit down and look comfortable.” – Lane Olinghouse

One of the toughest problems you’ll face is toddlers not wanting to be in group photos. The more you try to force the toddler to sit for a photo, the harder it often becomes.

Photographing toddlers 8

All sorts of fun can happen between the poses. Look around your environment to see what fun elements can be used in your photos.

Photographing toddlers 9

Just moments later came a perfect pose and a smile.

Allow for a contrast of sitting for a photo and then time to explore.

When toddlers refuse to join in the family photo, I don’t force them. Every parent knows that toddlers love to interrupt what adults are doing. As soon as I start photographing Mom and Dad together, the toddler wants to be picked up. It’s a perfect moment for group cuddles, bringing out beautiful smiles from everyone.

That terrified little boy did not want to be in photos, but he did want to be comforted by mom and dad.

As he sat with them, I did things that would make him smile and laugh. I made a teddy bear dance on my camera. He smiled at Teddy which was as good as smiling at the camera.

Photographing toddlers 12 rec

Photographing toddlers 13

Photographing toddlers 14 rec

Bring in the background as part of the photo. Let the little one wander off and then call their name when you’re ready with the camera.

Bonus: Dealing with the toddler’s parents

We spend the first 12 months of our children’s lives teaching them to walk and talk and the next 12 months teaching them to sit down and shut up.” – Phyllis Diller

Sometimes the hard part is dealing with a toddler’s parents. Some parents will be easy-going and let you run the photo session the way it seems best to you. Other parents will not. They have a deep need for things to be orderly and go as they planned.

During the session, keep reassuring parents that everything is going well, even if it doesn’t feel like it to them. Assure and show them that you know how to handle toddlers and that you will make beautiful photos.

Photographing toddlers 16 rec

This moment took a lot of work. It was a tiny moment of stillness in the midst of chaos.

Remind them how much their child has accomplished in these early years of life. Inspire parents to see the fun of the moment. Remember, you promised to have patience with the toddler, and his/her parents!

Let them be toddlers

“There was never a child so lovely but his mother was glad to get him to sleep.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Photographing toddlers 17

Remember what it’s like to be a two-year-old. They don’t care about pictures like we do (but they will one day).

Promise to be patient and then create an environment for toddlers to thrive. Even when they start out cranky, angry, shy or scared, you’ll let them be themselves and experience friendship and encouragement. This is what leads to wonderful photos of toddlers.

I’d love to hear about your experiences photographing toddlers in the comments below. Please share your thoughts and images of toddlers.

The post Photographing Toddlers – 5 Tips for Keeping Your Sanity appeared first on Digital Photography School.


How to Choose the Best Portrait Lens According to Three Professional Photographers

Filed Under Cameras and Equipment, Digital Photography School, Portrait Photography

Here on dPS, we’ve covered this topic in previous articles. For example: How to Choose the Perfect Portrait Lens.

In the following videos, see which lens these photographers chose and why.

85mm versus the 70-200mm f/2.8

Portrait photographer, Manny Ortiz takes you to a live shoot in this video. Watch as he shoots the same subject, in the same location with both the 85mm f/1.4 and a 70-200mm f/2.8 lenses.

See how they differ and watch all the way to the end to find out which is his favorite lens and why.

Is there such a thing as the “best” portrait lens?

In this next video, Gabriel Sanchez (Gabe) talks about the four lenses he uses most often for portraits and which are his go-to and favorites.

He goes over the 24mm f/1.4, 35mm f/1.4, 50mm f/1.2, and a Sigma 85mm f/1.4, and the benefits and results you can get with each lens. See why he says there is no “perfect” or best portrait lens, watch to the end.

Favorite lenses – fashion photographer

Finally, get a different point of view from fashion photographer Julia Trotti as she explains why the 35mm f/1.4 and 50mm f/1.2 are her favorite lenses.

Which lens do you use for portraits?

So at the end of the day which lens are you going to choose for doing portraits? Do you have any favorites? Tell us which lenses you use and why in the comments below.

If you’re still undecided here are some more dPS articles to help you out:

The post How to Choose the Best Portrait Lens According to Three Professional Photographers appeared first on Digital Photography School.


The dPS Ultimate Guide to Taking Portraits and Photographing People

Filed Under Digital Photography School, Photography Tips and Tutorials, Portrait Photography

Have you ever wished that you could take better photographs of your friends and family? Do you love looking at portraits taken by professional photographers, but just aren’t sure how to replicate similar results for yourself? Have you ever felt totally overwhelmed by all the options for photography gear and need someone to help you understand what’s essential for photographing people and what isn’t?

If you found yourself nodding along to any of those questions, this guide is for you! In this dPS Ultimate Guide, we’ll walk through everything from equipment to post-processing, and give you the tools you need to photograph people with confidence!

The dPS Ultimate Guide to People and Portrait Photography


When it comes to photography, the best camera to use is the one you already have. Whether you’re using your cell phone, a point-and-shoot camera, a mirrorless camera, a cropped sensor camera, a full-frame camera, or an old film camera, you can take beautiful photographs of your friends and family. Essentially, don’t let the lack of “ideal equipment” get in your way. In almost every circumstance, you can combine the equipment that you already have with this guide to improve your people photography and portraits.

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, in addition to your camera body and basic photography essentials like memory cards, there are a few key pieces of equipment that make photographing people much easier.

If you’re using a DSLR camera, lenses can make a huge difference in the quality of your photos. Most photographers prefer prime lenses for people photography. Although you do have to zoom with your feet, they tend to produce images that are sharper and more vibrant overall.

That said, whether you’re at a wedding or a soccer game, there are times when your subject’s distance from the camera is going to change frequently and quickly. In those instances, a zoom lens may be the best choice for photographing the special people in your life. Here are a few of the most frequently used lenses for portrait and people photography.

The dPS Ultimate Guide to People and Portrait Photography

Prime Lenses

35 mm lens: This focal length is not great for traditional head-and-shoulders portraits, but it really shines when it comes to capturing people in the context of their surroundings.

The 35mm lens (on a crop or APS-C size sensor) is most similar to the angle of view of human eyes. So it’s a great lens to use when you want to capture what’s happening around you just as you see it. For this reason, the 35mm lens is an especially great choice for street photography as well.

50mm lens: For many photographers, the first lens they purchase after their kit lens is some variety of a 50mm lens. The price and versatility of a 50mm lens just can’t be beaten, and for a lot of photographers, having the ability to shoot at f/1.8 (or f/1.4, or f/1.2) is a huge upgrade from their kit lens.

If you’re shooting with a full-frame camera body, the 50mm lens is great for photographing families and sibling groups. If you’re shooting with a 50mm lens on a cropped sensor camera, it’s a focal length that’s great for portraits and photographing couples.

85mm lens: Most 85mm lenses are extremely versatile, allowing you to fill the entire frame with the subject’s face or backup to include their entire body without distortion. In fact, 85-105mm is known as being the ideal focal length range for portraiture because images captured within those focal lengths tend to be more flattering and have less distortion than images of people captured at other focal lengths.

Additionally, the lens compression with an 85mm lens makes it appear that the background is being pulled closer to your subject, which results in beautiful and dramatic portrait images.

The dPS Ultimate Guide to People and Portrait Photography

Zoom Lenses

Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 Art Lens: Designed for cropped sensor cameras, this lens has a range that includes many of the most popular focal lengths for photographing people. In addition, the ability to shoot at f/1.8 across all focal lengths makes this lens a powerhouse for both portraits and people photography.

70-200mm: This lens is considered to be one of the standards when it comes to wedding and event photography because of its versatility in capturing people across a variety of focal lengths. The 70-200mm focal range is especially helpful in situations where you’d like to be able to capture genuine emotion without being physically close to the people you’re photographing.

As you’re looking at different lenses for portrait and people photography, keep in mind that to achieve a nice blurred background in your portraits, you’ll often want a lens that’s capable of shooting somewhere between f/1.2 and f/2.8. You’ll notice that lenses capable of shooting at those apertures are more expensive, but this is one instance when the payoff is worth the increase in cost.

If you’re shooting on a cropped sensor camera, remember that you need to multiply the focal length of the lens you’re using by the crop factor (this number is often something like 1.5 or 1.6) to discover the functioning focal length of your lens. So, if you put a 35mm lens on a cropped sensor camera, it actually functions more like a 50mm lens.

Other Helpful Tools

The dPS Ultimate Guide to People and Portrait Photography

Reflectors: A 5-in-1 reflector kit will help you tackle a huge variety of lighting situations that you might encounter when photographing people. Not only is it helpful for bouncing warm or cool light on your subject, it also gives you the ability to absorb light and to fix dappled light issues when photographing one to three people.

Alternate light source: Even if you think you’ll only be photographing people outdoors in natural light, it’s a good idea to have some form of an alternative light source at your disposal, whether it’s a speedlight, ring light, or studio lights. We’ll talk more about when and how you might want to utilize different lighting sources a bit later in this guide. For now, just know that having some form of a light source will dramatically improve your versatility as a photographer.


Photography is often described as “painting with light”. As such, it’s very important to have a good understanding of the different light sources that you may experience as a photographer and how to best use them to your advantage.

The dPS Ultimate Guide to People and Portrait Photography

Natural Light

The most basic of all lighting types is natural light. This is as simple as it sounds – all of the light in your photograph is coming from the sun. No additional light source (like a flash) is used.

Photographing using natural light (sometimes also called available light) can mean that you’re shooting outdoors, or it can also mean that you’re shooting indoors near a large window. It can mean that you’re shooting when the sun is high in the sky, or that you’re shooting backlit portraits near sunset.

If you’re new to photography and are struggling with lighting even in natural light situations, grab a friend and try the circle trick, which is a quick and easy way to help teach yourself how to see different natural lighting situations.

The dPS Ultimate Guide to People and Portrait Photography

Studio Lighting

Another option when it comes to lighting is to utilize studio lighting. This sounds more intimidating than it really is—studio lighting just means that you’re using a flash, stand lighting, and other artificial light sources as your primary source of light for your image.

Professional headshots are often photographed with studio lighting, as are many newborn photography sessions. The major benefit of studio lighting is that you can easily control what the light looks like and ensure consistent lighting regardless of external factors like weather. Studio lighting can also be helpful in creating high-key images with dynamic lighting and lots of contrast.

Using studio lighting does involve a different learning curve than natural light photography, and many photographers feel intimidated by it. However, learning studio lighting is a great way to achieve a solid understanding of a variety of lighting situations, and it’s absolutely worth taking a class or workshop to learn more about it.

Even if you don’t ultimately end up using studio lighting very often, it’s a valuable tool to have in your arsenal.

The dPS Ultimate Guide to People and Portrait Photography

Combination Lighting

Many photographers utilize a combination of natural light and studio lighting—using available light when possible, and sometimes supplementing with another light source. The most common light source for beginning and intermediate photographers is probably the speedlight.

Using a speedlight in combination with a diffuser is a great way to photograph people indoors in situations where you may not always be able to pose them near a window (think birthday parties, wedding receptions, holiday gatherings, etc.). Another way to use combination lighting is to take your speedlight outdoors and use it as a fill flash for outdoor portraits.

The dPS Ultimate Guide to People and Portrait Photography

Finding Locations and Backgrounds

When it comes to photographing people, the location and the background that is behind your subject are extremely important. Your backdrop will either enhance your final image or detract from it, so here are a few tips to help you find and choose the best possible locations to compliment your photography.

The dPS Ultimate Guide to People and Portrait Photography

Color is King

When I’m shooting portraits, I’m most often using a 50mm or 85mm lens, and shooting with a fairly wide aperture (usually somewhere between f/1.8 and f/2.5). Typically, I’m looking for the person that I’m photographing to be in focus, with a nice creamy bokeh background behind them. Because the background is softly blurred, sometimes the color of the background can be more important than what it actually looks like to the naked eye.

A parking garage can look like a less than inspired backdrop through a 35mm lens. But if you transition to an 85mm lens, suddenly the details of the background disappear, and you’re left with a backdrop that appears to be a nice neutral gray tone in portraits. Similarly, a field of weeds can look terrible in person but translates as a creamy golden yellow background in a photograph.

As such, training yourself to consider color in addition to content when looking for potential photography locations is a great trick to have up your sleeve as a photographer.

The dPS Ultimate Guide to People and Portrait Photography

Memories Matter

One of my favorite ways to choose a photography location is to ask the person you’re photographing to share a location that’s particularly meaningful to them.

Is there a park that their family walks to on Friday nights in the summer? Go there. Does the high school senior you’re photographing have fun memories of picking peaches at a local farm with her parents every summer? Check out that orchard. Is a family bringing home their first baby? Consider shooting at their home instead of a studio.

Choosing locations that have special meaning to the people you’re photographing is a great way to ensure that they’ll be as comfortable in front of the camera as possible, and it’s also a great way to invoke genuine positive emotion. Hearing a song on the radio can take you right back to a specific memory in your life, and so can revisiting locations that have happy memories associated with them!

Don’t be afraid to ask the person you’re photographing if there’s somewhere particularly meaningful to them that could act as the backdrop of your photo session. From the public library to grandma’s famous dahlia garden, to a family friend’s lake house, you might be surprised at what they come up with!

The dPS Ultimate Guide to People and Portrait Photography

Utilize Geotagging

Several popular websites for photography allow you to search images that have been geotagged by zip code, city, and other identifying factors. Flickr Map is one such resource, and although it can be a real mixed bag in terms of the quantity and quality of images to sort through, it’s a great tool for visualizing what different parts of your area look like at different times of the day and different times of the year.

I wouldn’t recommend choosing a location sight unseen, but it’s a great tool for narrowing down areas that you might want to check out in person. Another option that’s just beginning to gain in popularity is Shootipedia, a location scouting website, and app that allows photographers to post images and share details about their favorite locations to shoot. Some parts of the world have lots of locations cataloged while others have very few. That said, it’s always worth a look!

The dPS Ultimate Guide to People and Portrait Photography

Go Explore

One of the best ways to discover photography locations near you is simply to get out and explore your area. Go for a hike. Hop in the car and drive around. Print off a listing of all the local public parks, and swing by at different times of the day.

Don’t discount familiar locations either. Chances are that as you begin to look through the lens of photography, you’ll find that there are countless appropriate locations and backdrops right in your own neighborhood.

Clothing Tips and Ideas

Most people can benefit from some sort of direction regarding what to wear when being photographed. However, whether or not you (as the photographer) will be able to offer direction in terms of what to wear will vary based on lots of different factors including the type of people photography you’re doing.

For example, if you’re photographing the attendees at a birthday party or doing street photography, you won’t have as much input into clothing choices as you would if you are shooting portraits.

The dPS Ultimate Guide to People and Portrait Photography
In situations where you do have some influence over what the people you’re photographing are wearing, that level of “direction” can range from you purchasing specific pieces of clothing to be worn to simply giving general advice regarding colors and patterns that are flattering on most people.

The level of your direction as a photographer will also be dependent on your personal photography style and whether you offer styled sessions or not. However, regardless of your personal style, there are a few rules of thumb that generally hold true in most instances when photographing people:

  • Neutral colored clothing (black, white, tan, or gray) is always a good choice.
  • Jewel tones are flattering to most complexions.
  • Avoid logos or text on clothing.
  • When incorporating patterns, stick to very classic patterns like plaid or polka dots.
  • When photographing families, it’s better to work with one color family (warm colors, cool colors, jewel tones, neutrals, etc.) than to have everyone wearing exactly the same thing.

The dPS Ultimate Guide to People and Portrait Photography

  • Adding or removing jackets and/or cardigans is a great way to add some versatility to a session.
  • If you’re photographing more than one person together, make sure they’re not wearing exactly the same color on top, or it can be difficult to see where one person ends and another begins.
  • If the person being photographed isn’t comfortable in what they’re wearing, it will usually be evident in the photograph.

Most people genuinely appreciate tips and/or feedback from their photographer about what to wear. It helps them relax and feel confident in front of the camera.

All that said, sometimes you just have to roll with the punches. If you’re photographing a toddler that desperately wants to leave her fairy wings on for the photos, you might want to consider giving it a try, even if it goes against your “vision” for the photo. Clothing choice can help enhance a photo, but in most cases, genuine expression in a photo will trump clothing choice any day.

The dPS Ultimate Guide to People and Portrait Photography

Setting Up Your Camera

This section is especially for beginning photographers. If you have been using your camera’s auto mode, and aren’t even sure where to begin in terms of photographing people it’s designed to give you some ideas to help you start taking more control over your photography and to elevate your photos of people from mere snapshots to intentionally crafted images.

Two of the most frequently used camera modes for photographing people are Aperture Priority and Shutter Priority.

The dPS Ultimate Guide to People and Portrait Photography
Aperture Priority

When selecting the Aperture Priority mode on your camera, essentially you select the camera’s aperture, and you’re asking your camera to select the rest of your settings. You can still select your ISO if you wish, or leave it set to auto if you’d prefer that your camera choose that too.

When you select a small aperture number (f/1.8), less of your image will be in focus. When you select a large aperture number (f/8), more of your image will be in focus. If you’re wondering how to create a portrait with a nice blurry background, shooting with a very wide aperture (f/1.8) is one way to achieve that effect.

However, as you add additional people to the image, it becomes trickier to nail the focus on everyone. So one good rule of thumb when photographing small groups is to set your aperture no smaller than the number of people you’re photographing – if you’re photographing two siblings, set your aperture at f/2.0 (or higher). If you’re photographing a family of three, you may want to consider setting your aperture at f/3.0 (or higher), especially if not everyone is on the same plane.

Aperture Priority mode is a great choice for shooting portraits or small groups, wherein the people you’re photographing are not moving too much.

aperture priority portrait - The dPS Ultimate Guide to Taking Portraits and Photographing People

Shutter Priority

Where Aperture Priority mode is great for photographing people who are largely stationary, Shutter Priority mode is great for photographing people that are on the go.

Whether you’re photographing a soccer game and want to freeze the action, capturing a family mid-tickle, or practicing street photography and want to show the blur of people bustling about, Shutter Priority is a great way to either stop action or emphasize movement in people photography!

The dPS Ultimate Guide to People and Portrait Photography

Working with People

Photographer, aul Caponigro once said, “It’s one thing to make a picture of what a person looks like, it’s another thing to make a portrait of who they are.”

Indeed, there’s a difference between taking a snapshot of a person and creating a portrait that captures the essence of who they are and what they’re about. Often, the difference comes down to the interaction between the photographer and the person being photographed.

We’ve already talked about how location and clothing are two factors that can help the people you’re photographing relax in front of the camera. In addition to those two factors, coupling gentle posing with prompts and questions designed to help the person you’re photographing relax and evoke emotion during the session can be very helpful in capturing images that look and feel genuine.

The dPS Ultimate Guide to People and Portrait Photography


If the idea of gently posing the person that you’re photographing feels overwhelming, you may be interested in purchasing the Posing App. This particular app includes over 300 illustrations of various photography poses for men, women, children, and groups, and can be a great starting point when trying to describe to the people you’re photographing what you’d like them to do.

Keep in mind that resources like Posing App are just starting places. Don’t be afraid to modify poses, changing them slightly for variety or to better flatter the person you’re photographing.

Also look here for more posing help:

The dPS Ultimate Guide to People and Portrait Photography


Once you’ve got the person you’re photographing situated in terms of posing, the next technique in evoking emotion is to prompt them with questions or statements.

When photographing a child, this might be saying, “Show me your best lion roar!” As the photographer, you’re less interested in the roar itself and more interested in the fits of giggles that usually follow, so be ready with your camera to capture the moment!

If you’re photographing a high school senior, this might mean asking them about their plans following graduation and what they’re excited about. If you’re photographing a newly engaged couple, this might mean asking them to tell you the proposal story. When you’re photographing a wedding, this might mean asking them to practice their first dance for you.

The dPS Ultimate Guide to People and Portrait Photography

Prompts can be sentimental, but they can also be silly. Ask a groom to whisper his favorite vegetable into his bride’s ear, and watch them both laugh hysterically. These prompting techniques allow you to connect with the person you’re photographing on a deeper level and also help evoke genuine emotion that translates to a stronger photograph.

Culling and Post-Processing

After you’ve snapped the actual photographs, you’ll want to weed out the best images and apply some sort of post-processing to them, even if only sharpening to print. If you shoot in RAW format, you’ll need some sort of software (such as Lightroom or Adobe Bridge) that can recognize RAW file types before you’ll be ready to start culling or editing your images.

The dPS Ultimate Guide to People and Portrait Photography


Regardless of the software, most photographers use a process that either amounts to “Editing Out” or “Editing In” for culling images. If following an “Editing Out” process, you go through and deletes all the images that you do not want to edit, and processes the rest. If following an “Editing In” process, you go through and flag all the photos that you’re most interested in editing, and edit only those. This is largely a matter of preference, and neither method is better than the other.

When culling, keep in mind that no one needs 10 images with exactly the same expression, focal length, and camera angle. However, do be aware of micro-expressions, or particular mannerisms that the person you’re photographing may display, and consider including some of those images into your final cut as well. Sometimes, those are the images that capture the essence of a person, even if their eyes are squinty or their nose is a little scrunched.

The dPS Ultimate Guide to People and Portrait Photography

Whether or not to post-process images in digital photography is always the subject of much debate. Personally, as someone who started with black and white film photography, I find the debate to be a bit silly. There was little controversy about dodging and burning in the black and white darkroom to enhance a portrait, so I see little problem with doing the same in the digital medium.

There are many options available for post-processing, but the most common still seems to be Adobe’s Creative Cloud Photography package, which includes Lightroom, Photoshop, and a whole collection of mobile apps to download.

Many photographers batch edit their images, using either a preset in Lightroom or an action in Photoshop. If you’re brand new to post-processing, there are a whole host of actions and presets available to purchase, including several great sets from Digital Photography School.

Keep in mind that most actions and presets are not designed to be one-click wonders. They do require tweaks and adjustments for best success, which means that having a basic understanding of Photoshop and/or Lightroom is definitely necessary when it comes to post-processing. This is one area where it’s absolutely worthwhile to check out an online course or eBook in order to understand the basics of post-processing so that you know what the actions and presets are doing, how to tweak them to your advantage, and how to eventually make your own to help you stand out from the crowd.

The dPS Ultimate Guide to People and Portrait Photography
Marketing Yourself and Getting Paid Gigs (If You Want Them)

So, you’ve photographed a bunch of friends and family, and now people are starting to tell you that you should start your own photography business! If that’s something you’re interested in pursuing on a full-time or semi-professional basis, we’ll walk through a couple of things that can help make that happen.

Check Your Local Laws

Laws regarding small businesses vary drastically from location to location. Some places require you to have a business license and insurance before getting started. Some require you to register your business name. Others only require that you declare any income received so that you can pay appropriate taxes on it.

Because dPS has readers all over the world, the best suggestion I can give is to contact your local Small Business Association regarding what you need to do to keep your budding business on the up and up. Even if you aren’t ready to officially start your business quite yet, it’s still important to research the requirements (and whether your prospective business name is actually available) before you begin any of these other steps!

The dPS Ultimate Guide to People and Portrait Photography

Build Your Portfolio

If you haven’t already done so, you need to build a portfolio of your work that you can show to prospective clients to demonstrate your skill as a photographer. Many times, photographers initially build their portfolio by offering to take photos of their family and friends for free in exchange for permission to use them as part of their portfolio.

Another option for building your portfolio is to participate in workshops or photo walks that grant you permission to use the images that you take during the event as part of your portfolio. If you’re interested in photographing weddings, many photographers partner with vendors to photograph several styled sessions before they ever actually photograph a real wedding.

Build Your Brand

Once you have a portfolio that you’re ready to market, you need to have a brand! This step includes coming up with your business name, logo, watermark, a headshot of you, and often a color scheme that you’ll use throughout your online and print materials.

The dPS Ultimate Guide to People and Portrait Photography
Build Your Web Presence

One of the next key steps to developing any level of a photography business is to build a web presence so that people can actually find you! This may include many different avenues, such as creating a website, a photography blog, a Facebook business page, and an Instagram account for your brand.

Expand Your Audience

For lots of photographers, their business starts with friends and family and gradually expands out from there as those people recommend you to their friends and family. If you can encourage your friends and family to tag your photography pages on social media as they share your images online, this can be a really great way to expand your audience and reach. Some other easy ways to expand your audience include:

  • Offer a rewards or incentives program for past clients who refer their friends to you.
  • Host a model call on Facebook.
  • Consider running ads on social media targeted to “friends of friends”.
  • Donate your photography services to a cause you care about.

The dPS Ultimate Guide to People and Portrait Photography


Whew! That was a whole lot of information about photographing people! Although it’s easy to get overwhelmed with all the dos and don’ts of people photography, you don’t have to master everything at once!

Use the camera and the equipment you have, pick one tip from this guide, and try it out. At the end of the day, the most important part of photographing people is just to get out there and do it, as often as you can!

The post The dPS Ultimate Guide to Taking Portraits and Photographing People appeared first on Digital Photography School.


Simple Portrait Setups You Can Create on a Tight Budget

Filed Under Cameras and Equipment, Digital Photography School, Portrait Photography

In this article, I’ll show you several easy and simple portrait setups you can create even on a tight budget.

Find a model to trade with

Getting started in the photography business is difficult, especially if you have a tight budget and not a lot of extra cash floating around. The same can be said for starting a modeling career. The trick is to get noticed and get your name out there. You need to show people what you can do. That means you need to create a portfolio of work. People need to see what you are capable of creating.

Simple Portrait Setups You Can Create on a Tight Budget

One of the images from the shoot. I used just the one light and the flash.

Ironically, models need the same types of experiences. They need a portfolio they can show off. If you are just starting out in either industry, one of the best things you can do is find someone who is willing to trade services with you. Find a model looking to build their portfolio and then work with him or her to help you create a body of work that shows off your abilities.

It’s a win, win situation for both of you. The trick when starting out is to find ways to network and connect with people so that you are creating mutually beneficial relationships. My main focus has always been natural light and fine art photography. I do shoot family portraits and sporting events as well, but the majority of my focus is on natural portraiture and creating art.

Recently, I met a young woman who was interested in modeling. We got to talking and agreed to help each other out. I would supply her with finished images for an Instagram feed she wished to start. In exchange, she would help me with several upcoming projects and also help me create some images for my stock portfolio.

Simple Portrait Setups You Can Create on a Tight Budget

In this shot, we added props found at a thrift shop. You can see the wainscoting we used as flooring.

Doing it on a budget

The trick then became how to complete the project on a tight budget. I don’t own a strobe light or any beauty dishes. I use sunlight to create my portraits, and I own one flash which I rarely use. The reality is I prefer natural light. Given a choice between studio lighting or natural light, I will always choose the later.

Open shade is one of my favorite ways of creating beautiful soft even light that flatters every type of skin. The model in question wanted to create several different looks, and after discussing the images with her, I realized I would need some lighting. There was no way we could create those different looks she wanted using just natural light.

The project became more about following through with our plans on a very limited budget. Meghan, the model, agreed to be in charge of planning the wardrobe and finding the props. I needed to provide the photography expertise. Between the two of us, we created 10 different looks for less than $200.

Let’s take a look at the set up for three of those shots.

Simple Portrait Setups You Can Create on a Tight Budget

Cheap lights don’t have a lot of power. In this shot, you can see how close I had to position the lights.

Any artificial lighting used in the following images was created using a very cheap continuous lighting kit (under $100), my Canon Speedlite and a large piece of white styrofoam we used as a reflector. The backdrops are all old table clothes, the flooring we used is two pieces of wainscoting purchased from a local home reno store, and

Meghan’s wardrobe was a combination of her clothing, some borrowed from friends and items found at thrift shops.

Setup #1

This image was shot using natural light. I am very lucky to have a 9-foot wide window in my studio that never receives direct sunlight. It makes for lovely soft directional lighting. The backdrop was set up at a 90-degree angle to the window.

Then one of the small continuous lights was used to illuminate the backdrop. Meghan’s blue pants needed some separation from the blue background. Without the light, it would have been easy to lose her clothing in the backdrop.

Simple Portrait Setups You Can Create on a Tight Budget

The whole shoot took place in my house in my studio which I have converted from a living room.

One advantage to shooting indoors in a protected space is the luxury of tethering the camera to the computer so you can assess the images before shooting a bunch of different poses. In this case, the first few shots were created and assessed through a tethered camera but then once we had the settings correct we shot the remainder of the images untethered.

Here are the results of this first setup.

Simple Portrait Setups You Can Create on a Tight Budget

In this image, I edited the background and took the wrinkles out of the tablecloth. Please note this is my favorite type of light, natural.

Here’s the untouched image. Despite our best efforts to iron the backdrops before use, the wrinkles were quite evident. It’s a lot of work to remove the wrinkles.

Simple Portrait Setups You Can Create on a Tight Budget

Here is the file with the wrinkles. I do think that sometimes a less than perfect backdrop can add depth to an image.

Setup #2

The goal when creating a portfolio is to show some diversity, especially for the model. A model needs to adapt to different situations and be able to morph into different types of looks.

So with this in mind, this second set up is much different from the first set of shots. Natural light plays far less heavily into the look. In this case, the flash was used. The flash was aimed upwards and back at a piece of white styrofoam which bounced and diffused the light.

In this setup, the flash cast a large shadow on the backdrop. So to lessen the shadow on the backdrop, the large continuous light was once again placed behind and to the side of the model – this time to light the backdrop. This second look is far darker and different from the first set we created.

Simple Portrait Setups You Can Create on a Tight Budget

There are some slight changes to the lighting in this setup.

Simple Portrait Setups You Can Create on a Tight Budget

This is a much more dramatic look.

Simple Portrait Setups You Can Create on a Tight Budget

Here’s a headshot of the same clothing set up. The lighting was only changed slightly.

Setup #3

This final image was shot without the use of natural light at all. By this time it was 9 pm, and the light was completely gone.

The setup utilizes two continuous lights as well as the flash. One light was placed behind the backdrop. It shone through the red backdrop to create a vignette of sorts. The second light was placed on the left side of the model and illuminated her face.

The goal of this shot was to create something fairly dramatic. Once again a few simple adjustments allowed for a totally different look. The end of the softbox around the continuous light was also included in the frame again trying to create a diverse look.

The light placed behind the backdrop created a pretty glow and a natural vignette.

In Conclusion

The changes to the setup took very little time. We shot lots of different outfits and poses using just a few simple principles.

  1. Be diverse in the looks created.
  2. Highlight the beauty of the model.
  3. Be picky and get the best photo possible using the equipment available to you.

Setting up a photo shoot doesn’t have to be complicated. Be smart! Plan ahead! Find ways to make something that could potentially be an expensive endeavor work to your advantage.

Below is a collection of some of the other images we shot that day. It was hard work, but it was also a lot of fun.

Same clothing and backdrop as setup #3 but we moved both lights around the front and used the flash. Again a different look.

Converting images to black and white and using dramatic lighting is a lot of fun to try.

The post Simple Portrait Setups You Can Create on a Tight Budget appeared first on Digital Photography School.


Tips for Client Photo Sessions – What it’s NOT All About

Filed Under Digital Photography School, Photography Tips and Tutorials, Portrait Photography

There are a host of things which are important when doing photo sessions for clients. But if you’re not careful you could end up falling into the trap of assuming that photo sessions are about something that they really are not. The list of things to keep in mind covers topics such as lighting, exposure, location, posing, and even practical elements like what to charge and what to recommend they wear.

I’ve personally made some mistakes in my development as a photographer when I got caught in the trap of focusing on the wrong things. An understanding of what client sessions are not about can be just as impactful as knowing what they are all about.

With that, here are a few things to keep in mind the next time you set out to take pictures for people.

Tips for Client Photo Sessions - What it's NOT All About - family portrait

It’s not about your gear

I know how fun and exciting it is to get new photography equipment. While I don’t have an entire room full of cameras and lenses, I do have enough to fill a pretty large backpack, and I once chased down a UPS driver just to get my new 70-200mm f/2.8 lens one day early. I always enjoy showing my latest camera purchase to friends and family. While none of this is necessarily a bad thing, an obsession with photo gear can actually become a hindrance when working with clients.

I can remember some photo sessions from a few years ago that I’m almost embarrassed to recall because of the way I showed up and starting flaunting my cameras, lenses, and accessories for my clients. There were times when I would make it a point to explain that my lenses had super wide apertures which meant that they were so much better than a kit lens.

Or when visiting with potential clients I would make sure to point out that I was shooting with the latest, greatest, and costliest full-frame camera on the market. Shamefully, I have even gone so far as to literally pull out speedlights, tripods, and other accessories that I had no intention of using just so the clients could see that I had them.

mom and baby photo - Tips for Client Photo Sessions - What it's NOT All About

Clients want results and to feel important

In hindsight, not a single client I have ever worked with was impressed with my camera gear. They wanted results, not grandstanding, and it was the pictures that mattered to them rather than the gear I used to make the images. For all my clients care, I might as well be using an old Canon Rebel T3 and the on-camera flash! (Truth be told I know some photographers who do great work with a basic setup like that.)

If you try to dazzle your clients with how cool your camera stuff is, it could actually make things worse by setting unrealistic expectations in their mind of what you can actually do. Or worse yet, you could come across seeming like an arrogant show-off even if that’s not your intention at all.

When you work with clients I recommend leaving gear out of the equation entirely. Don’t talk about your cameras, your lenses, your super cool equipment bag with dozens of folding pockets, or the camera you don’t have but hope to buy someday.

Discuss your goals for the photo session, explain your plan for getting the kids to smile, or take a few minutes and just get to know your clients on a personal level. Don’t make the session about your expensive fancy camera stuff. Instead, make it about your clients and let them be impressed with your pictures, not your camera.

Tips for Client Photo Sessions - What it's NOT All About - photo of a little girl

It’s not about your last gig

Have you ever been to a holiday gathering and had the unfortunate luck of sitting by a particular relative who just wouldn’t stop talking about all the things he or she has done, the places they have visited, or the new stuff in their house?

Every time you bring up something from your own life, they counter with a swift rebuttal, “Oh you went to the Grand Canyon for a day? That’s nice. But it’s nothing compared to the week I spent backpacking in the Swiss Alps!” 

All you want is to share some of your life experiences, but all this unfortunate friend or family member wants to do is play an endless game of one-upmanship until you finally excuse yourself to go get some pie. And you don’t even like pie.

Tips for Client Photo Sessions - What it's NOT All About - family photo

Think about those uncomfortable situations the next time you are at a photo session with clients and you feel tempted to regale the people with tales of fun, excitement, and adventure from previous sessions. You might have some fun stories to share of how you barely got the shot before a thunderstorm rolled in, or you might want to pull out your phone and show off some amazing images of that time you photographed a destination wedding at a national park.

Focus on the people in front of you right now

The best course of action in those situations is to say nothing at all and keep the focus squarely on your clients and the job you are currently doing. You know, the one you are getting paid for.

Regaling clients with tales of your previous sessions can make them feel inadequate by comparison, and often sends them messages that you don’t intend. It can make your clients feel inferior, outclassed, or even jealous when pitted against the fantastic tales being spun of your other work.

Save your stories for your friends and instead talk with your clients about how great they look, how much fun you are having, and how you plan to address the questions and concerns they might have.

Tips for Client Photo Sessions - What it's NOT All About - family photo siblings

Rest assured your clients already have a high opinion of you and your work based on what they saw on your website or heard from others. Otherwise, they would not have asked you to take their pictures. So put away the stories of past gigs you’ve had and make the session about the only people who matter at the moment – the ones in front of your camera.

It’s not about how awesome you are

Look, I get it. As a photographer, you’ve done some pretty cool things, seen some great places, made some incredible images, burned the midnight oil into the wee hours of the morning to make sure your RAW files were edited to absolute metaphysical perfection.

You’ve got some stories to tell and you might have even earned an award or two along the way. Perhaps one of your pictures ended up in a print publication, or you teach photography classes at your local vocational/technical school. As Ron Burgundy might say, you’re kind of a big deal.

Tips for Client Photo Sessions - What it's NOT All About

All this may sound harsh, but I bring it up because I’m ashamed to admit it used to be my attitude. There were times when visiting with clients that I would make it a point to describe, in painful detail, how hard I worked on other sessions. Or I’d brag about the number of images on my memory card the last time I did a similar shoot. And I would talk about this as if it had any bearing at all on the quality of my work when all it did was alienate people and send them the wrong message about me as a photographer.

The most important people in the room

Your clients don’t care about the stories you might want to tell them demonstrating how great you are. What they care about is the job you are doing for them and the pictures they are paying you for, not your stories, your adventures, or your portfolio.

They hired you for a reason, and they are probably already familiar with your work after seeing samples on your website or talking with friends, family, or other client referrals. They already think highly of you or they wouldn’t have hired you, so you don’t need to keep reminding them of your greatness.

Tips for Client Photo Sessions - What it's NOT All About


When it’s time to do the photo session just show up, do the work, and rest easy in the confidence of knowing you are an awesome photographer. You consistently produce great results, and people like your work enough to pay you for it! Let your work speak for itself, pay attention to your clients and their needs, and you’ll get some phenomenal photos that will keep your clients returning and sending others your way as well.

What about you? Do you have any lessons you have learned from doing client photo sessions over the years, or mistakes you feel comfortable sharing with others so they can avoid the same pitfalls? Please leave your thoughts in the comments below.

The post Tips for Client Photo Sessions – What it’s NOT All About appeared first on Digital Photography School.


Tips for Posing People in Outdoor Portraits

Filed Under Digital Photography School, Photography Tips and Tutorials, Portrait Photography

Whether you’re photographing an individual or group, having sessions on location can add a lot of variety to your images. Most locations offer natural or built-in elements that are great for posing people without having to move too much.

Almost all outdoor locations have natural or built-in elements that can give you options for where to place your client and add more variety to the session. These can include rocks, walls, trees, benches, bridges, cars, lamp posts, columns, archways, fences, fountains, and staircases. Walls also make for great poses. All of these elements are terrific posing props that make your photos interesting. Use them as much as you can.

Start with a good foundation

After you have chosen the elements with which you want to pose your client, begin your session with a simple foundation pose. This could simply be your client standing still, arms at the hips. From there, you can build upon that pose and make subtle changes to add variety.

Another foundation pose might be having your client stand in the middle of a city walkway, as they would if they were alone. From there you can ask them to bring one arm up to fix their hair while standing still. Then, have them fix their hair while walking toward you. Next, have your client do the same with their arm as they walk, but now looking toward the street. Finally, have them do the same, but this time take two steps, freeze their pose and look at you, as you get close for a portrait shot.

You now have five different poses all in the same location built on the same foundation pose.

Good foundation poses will also help with the dreaded question a lot of photographers get, “What do I do with my hands?” By building from simple poses and keeping your client moving with subtle changes, it helps them to use their hands more naturally.

Keep them moving

Many great poses involve having your clients moving. Have your client’s walk, run, jump, sit, stand, turn around, or spin. When you keep them moving you are allowing for lots of different types of shots all while letting your client walk off the nerves.

You don’t even need to move from the spot you’ve chosen. You could have them walk toward you, walk away from you, sit down, crouch down, lie down, or jump all within 15 feet of where you are standing. Have them use their hands while they move around for more dynamic photos.

Tips for Posing People in Outdoor Portraits

Open spaces without posing elements

If you find yourself at a location, perhaps a beach, where there are no elements to use for posing, it can be difficult to pose hands or keep your client moving.

One way to pose hands in open spaces outdoors is to have your client use them. By this, I mean, have your client play with their hair, adjust their clothing, put on and take off their jacket, glasses, watch, etc. Keeping the hands busy relaxes your client and you’re able to make more natural looking photos without having the pose look too rigid.

Tips for Posing People in Outdoor Portraits

Use the light

Shooting on location can offer lots of changes in light since you are outdoors. Use this to your advantage! Experiment with full sunlight, shadows, found pockets of interesting light shapes.

If you shoot your subject in full sunlight, for example, one pose you can try is to have them look up with their eyes closed, arms folded on their head. Another great pose you could try in full sunlight is to use shadows to create an interesting patter either on your client or behind. Have your client looking down or straight at your camera.

Using the different changes in light around you can give you new ideas on where to put the hands, legs, and other elements of your client to create a more compelling or dynamic photo.

Tips for Posing People in Outdoor Portraits

The same can be applied to the basic compositional rules in photography. Using lines, shapes, patterns, and colors in your background to frame and pose your client as part or to stand out may result in a really interesting photo.

Tips for Posing People in Outdoor Portraits


I feel that posing a client on location is much easier than posing in the studio because you have many elements available to use as props. And remember, shooting many different poses also increases your chances of getting the great shots that will build your amazing portfolio.

The post Tips for Posing People in Outdoor Portraits by Jackie Lamas appeared first on Digital Photography School.


How to do Gentle Posing: A Collection of Prompts to Get You Started

Filed Under Digital Photography School, Photography Tips and Tutorials, Portrait Photography

Let’s face it, getting in front of a camera feels uncomfortable to most people! As photographers, it’s our job to help guide the people in front of our cameras in ways that will allow them to feel more comfortable and also allow you to capture genuine emotion and interactions. In my experience, one really effective way to do this is through what I like to call “gentle posing”.

In other words, you give the people you’re photography some basic prompting that allows for emotions and interactions to unfold. This usually includes some posing instruction without being so specific that it starts to feel especially awkward and unnatural to them.

How to do Gentle Posing: A Collection of Prompts to Get You Started - portrait of a young man

In this article, I’m going to share some of my go-to prompts and gentle posing instructions for different ages and groupings. Obviously, you’ll want to tailor these to the people you’re photographing, not every suggestion will work for every family or child.

That said, this collection of prompts will definitely get you started thinking about how you can begin to incorporate these techniques with the people that you find in front of your lens!

Babies & Toddlers

Here are a few ideas to use with your younger subjects:

  • Ask the child, “Can you give mommy a snuggle?”
  • “Can you kiss daddy’s cheek?”
  • Have dad stand behind you and play peek-a-boo with their kiddo.
  • Have mom stand next to you and mime that she’s going to come tickle the child.
  • Start loudly singing a song from the child’s favorite movie or TV show (I usually ask parents about favorites in advance so I can look them up if needed).
  • Bring a bubble machine and set it off nearby.
  • Say, “Now everybody give Jane a kiss!” (using the child’s name)

Read more for other tips on photographing young kids here: 6 Simple Tips to Capture More Expressive Images of Your Children

How to do Gentle Posing: A Collection of Prompts to Get You Started - mom and baby

How to do Gentle Posing: A Collection of Prompts to Get You Started - parents and child

Children (Ages 3-10 ish)

Here are some suggestions for slightly older kits:

  • “Show me your best princess face! Great! Now show me your best monster face! Love it! Now show me your surprised face!”
  • Tell a knock-knock joke, then ask them to tell you one.
  • “Would you rather eat three worms, or a peanut butter and pickle sandwich?”
  • Spin around twice and then sit down as fast as you can.
  • Point to your camera lens, and ask them if they can see what color your eyes are through the lens.
  • Ask them to show you their best trick or dance move.
  • “Okay, whatever you do, DO NOT SMILE!”
  • “Your turn to choose – what do you want me to take a picture of you doing?”
  • For younger children, sometimes I’ll give them a “magic” rock or leaf and tell them that whenever they push it, the camera will take a picture. Invite them to try it out! (Make sure you have a hidden remote trigger to make this work.)
  • “What’s your favorite part of school? Can you tell me about the funniest thing that happened at school recently?”
  • “What’s the silliest song you know? Can you sing it for me?”

Also read: 5 Non-Posed Ideas For Photographing Kids

How to do Gentle Posing: A Collection of Prompts to Get You Started - young girl grinning with missing tooth

How to do Gentle Posing: A Collection of Prompts to Get You Started - portrait of a young girl

Teens and Tweens

This age group can get a bit tougher:

  • “Give me your best Smize/Blue Steel!” If they don’t know what either is, spend a minute showing them YouTube clips and then demonstrate it for them. Trust me, this is priceless!
  • “Who’s your favorite athlete/author/band? Great! Channel them for a minute and pose like they would for the cover of a magazine.”
  • “What do you think you want to do after high school?”
  • Ask them to give you their best Santa Claus laugh. Then demonstrate out loud with a hearty “Ho! Ho! Ho!”
  • Tell a really lame joke.
  • “Okay, start with your arms crossed in front of your body. Every time I say ‘Go!’, I want you to strike a different pose. Ready, go!”
  • Compliment them! Tell them that they look fantastic, or that you think their accomplishments/ambitions are so amazing. Make sure your words are genuine – kids are perceptive and can tell when you’re just giving them lip service. That said, this generation continually gives me hope for the future of our world, so it should be easy to find something to commend them for.
  • Joke around that when you’re photographing younger kids, this is usually when you break out into song, and start singing “Let it Go” or another popular children’s song.
  • “Your mom is hysterical. Tell me about the last thing she did that was hilarious.”
  • “What was the last book/TV show that made you laugh out loud? What was the last one that made you cry? What was the last one that you absolutely hated?”
  • “If you could get on a plane RIGHT NOW and go anywhere you wanted, where would you go?”
  • “What’s one thing you’re really proud of?”

Also read: Capturing Unenthusiastic Teens: Forget the Perfect Pose and Get Photos You Truly Love

portrait of a teenager - How to do Gentle Posing: A Collection of Prompts to Get You Started

a young man posing on a baseball field - How to do Gentle Posing: A Collection of Prompts to Get You Started


  • “Group hug! Smush even closer! Closer! Get as close as you can! Now nobody fart, okay?”
  • “Everybody tickle John!”
  • “Okay, everybody look right here at me. Now, everybody look at the person that snores the loudest! Now everybody look at the person that burps the loudest!”
  • If the family has younger children, I’ll often have them play a game like Ring Around the Rosy or use a quilt like a parachute for the kids to run under.
  • Sometimes I’ll ask families to hold hands and run towards an object (this works best if they’re running in front of/behind one another rather than side-by-side)

Read more here: 8 Tips for Getting Great Expressions in Family Portraits

family portrait - How to do Gentle Posing: A Collection of Prompts to Get You Started

family photos - How to do Gentle Posing: A Collection of Prompts to Get You Started


  • For siblings holding an infant, I often ask them to look at and/or touch a specific body part (i.e. “Do you see baby sister’s nose? Can you look at it?”
  • “Give each other the biggest bear hug you can!”
  • “Hold hands and look at each other. Now, look at me!”
  • “Can you tell your sister a secret?”

siblings - How to do Gentle Posing: A Collection of Prompts to Get You Started

young kids - How to do Gentle Posing: A Collection of Prompts to Get You Started


  • For couples, sometimes I’ll ask one person to use their nose to draw something on the second person’s cheek. The second person should close their eyes while the first person is drawing, and then has to guess what they drew.
  • “When I say go, I want Joe (the guy’s name) to whisper his favorite vegetable in Jane’s (the girl’s name) ear in his most seductive voice. Ready? Go!”
  • On occasion, I’ll have couples hold hands and walk towards me. If possible, I’ll secretly give one person instructions to use their hips to bump the other person as they walk.
  • Everybody say “Coffee!” (This usually gets a laugh from couples at morning sessions, but it also results in a more natural smile than asking someone to say “cheese”).
  • “What was your first dance song at your wedding? Hang on, let me find it on Spotify! We’re totally re-creating your first dance right now! Let’s see it!”
  • “Wrap this blanket around yourselves. Now, touch noses. NO KISSING!”

Read more here: 5 Tips for Creating Romantic Portraits of Couples

couples portraits - How to do Gentle Posing: A Collection of Prompts to Get You Started

couples portraits - How to do Gentle Posing: A Collection of Prompts to Get You Started

Other Groups

  • Some variation of “Sally, tell me the funniest story you know about Amy!” or “Joe, tell me about one time when Zack totally saved your butt!” are usually the best options for genuine reactions.
  • For wedding parties, I sometimes ask the bridesmaids to give me their best groomsman pose and vice versa.
  • I’ll often ask big groups to do a big group hug, and then tell them to get closer…and closer…and closer until they all can’t stop laughing.
  • “On the count of three, give me your best model pose!”

Read more here: How to Pose People for Group Portraits

wedding group photo - How to do Gentle Posing: A Collection of Prompts to Get You Started

wedding photos - How to do Gentle Posing: A Collection of Prompts to Get You Started


Whew, that was quite a list! Hopefully, it will give you some ideas of different ways to prompt the people you’re photographing that will elicit genuine emotions and expressions from them.

What about you? Do you have any go-t0 prompts for the people you’re photographing? If so, please chime in down below in the comments.

The post How to do Gentle Posing: A Collection of Prompts to Get You Started by Meredith Clark appeared first on Digital Photography School.


5 Quick Portrait Posing Tips to Flatter Your Subject

Filed Under Digital Photography School, Photography Tips and Tutorials, Portrait Photography

Being in front of the camera is daunting, to say the least, not to mention staring at a big black lens in front of you. I understand how my subjects feel because I totally hate being photographed. In this article, I’ll give you five portrait posing tips to help flatter your subjects.

1. Relaxed posture

5 Quick Portrait Posing Tips to Flatter Your Subject

Getting your subject into a relaxed posture is easier said than done! But relaxing for portraits is definitely not synonymous to slouching. I tell my subject to close their eyes and take some deep breaths, give their arms and hands a good shake, breathe out, and then open their eyes.

It’s easier for men. I tell them to relax into their normal stance and give them instructions from there. For men, it is generally a slouching issue. I tell them to straighten their spine and not to slouch. This makes them look taller and leaner and gives them square shoulders rather than droopy. However, this posture can look a bit stiff too so I ask them to gently breathe out as this releases the tension on the shoulders.

Relaxing for women is a little bit trickier but the above is a good start. Sometimes it helps them to imagine that a string is attached to their spine and I am pulling it gently upwards. The key word here is gently!

2. Weigh distribution

5 Quick Portrait Posing Tips to Flatter Your Subject

I get women to stand with one leg slightly behind the other and to put their weight on the back leg. With the weight distributed more on the back hip and leg, I get them to lean their upper body forward toward me to balance the weight distribution and slightly twist their body to either the left or right.

It’s a very subtle chest-forward-booty-back pose and you really want it to be subtle. It is important to make sure that you are not looking up at your subjects but that your camera is ever so slightly looking down at them. This pose and your camera angle combined gives your subject a more flattering and leaner look. Don’t overdo the looking down angle, a slight camera tilt will do. This is not the bird’s eye view pose.

Men don’t need to redistribute their weight backward and forwards like women. I find that an even central distribution of weight works better for them. Getting them to put their thumbs in their pockets helps achieve this. If I feel they need to slightly loosen up, I just tell them to gently breathe out.

3. Leaning

5 Quick Portrait Posing Tips to Flatter Your Subject

With their spines straight, find a wall or structure your subjects can lean on. I usually start with having them lean with their backs flat against the structure and I instruct them to pull away from one side until I feel the right angle is achieved.

Sometimes, this pose ends up as just one shoulder leaning. The important thing is that the resulting image does not look like your subject is missing a limb or shoulder as can happen sometimes if you are not careful with the angles.

4. Chin forward

5 Quick Portrait Posing Tips to Flatter Your Subject

Women are extremely conscious about double chins and their faces not looking as lean as they’d like in their images. A bad habit that many women do instinctively when they are photographed is to tilt their chins upwards thinking this removes any double chins.

This looks very unnatural and awkward and gives them a longer neck and a shorter face. When you speak to people, you don’t stick your chin up at them, do you? Instead of chinning up, I get them to push their chins forward and down a touch. This gives them a slight stretchy pain on the back of the neck and feels unnatural, but looks really flattering.

The forward action eliminates the double chin and tipping the chin slightly downwards makes the face look leaner.

You can modify this pose slightly by asking them to point their chins towards one shoulder and if the shoulder is droopy, they can lift the shoulder bone up a touch. This not only gives them a taller and leaner posture but adds angles as well to improve the composition of the image.

5 Quick Portrait Posing Tips to Flatter Your Subject - chin out

5. Connection

On any of the above and at any point during the session, breathing out helps your subject be more at ease so just remind them to do so. You also want them to always have a connection, just like the direction of the chin connecting to the direction of the shoulder for some angles.

Their gaze also needs to connect to either their body or their environment. You don’t want your images to look like the subject is in a vacuum. Looking straight at the camera connect them to the viewer. If you are shooting outdoors, you could instruct your subject to look at the horizon in the far distance or a tree nearby.

If they are holding something like flowers or a coffee mug, you could ask them to look down at what they have in their hands. Check that they don’t look asleep though so adjust your position and take a few images.

5 Quick Portrait Posing Tips to Flatter Your Subject


I hope these 5 quick portrait posing tips are helpful for you when you do your next photo session. If you have any other posing tips please share them in the comments below.

The post 5 Quick Portrait Posing Tips to Flatter Your Subject by Lily Sawyer appeared first on Digital Photography School.


The Introverts Guide to Photographing People

Filed Under Digital Photography School, Photography Tips and Tutorials, Portrait Photography

Being an introverted photographer is a challenge, especially if you actually enjoy photographing people. As introverts, we tend to be happiest on our own, with family or with close friends. We avoid large groups and people that we don’t know well. We’re likely the last to speak up in a group setting.

Unfortunately, not “getting out there” holds us back from achieving some of our goals as photographers. But when we do get out there, we get tired or burn out from people quickly. But it is possible for introverts to actually thrive among people and even run a successful people oriented photography business.

Introverts guide photographing people 1

Families cherish their home. I love making newborn photos for families in their own home. It’s so much easier for them than packing up their baby and venturing off for photos. The experience is all the more enjoyable for the family if they also happen to be introverted!

Let’s go through both the strengths and challenges of being an introverted photographer so that you can enjoy photographing people to your full potential.

Let’s Begin With the Challenges

It’s well known among photographers that constraints and challenges can actually help you become more creative. When you’re limited in some way, it forces you to find new ways around obstacles to achieve your goals.

So don’t worry that introversion can be a challenge to photographing people or becoming better known as a photographer. Finding ways to overcome these challenges will make you better than you would have been without them!

Introverts guide photographing people 2

Relationships flourish in smaller groups.

1) The Challenge of Being Around People

As an introvert, you likely keep to yourself outside of school or work. Evenings and weekends are spent on your own or with family. You avoid crowds and would prefer to get together with close friends and have deeper conversations.

Of course, none of this is a problem on its own. But as a photographer, you may not be as ambitious as you would like to be when it comes to photographing people. Whether you’re an amateur or professional photographer, or even running a business, sticking to yourself instead of being out among people means you’re missing opportunities.

You’re missing out on learning from other photographers or collaborating on a project together. Running a successful photography business will be difficult without the connections you’ll make among families, photographers, and fellow entrepreneurs.

Introverts guide photographing people 3

The scene suggests a neglectful mom, but that’s not quite what was going on. I often strive for a little humor in my photos!

A danger of not getting out there is that you might end up spending too much time on social media. But social media can present us with an illusion of how great other people’s lives are.

You’ll see the exciting lives being lived by everyone else and think that you’re boring and have nothing to share. You might get the impression that everyone else’s photography business is booming. Their mini sessions are booked solid, their summer is filled with weddings, and they’re a great success compared to you. But social media is much different than the real world of people.

How to Overcome the Challenge of Being Around People

If you love photographing people, you’ll need to focus on making yourself get out there more. A little practice will get you in the habit of spending more time with people. Think of it as exercising your social muscles.

Stop missing out on opportunities. Exercise those social muscles by finding a camera club or local Facebook group for photographers. Start now, and make it your goal to track down a group of photographers in your area in which to participate.

Once you’ve found a group, especially if it’s quite large, find one photographer to connect with. Maybe even another introvert. Start a project with them. Maybe you can assist each other in a project you’ve been wanting do.

If you’re extremely introverted, look around at what the extroverts are doing and pretend to be one. Listen to how easily they talk with new people and how the conversation just seems to flow. Begin to imitate them. You should also have some leading questions ready for new people you meet.

Introverts guide photographing people 4

Little guys want to grow up to be as strong as their daddy.

2) The Challenge of Being “Out There” Too Much

Getting out there and among people will transform you as an introverted photographer. You’ll begin to get some of those portrait photography projects started, connect with interesting photographers, and maybe make a good new friend. However, after all this increased social interaction, you may find yourself tired out.

My first job in photography was a school photographer. I was taking traditional school portraits for up to 200 students per day. I had to greet them, make them feel comfortable, pose them, coax a great smile from them and wish them, “good day!” At the rate of 1000 students per week, I was exhausted! Not physically exhausted but, socially exhausted. The part of me that interacts with people was tired out.

The danger of becoming socially exhausted for long periods of time is that you’ll risk resenting people for stealing your time, you’ll become too exhausted to give your subjects the attention they deserve, and you’ll eventually burn out.

Introverts guide photographing people 5

Rest is one of the most important parts of life. It comes naturally to cats and some babies, but not always for busy grown-ups.

No doubt, many introverts running a photography business burn out from being socially exhausted. If only they had overcome this challenge, they would still be enjoying their photography business.

How to Overcome Being “Out There” Too Much

I learned an important lesson from my first portrait photography job. After a lot of social interaction, I need to rest from people. It’s similar to resting from intense workouts at the gym. Give your muscles a rest and you’ll be ready to go again in the morning.

Introverts need to take a rest from being social. After resting, you’ll be energized and strong again. Resting doesn’t necessarily mean sleeping. As an introvert, it means spending time on your own. You can spend this time reading, writing, editing photos or enjoying a movie. It’s just a rest from social interaction.

Introverts guide photographing people 6

Don’t resist rest. It’ll bring back your energy and joy for life.

Look for signs of being socially tired or exhausted. When your social energy is drained, take a break. It could be for a couple hours or a couple days. But as soon as you’re ready, get back out there.

If you run a photography business then you should take part of the week to rest from social interaction too. You could spend that part of the week editing your photos. That way you’re still working on projects that need to get finished but you’re resting at the same time.

3) The Challenge of Making Sales

We’ve covered “getting out there” and recovering from social interaction. But what about something like sales? If you want to convince people to be involved in your photography projects, sell your prints, or run a photography business, you need to be able to sell.

The key is to find a way to “sell” that works for you as an introvert. Don’t try to be somebody you’re not. Instead, work with your nature, overcome your challenges, and develop a method that works for you.

When you talk with other photographers or see them on social media, does it seem like they’re getting more work than you? Maybe it’s because they’re getting out there more, they’re talking, they’re enthusiastic, they know how to sell naturally.

How to Overcome Weaknesses in Sales

Selling doesn’t just mean making money. It means convincing people you’ve got something worthwhile to offer. Maybe it means persuading someone to be part of your project.

You already know that the first step is getting out there more. The more you’re around other people, the more opportunities you’ll have to sell. You’ve got ideas for doing that now. But there are other ways to sell yourself that will work comfortably with your introverted nature.

First, focus your efforts on being an incredible photographer. When people experience your photography services they will naturally refer you to other customers. That means they’re doing the selling for you.

Second, the extroverts that you have been getting connected with will sell for you. I constantly get referrals from extroverts who tell people about me. Extroverts are well connected with lots of people and will love to discuss your photography work if it’s good.

Remember, when your work is good, other people will sell it for you.

Finally, turn your website into a salesperson. Your website should have a good sales message on it. Everything that you would say in person should be on your website. But because it’s on your website, you write it once and then it does the talking for you.

People will find you as they search for the services you offer. If they like what they read on your website, they’ll want to hire you. You don’t have to go out there and sell yourself, let people come to you instead.

Your Strengths as an Introvert

By now, hopefully, you can see how to overcome the challenges of being an introvert. You can exercise your social muscles, get all the rest you need, and let your friends and website sell for you.

But there are advantages to being an introvert, so let’s look at your strengths.

Introverts guide photographing people 7

Sometimes one-on-one time is the best.

1) You Work Well on Your Own

Because you do so well on your own, you’re especially suited to landscape and nature photography. You can pursue these projects on your own and then share them with the group later.

Street photography is ideal for you as well. You don’t have to interact with people to do street photography. Candid photography is perfect for capturing street or travel scenes. You can stand back and enjoy watching people while pursuing a candid or photojournalistic style.

Since you can work well on your own, you can spend a lot of time studying photography in books and online. Taking lots of time to learn, think and reflect will allow you to go much deeper with photography. Remember, the better you get, the more word will travel about you.

Running a photography business takes a lot of lonely work behind the scenes (learning, planning, editing, marketing). Since you’re perfectly happy to work on your own, there will be fewer distractions while getting your work done. Extroverts really struggle to spend long hours on their own, but this is where you excel.

Don’t forget to combine your rest periods with study or work periods. When you’re resting from social interaction, use that time to do important business tasks on your own.

2) You Will Become a Better Communicator

As you interact with more groups of people and work hard to communicate your ideas in person or on your website, your ability to articulate yourself will improve. As I work on my family photography website, I make little adjustments to my sales message. Over time, my message has become very strong and families love working with me.

Remember to watch how extroverts interact, and you can begin to imitate them so that your social skills will improve.

3) You Excel in One-on-One Conversation

As an introvert, you’re likely really good with one person at a time. This is good news because there are many other introverts out there that feel the same way. They may be drawn to you as a portrait photographer.

Consider working on your sales message with another photographer. The two of you can help each other flesh out your thoughts and find the perfect wording. It’s a lot more fun to craft a sales message with a like-minded photographer when there is no pressure of actually selling. Remember, that message is going to do the talking for you later.

Over to You

As an introvert, you can thrive among people and run a successful photography business photographing people.

Exercise your social muscles and recover by resting from social interaction. Without that rest, you risk burning out and resenting people.

Let’s continue the conversation. Leave a comment below letting me know how you struggle with photographing people. Together, we can overcome our challenges and grow as people and photographers.

The post The Introverts Guide to Photographing People by Mat Coker appeared first on Digital Photography School.


How to do Wedding Day Portraits of the Bride and Groom in Under 20 Minutes

Filed Under Digital Photography School, Make Money From Photography, Photography Tips and Tutorials, Portrait Photography

Wedding days are super hectic, there’s no doubt about it. My couples and I agree on a wedding day photography timeline so we know exactly what is expected at every hour of the wedding day. Yes, we are flexible but having the order of the day written down is a must for things to go smoothly. This timeline is discussed well before the day and all the key people in the bridal party and key suppliers are made aware of the plan so we are all on the same page.

How to do Wedding Day Portraits of the Bride and Groom in Under 20 Minutes

Plan it out

When I sit down with the couple to plan the day, I paint a picture of what a “normal” wedding day looks like and the expected timings allocated to each portion of the day. But I always explain to the couple that it is their wedding day and ultimately, they can do what they want and decide on the duration of each part.

This includes the portrait session of just the bride and groom, nobody else, which usually happens after all the other formals are done. Ideally, the portraits are done somewhere away from the guests so the couple doesn’t get distracted or pulled in different directions which only delays or extends the portrait session. Some couples opt for a “first look” which happens before the ceremony.

How to do Wedding Day Portraits of the Bride and Groom in Under 20 Minutes

How much time will the couple allow for portraits?

From experience, depending on their priorities, the time couples allow for their own portraits vary widely, some allow for an hour and a half, but many slot in only 15-20 minutes. A reason for the latter is usually because they wish to spend time saying hello to friends and family especially those who have come a long way to be at their wedding. This is completely understandable and even expected.

I do, however, encourage my couples to always spare some time for bride and groom portraits no matter how little. That is the only time during the day they can be alone and have photos done of just the two of them without anyone else in the vicinity, or worse, in the background.

This doesn’t have to be done at a grand venue or separate location. This could be anywhere that is private, semi-private, quiet, or at the very least away from the guests. It can even be done at the very same location as everyone else, you just need to separate them from the crowd for a few minutes.

Work efficiently by having a plan

On average, my couples allow 15-20 minutes for this portrait session so over the years, I have learned how to get things done very quickly. In this article, I will share with you my secret – have a formula.

Having a formula is not a bad thing. If you worry that all your weddings might end up looking exactly the same, don’t! Each couple is unique and their wedding is unique to them. Besides, if they have booked you after having looked at your portfolio, that probably means they like your style and your work and they expect their photos to have the same look and feel as your other weddings.

Here is my 5 step formula for wedding day portraits

#1 – The couple together

How to do Wedding Day Portraits of the Bride and Groom in Under 20 Minutes

I usually start the portrait session by taking photos of the couple together either holding hands, embracing, posed together for a natural look, or posed for a formal portrait. Being photographed with someone else is less daunting than solo and they have each other to hold on to or lean against in case they feel awkward especially at the start.

This part doesn’t have to be all posed either. It’s better if you can do some laughing and fun shots; just give them clear instructions or make them laugh if you are able.

#2 Just the bride

How to do Wedding Day Portraits of the Bride and Groom in Under 20 Minutes

How to do Wedding Day Portraits of the Bride and Groom in Under 20 Minutes

I then separate them and do portraits of just the bride. Usually, I ask the groom to help throw the veil or stand next to me so he can help make the bride laugh, have a natural smile, or look in his direction instead of straight at the camera.

Make sure you get close-ups of the bride as well as wide-angle shots showing the context or location (and her whole dress!) and a variety of angles if possible.

#3 Artistic shots

How to do Wedding Day Portraits of the Bride and Groom in Under 20 Minutes

Use the opportunity of having the bride in front of you to take artistic shots like close-ups of the bouquet or veil, shoes, details, or some creative compositions. I try to minimize moving the couple from place to place too much. Instead, I do the moving myself and walk around them, finding various angles from which to shoot and adjusting to the light that is available.

# Just the groom

How to do Wedding Day Portraits of the Bride and Groom in Under 20 Minutes

Now it’s the groom’s turn and this is simply a case of replicating what you have just done with the bride. Grooms are usually so much quicker to photograph and do not require a lot of posing. Just get them to stand naturally, lean on something, look at the bride, look at the camera, laugh, look sideways… done.

I find grooms tend to follow instructions quickly without worrying about how they look as they generally just want to get the portraits over and done with. Don’t forget to give them some indicators of time, letting them know you are nearly finished so they don’t worry about longer than they have allowed. This is important and reduces any worries about the timing of the day.

#5 Walking or do some action shots

I end the session with some walking or action photos. Be aware of your background for this as walking photos usually require being slightly further away. Be on the lookout for some nice light in the background and a suitable path they could walk on.

Ask them to walk slowly hand in hand for these photos. Position yourself behind them so you are photographing their backs. Then ask them both to stop in their tracks and look back at you, then again with just the bride looking, and finally just the groom looking.

How to do Wedding Day Portraits of the Bride and Groom in Under 20 Minutes

Ask them to turn around in the same spot so they are now looking at you and walking towards you. Always instruct them to walk slowly. Again ask them to stop in their tracks and hold hands but stand further apart. Then say to take a step closer to each other until they are holding each other close or kissing if they wish. Depending on the background, this is when I try to do a silhouette, especially if there is sky or an open expanse in the background.

Sometimes, I ask them to practice their first dance a bit or pull each other in for a quick kiss for some movement and natural laughter.


On a small patch of ground, you will be able to cover several poses, include a variety of angles, do some formal portraits, some casual looks, and lastly some walking and action shots. And that is it! Wedding day portraits done in 15-20 minutes!

How to do Wedding Day Portraits of the Bride and Groom in Under 20 Minutes

Don’t forget, just get on with it. Don’t stop to check your LCD for long or fuss about too many imperfections. You are under time pressure so have a formula and stick to it while allowing yourself wiggle room for some creative opportunities that may arise – as long as you are within the agreed upon timeframe.

As a side note, I always find that couples who have had an engagement shoot with me beforehand end up having a much easier and breezier portrait session. They know what to expect and what to do that they just do it without the need for a warm-up. They are quick to relax and be at ease in front of the camera and the best bit, they genuinely enjoy it!

The post How to do Wedding Day Portraits of the Bride and Groom in Under 20 Minutes by Lily Sawyer appeared first on Digital Photography School.