5 Tips for Photographing Portfolio-Worthy Costume Portraits

The post 5 Tips for Photographing Portfolio-Worthy Costume Portraits appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Charlie Moss.

There’s been an explosion of interest in photographing costume portraits over the last few years. From movie cosplays to historically-inspired portraits – there’s no end to the kind of costumes that could make their way into your portrait portfolio.

Shooting someone who is playing a role can bring a whole new dimension to your images. It can add depth and vibrancy to your portfolio. People often lose their inhibitions about being in front of the camera if they are pretending to be someone else!

With that in mind, here are my top five tips for creating portfolio-worthy costume portraits.

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1. Be inspired by history

Fabulous costume portraits have been created throughout history, both in photography and in other kinds of art. Julia Margaret Cameron, for example, was a British photographer born in 1815 who used to shoot people dressed up as characters from Shakespeare. Her contemporary, David Wilkie Wynfield, would photograph his friends wearing fancy dress in the style of the great 16th-Century Venetian artist, Titian.

And don’t just stop at taking inspiration from photographer either – there are thousands of years of portraits to take inspiration from. In the portrait above, I took inspiration from a painting called La belle ferronnière by Leonardo da Vinci. Other times I’ve been inspired by different historical artists – Rembrandt lighting is a popular technique amongst photographers too and a great place to start!

Never be afraid to try self-portraiture when you’re experimenting with different lighting and looks inspired by historical portraits. It can take a bit of practice to get it right, and you will almost certainly be your most patient model! The shot above is the result of an hour locked in my studio experimenting with light and self-portraiture. I cannot recommend the Fujifilm camera system and app highly enough for shooting self portraits. You can focus and shoot at the touch of your phone screen!

Costume portraits are a great excuse to step away from the kind of lighting that you would usually use and try something different. If you always use studio lights then how about trying some available light? That’s how artists would have mostly worked in the past, and if it worked for them then it must be worth trying! Equally, if you usually work with available light then perhaps this is an excellent opportunity to step outside your comfort zone and try something tight and controlled with studio lights?

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2. Check the costume faithfulness

I’m not suggesting for one moment that you should become a victim to historical or film accuracy in your costume portraits. But it does pay to just think through all of the elements that your subject is wearing or surrounded by.

In a costume portrait, even more so than a regular portrait, every aspect of the costume and any props contribute to the story being told by the final image. Ideally, nothing should appear in the final image that wasn’t intentionally put there to be a part of the story.

So if you are shooting a portrait inspired by a period of history, or perhaps inspired by a film or comic book, just take a little time to research your inspiration before scheduling a shoot. Check that your costume, accessories, and props aren’t going to be jarring to the story you are trying to tell.

This is where it might be worthwhile working with costume designers if you are new to styling costume portraits. Their expertise and advice on putting together and styling different kinds of costumes could save you an awful lot of time and heartache in the long run! Of course, there are always opportunities to hire costumes from theatres too – it can be a surprisingly cost-effective option.

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3. Set the scene

Think about the scene that you want your character to inhabit. Are they royalty sitting atop a beautiful throne, or are they a post-apocalyptic warrior tracking danger through the forest? Scouting out a location and sourcing props to suit can be half of the fun when it comes to staging a costume portrait!

You can find great locations in the most surprising places. I have shot in front of huge roller shutter doors on industrial estates, in a scrubby bit of forest that looked like a dreamy estate in the final images, and against an old stone wall in my back garden. With the right lighting, lens selection, framing choices, and post-processing the most unexpected locations can look great in portraits.

But, of course, there’s always the option to head into the studio! Taking a subject into the studio and placing them against a plain backdrop can serve to really highlight the story you are telling through their costume and appearance. It puts the focus squarely onto the subject. This style of studio shooting can be a double-edged sword. There’s less room for mistakes in this kind of controlled studio portrait, but the payoff can be more than worth it when it comes to portfolio-worthy images.

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4. Give your subject a character

When people usually sit for portraits they are playing themselves. So when you have someone sit for a costume portrait, it is helpful if you can have them play a role. It can help them to get into character more quickly and easily.

Before you do the shoot – while you’re pulling together your styling and location – think about the character that you’re looking to capture and write down a few thoughts as part of a shoot plan.

Are they a brooding young Victorian poet who lost their love? Perhaps they’re an underground rebel trying to uncover a government conspiracy four decades in the future? This is the driving force behind the entire shoot, so gear everything towards bringing this character to life.

Once you have your subject dressed up and with makeup done, equipped with props, and in the location you have chosen, all these elements should come together to help them portray the character. It’s their portrayal of the character that will shine through, tell the story, and truly make your shots portfolio-worthy.

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5. Don’t forget the post-processing

You’ve styled an amazing shoot in a fantastically atmospheric location with a great team, and you’ve collaboratively told a compelling story. So what is next? Post-processing – that’s what.

The choices you make on the computer or in the darkroom after the shoot really help you focus the storytelling. Good post-processing can help elevate a portrait to something extraordinary.

You can make stylistic choices in post-processing that you may not otherwise make if you were shooting regular headshots or family portraits. For instance, when I shoot images with an apocalyptic theme, I tend to add lots of layers over the top to create a grungy look to the piece. If I am shooting something inspired by a sci-fi movie, then I often choose to push the colors quite hard to resemble the film grading used by cinematographers. Moreover, if I shoot something medieval- or viking-ish, I usually dull all the colors down and make the finished shots look “dusty” and worn.

With practice, you’ll find your style for post-processing costume portraits. Don’t be afraid to step outside of your comfort zone and do something different from your usual approach. Everything about these images is already completely different from how most people would approach a regular portrait. It’s a chance to experiment!

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Now that you’re armed with my top tips for shooting costume portraits, it’s time to try it out yourself! Remember to create a character, set the scene, and think about every element that you’re placing in the image. That way, you’ll tell a compelling and consistent story that shines through in the final image.

I’d love to see your attempts at shooting costume portraits. Post an image in the comments for everyone to see!

The post 5 Tips for Photographing Portfolio-Worthy Costume Portraits appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Charlie Moss.

How to Pose Women Who Aren’t Models [video]

The post How to Pose Women Who Aren’t Models [video] appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Caz Nowaczyk.

In this video by Anita Sadowska, you’ll learn how to pose people who are not models so they look more relaxed and natural in photos with a little help from photographer-turned-model for the video, Irene Rudnyk.

General tips

  • Always give the model encouragement.
  • Talk to them throughout the shoot to help them relax. If you like a pose they are making, tell them so.
  • Try to get your subject to laugh and smile to make them more comfortable in front of the camera. Tell jokes.

Standing poses

  • Get your model to stand on tip toes and move one leg forward, and shift hip forward.
  • When someone is shorter, shoot from lower to the ground, shooting upwards so the model looks taller.
  • Get the model to separate their arms to open up the body.
  • Don’t squash arms up against the body.

Sitting poses

  • Place one leg lower than the other. Bring one leg upward and turned inwards towards the body. Elongate the longer leg.
  • Keep the model using tip toes when seated too as it elongates the feet and legs.
  • Place arm outwards to lean on.
  • Sit more sideways to push the hip out a little more.
  • Also, place the chin up to elongate the body.
  • No crossed arms.
  • Lean backwards on the back arm, resting the front arm loosely on the front leg.

Facial positions

  • Push out the chin and then pull it down to create more definition.
  • Move their face around on different angles, tilting works well.
  • Try chin up and chin down. If using chin down, it is important to have strong eye contact.

Posture

  • Always ensure the model has good posture.
  • Move shoulders down, stand tall and suck in the tummy for a strong core.
  • Lean against something to feel more relaxed.

Accessories

  • Accessorize. Using an accessory can give the model something to play with/hold.
  • If you don’t have accessories, you can get your model to play with their hair and have fun with it.

 

You may also find the following articles helpful:

The post How to Pose Women Who Aren’t Models [video] appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Caz Nowaczyk.

How to Turn Your Living Room into a Photo Studio

The post How to Turn Your Living Room into a Photo Studio appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Jackie Lamas.

Have you ever wished to have a studio space where you could bring clients in and photograph all types of portraits and ideas? You can! Your living room, or any room in your home for that matter, can be quickly converted so that you can photograph your studio ideas in your home!

Setting up backgrounds on a plain wall can help you take great portraits in your own living room.

Finding the right space

Your living room might be the room with the biggest space for you to get the best angles and set up your lights. As long as you have about 10 feet of blank wall space, you can use it for your at-home studio.

Choose a wall where you can mount backgrounds. Put up studio paper, or any background paper. Alternatively, use a painted wall for your photos. It doesn’t have to be anything special, and you could use the existing wall as the main background as well.

A bedroom with big windows can be used as a studio for portraits.

Why 10 feet? The wider your wall space, the more room you’ll have to the sides of your photos. This will enable you to photograph both horizontally and vertically. You will also have room for more than one person.

If you’re photographing headshots or only individuals, a smaller wall space would work. A wall with 5 feet would be sufficient enough for headshots and individuals.

Other spaces in your home that could work

The living room doesn’t have to be the only space that you can use. For example, if you don’t have studio lights, but want to create beautiful portraits with creative direction on backgrounds and don’t want to go on location, your home can still work!

You can photograph in a covered patio with lots of wall space, in your garage, in the bedroom, or on a balcony. All of these spaces work if you have the wall space to place your subject and space to photograph them from a distance.

This makes it much simpler to choose the right location for your at-home studio in the event that you don’t have studio lighting equipment or a special look to your photographs.

Creating the best set up for studio/flash  set up

You don’t necessarily need to use studio lights for your at-home studio, however, if that is what you’re going to use then let’s go through what you’ll need in the space for the best outcome.

Use flash bouncing off the ceiling to light portraits in your living room or in the space you want for your at home studio.

You’ll need to choose a wall space that is in a darker or not-so-brightly-lit room. You can also use shades or curtains to block out light so that your off-camera lighting can correctly light your scene.

Using a flash to light these portraits to simulate the sun. Plain wall background in the bedroom.

Living rooms offer the most space but make sure you can get it dark enough to set up the lights exactly where you want them.  You could also use external flashes to set up your at-home studio.

You can light portraits creatively when you have control of the space and lighting.

Have a lamp nearby so that you can use it as a modeling light. You can also use a light dimmer so that the light doesn’t affect the outcome or interfere with the white balance, exposure, or look and feel that you’re trying to achieve.

Best set up for natural light at-home studio

If your living room or any other room in your home has great natural light, you can definitely set up your studio there. The same tips apply as far as wall space so that you can pose your subject and have enough space in the frame in case cropping is necessary. It also gives you the option to photograph vertical or horizontal.

This was shot with all natural light using a silver reflector with a 3×3 grey background taped to the wall. Edited to bump up the contrast and desaturate the colors.

Choose a room that has great window light or light coming into the space. For example, a garage space with the garage door open is a good option. Another good option is a living room with big sliding doors where light floods the room. Make sure that the sunlight isn’t coming directly into the room or through the window where it casts weird shadows on your subject.

To diffuse the light, you can hang translucent curtains. This will help with harsh lighting, shadows, and the temperature of the room. Of course, you don’t necessarily need the window open unless it adds more light to your scene – if that is the look you’re going for.

If your home has textured walls, you can use them as backgrounds for the portraits as well!

Use a reflector and bounce cards to help bounce light in the direction you want. Black flags  (black boards that help darken the light) and are great for creating shadows and can help to give you more dramatic lighting.

Be aware of the floor

In your home, your floor is already installed and this can present a problem if you’re photographing full-length portraits. Take a look to see if the floor is what you’ll want for your photos. If it isn’t, you can use paper and place it from the wall all the way to the floor. This will create a seamless look to your photos like a real studio.

In the before photo, we covered the floor with a black sheet so we could photoshop the black background in and create a seamless look.

You can also get cheap wood floor-looking laminate flooring and create your portable floor. If the trim base to the floor isn’t distracting, you could even possibly photoshop that out to create a more seamless look with the wall and the floor.

Just be aware of your floor so you know what to do before you start photographing in your new home studio.

Backgrounds for in-home studios

There are a lot of great backgrounds that you can use for a home studio. Given that it’s completely your space and you can get really creative. The simplest one is the one you already have available! Use the existing wall color and texture to create interesting portraits.

You can use existing decor to create beautiful portraits or tape a paper background to the wall for a seamless background.

Other backgrounds you can use can be:

  • A sheet that covers the wall and onto the floor for a seamless fabric background.
  • Paper either rolled onto the floor for seamless or a piece of paper taped to the wall for up-close portraits
  • Any fabric or paper with a print on it
  • Different colored paper for headshots

Pretty much anything you can think of you can create as a background! You can get really creative with balloons, tissue paper, hanging strings, lights, paper flowers, artificial flowers, string or hanging garlands either made by you or already made newspaper or even plants.

The options and ideas are limitless and will give your photos a unique look no matter what your style is.

In conclusion

Your living room can be the perfect space for you to create beautiful studio work. You don’t need fancy equipment just nice wall space and the light you love to photograph with. Add in some music and you’ve got the perfect comfortable studio right in your home!

Do you have other suggestions to make a great living room studio? Share with us and our readers in the comments below.

The post How to Turn Your Living Room into a Photo Studio appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Jackie Lamas.

Best Camera Settings for Portrait Photography

In this article and video, you will discover the best camera settings for portrait photography for taking photos in natural light and for flash photography. Whether you are brand new to portrait photography or a seasoned pro, you will benefit from these helpful photo tips.

Best camera settings for Portrait Photography

If you prefer watching videos to reading, I have also included a video that will walk you through these photo tips for taking photographs in both natural light and for using fill flash.

Taking photos in natural light is the most common so we will start with those camera settings first.

#1 Best Camera Settings for Portrait Photography

I suggest you set your camera to manual mode to give yourself more creative control of your exposure. Sure, it will take a little extra time to capture your images but you are a much better judge of how you want the final image to look than your camera.

ISO

First choose your ISO, which is usually the lowest setting in natural light, ISO 100 on most cameras. Some Nikon cameras have a lower ISO and allow you to you choose a native ISO of 64. Set your ISO as low as possible to avoid extra noise and that grainy look you will get if you use higher ISO settings.

best camera settings for natural light portraits

Aperture

Step two, decide which aperture you would like to use. For an out of focus background use an aperture like f/1.4. If you would like more of the background in focus or a sharper image, in most cases using an aperture that is two to three stops higher than the minimum aperture will be the sharpest point of the lens.

For example, an f/2.8 lens will be at its sharpest point at around f/5.6 to f/8. If you are a little confused by that, feel free to post your questions in the comment box below this article.

Read more here: How To Find Your Lens’s Sweet Spot: A Beginner’s Guide to Sharper Images

best portrait settings mirrorless cameras

Shutter Speed

Once you have set your ISO and decided on your aperture your next step is to refer to your in-camera meter and adjust your shutter speed until you get a center reading. Then take a test shot and have a look at your camera’s LCD screen and histogram.

Make sure your histogram is as far to the right as possible without blowing out the highlights in your image. Refer to the video above for some examples of how the histogram should look on your LCD screen.

best camera settings for high speed sync

A general rule is to set your shutter speed two times the focal length of your lens. For example, if you were using a 100mm prime lens then you would set a minimum shutter speed of 1/200th to avoid camera shake and image blur.

There are exceptions to this rule. If you are using a tripod or you have in-camera stabilization, like some mirrorless cameras have, or you are using a lens that has built-in image stabilization, then you can photograph at lower shutter speeds.

best camera settings for portrait photography with flash

Step #2 Best Camera Settings for Portrait Photography Using Flash

When it comes to using flash photography there are a couple of different strobes that are in common use today. There are smaller speedlights that fit on your camera’s hotshoe mount and there are larger studio strobes.

There are also strobe units that function differently. Some strobe systems do not allow you to shoot at a shutter speed faster than 1/200th (the camera’s sync speed). Other strobe setups will allow you to use something called (high-speed sync mode) to shoot with flash up to a shutter speed of 1/8000th.

best camera settings for portraits using fill flash

If a majority of your portrait photography is going to take place outdoors, then I would consider a strobe like the Godox AD600 Pro which is what I used to take a majority of the images in this article. The Godox AD600 Pro allows you to use high-speed sync and flash at shutter speeds of up to 1/8000th.

If your current strobe does not allow you to take photos at above 1/200th, you can use a filter like a B+W 3-stop ND filter which will allow you to shoot at a shutter speed of 1/200th but also at an aperture 3-stops larger than you could without it.

For example, with a 3-stop ND filter, you can shoot at f/2.8 instead of f/8 for the same exposure.

best camera setting for natural light portraits

Another important thing to keep in mind if you are shooting outdoors is that you will achieve better results if you shoot closer to sunrise or sunset when the sun is less harsh.

The image above was taken one hour before sunset in the shade and provides a nice even light on the subject’s face. If you would like softer light, then avoid shooting in the middle of the day or move to the shade if you do not have the luxury of shooting just before sunset.

Step #3 Practice These Tips and Explore Your Creativity

best camera settings for portraits at golden hour

One last tip I have for you is to set your camera’s LCD screen brightness level to 4 or 5 and to leave it there. Make sure your LCD screen brightness is not set to auto. That is because it will be difficult for you to gauge your exposure level if your LCD screen brightness is constantly changing.

Check your camera’s settings and set your LCD screen brightness level manually and keep it at the same setting for future photo outings.

best camera settings for shooting with strobes

Conclusion

If you are new to shooting in manual mode it may seem a little difficult at first. But with a little practice, you will be shooting like a pro.

If you have any questions about the best camera settings for portrait photography that were covered in this article, feel free to ask in the comment box below this article. I look forward to hearing from you.

The post Best Camera Settings for Portrait Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School.

How to do Portrait Photography in Bright Midday Sun

In photography, learning and knowing how to use and manipulate light will always be an advantage. Especially when it comes to portrait photography because you aren’t always going to photograph your clients in the most ideal light.

wedding couple by the pool - How to do Portrait Photography in Bright Midday Sun

Sometimes you don’t have a choice but to put your clients in direct sunlight.

Backlight your subjects

You might think that backlighting can only apply during sunset hours, however, it can be used any time the sun has passed its peak. Once the sun angles a bit, you are able to backlight your subject.

This technique is best to keep direct sun off your client’s face and avoid those weird shadows that happen under the eyebrows, nose, and chin.

How to do Portrait Photography in Bright Midday Sun - family on the beach

Backlighting your clients can help minimize shadows.

It also helps to keep people from squinting. Keeping your subject’s face away from direct sunlight will also help keep them comfortable during the session. Beware of backgrounds as well because sometimes, to keep the light of your client’s face, it may mean having them in front of ab undesirable background.

couple by a river - How to do Portrait Photography in Bright Midday Sun

Backlighting can also add lens flare to your photos in an artistic way.

Try your best to position your subjects away from direct sunlight while still keeping the background that you desire.

Use reflectors

Luckily, because the sun is high in the sky, and most likely really bright, you’ll have big natural light reflectors at your disposal.

Natural reflectors are great to bounce light back onto your subject without having to spend tons on expensive photographic gear. They are found at the location and can fill in the shadows nicely.

family on the beach under a palm umbrella - How to do Portrait Photography in Bright Midday Sun

Use a shaded area to help with bright sunlight. The sand also acts as a natural reflector and bounces light back onto people’s faces.

Natural reflectors include big parking lots, sidewalks, windows, big light-colored walls, silver or white cars, buildings with silver or reflective paneling/architectural designs, light-colored cement walls/floors, sand at the beach, and any found natural reflective surface.

wedding couple on the beach - How to do Portrait Photography in Bright Midday Sun

Use the sand as a natural reflector. Use trees to create a frame within a frame.

Backlight your subject when the sun has passed its peak and position them in front of a large natural reflector to bounce light back onto their face.

Professional photographic reflectors are also great to use if you have one already. Position your subject with their back to the sun. Use the silver side of the reflector to bounce light back onto them.

Be careful not to aim the reflected light directly into your subject’s eyes as it can be really bright, almost as strong as direct sunlight. Angle it a bit until you find enough fill on their face.

family outdoors - How to do Portrait Photography in Bright Midday Sun

Backlighting your clients can help with shadows.

Make sure you do not place your reflector on the floor pointing upward at your client. This will cause the light to bounce upward which will give you odd unflattering shadows on the face. Rather, have a stand or a friend hold the reflector up so that the light bounced back is around torso height.

Be careful when using the white side of the reflector during midday sun as this can cause your client’s face to wash out and look opaque.

Use a scrim to diffuse light

Some reflectors, especially the 5-in-1 kind, come with a translucent side. This translucent reflector helps to diffuse sunlight without completely blocking it out. You can also make your own using translucent fabric and a PVC/hula-hoop.

How to do Portrait Photography in Bright Midday Sun

Hold the scrim over your client’s face or body to diffuse the light. Be careful of your backgrounds. If your background is brighter than your client, the background will be overexposed. If possible, try and match the light on the background to the light on your client.

Scrims are especially effective if you are going for close-up photos of your client.

Slightly underexpose

Underexposing while photographing in bright midday sun can help you get less washed out backgrounds. Underexposing your photo can also help retain details that otherwise get lost if they are too bright.

bride and groom kissing by a pool - How to do Portrait Photography in Bright Midday Sun

Put your clients in direct sunlight to get a different look.

After the session, you can bring up the shadows in your editing program of choice without losing detail in the rest of the image. Underexposing 1/2 – 1 stop can also help to keep the background details intact.

family photo - How to do Portrait Photography in Bright Midday Sun

You can also expose for both your clients in one photo and in the next expose for the background. Later you can merge both photos so that your final photo is exposed for both the people and the scene.

This will also look a bit like HDR which gives your photo a more artistic and dynamic look. Make sure that both photos are taken using the same lens, at the same distance, with the same framing so that both images line up. Otherwise, it will be more difficult to merge the photos in an editing program.

couple in black - How to do Portrait Photography in Bright Midday Sun

Try to avoid photograph clients in really bright backgrounds otherwise, you’ll get this washed out background and lens flare.

Use flash

Flash is a great resource to use during the midday sun. Especially when you are in a location where natural reflectors are scarce or you need an extra pop of light. Flash is also handy during midday sessions so that you can properly expose for your clients while keeping the background from washing out.

smiling boy in a field - How to do Portrait Photography in Bright Midday Sun

Use flash to fill in shadows and compete with the bright sunlight behind.

Since you’ll be competing with the bright midday sun, point your flash directly at your clients to make sure the light reaches them. Using a diffuser can help to disperse the light. If you’re using your flash in manual mode, aim to use it at 1/8th power or more. This will give you enough power to light your clients.

couple on the beach - How to do Portrait Photography in Bright Midday Sun

Experiment with your flash in the high-speed sync mode where you can use shutter speeds higher than 1/200th of a second. You’ll get more fashion styled photos as the pop of light will be more directional and your background will be darker.

Pointing the flash at a big white wall can also help to bounce light back onto your clients meanwhile diffusing the light so that it isn’t so harsh creating a nice blended fill.

2 portraits of a man - How to do Portrait Photography in Bright Midday Sun

Two different portraits created in midday sun during the same session.

If your flash is attached to your camera, you can slightly bend the flash down to direct it towards your clients rather than having it all the way up. It can add more light to the scene and direct it where you want it to be.

Shoot in Shade White Balance

It might seem a little weird to photograph your entire session in the Shade White Balance and your eyes might take some time getting used to the sepia tones. However, photographing people in shade mode helps to keep skin tones even.

This is very important, especially while photographing during midday sun since it can be really bright and hard to keep the skin tone consistent.

How to do Portrait Photography in Bright Midday Sun - girl with balloons

Have fun photographing in the midday sun.

Shade White Balance allows you to then edit your photos so that you can get the exact skin tones that you desire.

Let creativity flow

Photographing during midday sun may not be ideal yet it can offer many different ways for your creativity to flow. Use shadows to create interesting effects. Try to face your client toward the direct sunlight and focus on the details.

couple with shadows - How to do Portrait Photography in Bright Midday Sun

Use midday sunlight to create different effects.

You can also use hats, palm leaves, water, and other interesting elements to create different styled photographs. Experiment with your flash in different positions. Use the sun as a subject within the photo.

How to do Portrait Photography in Bright Midday Sun

Use the sun to create repeating patterns and shadows.

Allow your backgrounds to grow dark or wash out. Use the midday sun to highlight details that you want and put into shadow the details that you want to eliminate. There are many different ideas and letting the sun guide you can often give you the best results!

Put your clients in the shade

Just because you have to photograph during the harsh hours of midday sun, it doesn’t mean that you can’t use shaded areas to your benefit!

You don’t need a much shade, just enough for your clients to fit in. Tall buildings, large tall trees, and tall walls work to help shade your client from harsh light during the middle of the day. Position them close to a big natural reflector, keeping them in the shade while taking advantage of the light being bounced back.

couple with car - How to do Portrait Photography in Bright Midday Sun

Put your clients in the shade if you can.

Make sure you expose for your client’s face and not the background, this will help keep your skin tones even if the background washes out a bit.

In conclusion

While photographing in midday sunlight isn’t necessarily ideal, it can always offer some great ways to create different and interesting photographs of your clients. Practicing during these hours is also helpful in case you do have to photograph in midday sun such as a wedding day, for example.

How to do Portrait Photography in Bright Midday Sun

Photograph your client in direct sunlight.

If you find yourself photographing during these peak hours of the day, just know that these tips will help you to get the best out of your session, no matter what the light is like.

The post How to do Portrait Photography in Bright Midday Sun appeared first on Digital Photography School.

How to Make Your Location Portraits Even Better

In photography, portraits are an art form to themselves. There are many ways to make portraits, but one of the main divisions is between portraits made in a studio and on location portraits. The end results look very different, so it’s good to choose between them depending on what you’re going for.

Do you have a preference between them, either as a photographer and/or as a viewer?

Portrait in a greenhouse. location portraits

Studio photography is a lot of fun, but when I’m working on a portrait job I usually prefer to photograph on location. Why? Portraits taken in a favorite location – outdoors or at home – are a great opportunity to really bring out the subject’s personality and to enjoy the beauty of natural light.

That’s why I thought I’d share what I’ve learned about location portraits with you. I hope you enjoy the ride!

Sports portrait on location. location portraits

The advantages of stepping out of the studio

There are both pros and cons to on-location portrait photography. The main differences between this kind of photography and studio photography are the light and the environment.

Light

In a studio setting, you’re in complete control of the light. On location, you very likely won’t be, but the advantage is that you’ll have a much richer palette of light and color. So it’s a challenge but also an opportunity.

Instead of creating the lighting setup, you can focus on creating a very unique, natural portrait. Another difference is that natural light feels less artificial, just like a natural setting. Depending on what kind of atmosphere you’re going for, this can be very important.

Portrait of child outdoors. - location portraits

Environment

Depending on the surroundings, a natural setting might not create a portrait with that timeless feel that a studio portrait often has. Again, this is neither good nor bad – it all depends on what kind of feeling you’re going for.

Including the environment in your portraits can add a lot of character and help bring out the subject’s personality.

Wedding portrait in forest. location portraits

The environment can also be a distraction, both in the final photograph and during the session. This can be a boon or a burden when you’re taking photos.

Too much going on might lead to a chaotic photo or the subjects looking (or being!) distracted, but it can also help the subjects relax and be themselves. All you have in a studio setting is the subject, the slightly intimidating lights, and the photographer; outdoors or at home, the setting might feel less oppressive.

Using the Surroundings to Your Advantage

So you’ve decided that you’re going to do a portrait session on location. What are the most important things to remember, and how can you make the session memorable?

Wedding portrait in winter.

Prepare!

You can’t ever be in complete control of a situation, but preparing is always worth the effort. It will help both you and your subject get the most out of the session and the final product. It will also let your creativity flow more freely since you won’t have to worry about all the details you will have dealt with beforehand.

Several choices need to be made before you can start making a portrait, and this can be done days and even weeks beforehand. These are: where, when, what, and what if.

First, you’ll have to find and agree on a location that’s convenient for you and works for the kind of portrait you and the client want. Unless it’s your backyard, it’s important to familiarize yourself with the place before the session.

Wedding portrait with greenery. location portraits

The time for the shoot is at least as important as the location. Both season and time of day have a huge impact on the quality of light you’ll have to work with, so keep that in mind as you plan your photo session.

In general, the hour before sunset until just after sunset is when you’ll find the really beautiful light. Overcast days are also surprisingly good for portraits. Of course, you also have to find a time that’s convenient for your subject so the timing of the photo session is often a compromise between practical considerations and optimal lighting conditions.

Graduation portrait with flowers.

Other preparations you can make are planning the types of photos you and your subject want and the clothing they’ll be wearing. Sometimes these are given – for instance, if you’re making wedding or graduation portraits.

Looking up inspiration for poses and compositions online is a good way to get ready, as is using yourself as a practice subject.

Outdoor portrait with fruit.

By “what if”, I mean you should have a backup plan. When planning a portrait session with a customer, I always make sure to have a reserve day in case the weather doesn’t cooperate, someone gets sick, or any of a million other unexpected things happen.

It can also mean having a reserve place to make the portraits, one that will still work if the original one doesn’t for some reason.

Outdoor portrait in the rain.

Do Your Best and Enjoy the Moment

The time has arrived and so has your subject. You’re in the right place at the right time, and now all you have to do is make some great portraits. There are a lot of great articles that cover the main things that will help you make the best of it, so I’ll only mention them:

  • Always be aware of the background: what kind of patterns are there, what colors, what is the light like?
  • Don’t be afraid to pose your subjects.
  • Make your subjects feel comfortable and calm – this way you can both enjoy both the session and the final portraits.

Portrait of child in the grass.

A Practical Example

Lastly, I want to share a strategy that I sometimes use for location portraits with customers. It’s not always possible or sensible to do this, but when it is, it’s an easy way to have a comfortable and fun photo session.

This is what I do…

After I know when and where the portraits will be made, I visit the place and familiarize myself with it. Then I explore the area, find a nice route to walk along, and choose several places where the portraits can be made along that route. When it’s time for the photo session, I take the subjects on a short walk along the route that I found. I also tell them about the plan, so they know what’s going to happen.

On-location family portrait.

I took this lovely family on a walk with some beautiful backdrops.

This approach offers many advantages. If you don’t know your subjects, taking a little walk is a nice way to relax and chat a bit before you start making the photos. It often also makes the subjects feel less awkward and on the spot, since they get to take in the surroundings a bit rather than immediately being put in front of a lens.

For you, as a photographer, it’s a good way to structure the session, to have a beginning and an end but leave plenty of room for spontaneity. It also lets you use several different settings within the same area so you can offer your subject a range of different portraits afterward.

Conclusion

Knowing how to make location portraits is a very useful skill in many situations: weddings, birthdays, graduations, for families, bands, teams, pets, etc. The list goes on and on.

What is your favorite part about making portraits on location? Are there some specific challenges you’ve encountered? I’d love to see your photos and your thoughts in the comments section!

Goodbye!

Sadly, this is my last article here at Digital Photography School. I’ve learned a lot and really enjoyed it, both writing the articles and taking part in all the discussions we’ve had. Thank you! You can find all my articles here.

Keep learning about and enjoying photography – I sure will!

The post How to Make Your Location Portraits Even Better appeared first on Digital Photography School.

How to Make Your Location Portraits Even Better

In photography, portraits are an art form to themselves. There are many ways to make portraits, but one of the main divisions is between portraits made in a studio and on location portraits. The end results look very different, so it’s good to choose between them depending on what you’re going for.

Do you have a preference between them, either as a photographer and/or as a viewer?

Portrait in a greenhouse. location portraits

Studio photography is a lot of fun, but when I’m working on a portrait job I usually prefer to photograph on location. Why? Portraits taken in a favorite location – outdoors or at home – are a great opportunity to really bring out the subject’s personality and to enjoy the beauty of natural light.

That’s why I thought I’d share what I’ve learned about location portraits with you. I hope you enjoy the ride!

Sports portrait on location. location portraits

The advantages of stepping out of the studio

There are both pros and cons to on-location portrait photography. The main differences between this kind of photography and studio photography are the light and the environment.

Light

In a studio setting, you’re in complete control of the light. On location, you very likely won’t be, but the advantage is that you’ll have a much richer palette of light and color. So it’s a challenge but also an opportunity.

Instead of creating the lighting setup, you can focus on creating a very unique, natural portrait. Another difference is that natural light feels less artificial, just like a natural setting. Depending on what kind of atmosphere you’re going for, this can be very important.

Portrait of child outdoors. - location portraits

Environment

Depending on the surroundings, a natural setting might not create a portrait with that timeless feel that a studio portrait often has. Again, this is neither good nor bad – it all depends on what kind of feeling you’re going for.

Including the environment in your portraits can add a lot of character and help bring out the subject’s personality.

Wedding portrait in forest. location portraits

The environment can also be a distraction, both in the final photograph and during the session. This can be a boon or a burden when you’re taking photos.

Too much going on might lead to a chaotic photo or the subjects looking (or being!) distracted, but it can also help the subjects relax and be themselves. All you have in a studio setting is the subject, the slightly intimidating lights, and the photographer; outdoors or at home, the setting might feel less oppressive.

Using the Surroundings to Your Advantage

So you’ve decided that you’re going to do a portrait session on location. What are the most important things to remember, and how can you make the session memorable?

Wedding portrait in winter.

Prepare!

You can’t ever be in complete control of a situation, but preparing is always worth the effort. It will help both you and your subject get the most out of the session and the final product. It will also let your creativity flow more freely since you won’t have to worry about all the details you will have dealt with beforehand.

Several choices need to be made before you can start making a portrait, and this can be done days and even weeks beforehand. These are: where, when, what, and what if.

First, you’ll have to find and agree on a location that’s convenient for you and works for the kind of portrait you and the client want. Unless it’s your backyard, it’s important to familiarize yourself with the place before the session.

Wedding portrait with greenery. location portraits

The time for the shoot is at least as important as the location. Both season and time of day have a huge impact on the quality of light you’ll have to work with, so keep that in mind as you plan your photo session.

In general, the hour before sunset until just after sunset is when you’ll find the really beautiful light. Overcast days are also surprisingly good for portraits. Of course, you also have to find a time that’s convenient for your subject so the timing of the photo session is often a compromise between practical considerations and optimal lighting conditions.

Graduation portrait with flowers.

Other preparations you can make are planning the types of photos you and your subject want and the clothing they’ll be wearing. Sometimes these are given – for instance, if you’re making wedding or graduation portraits.

Looking up inspiration for poses and compositions online is a good way to get ready, as is using yourself as a practice subject.

Outdoor portrait with fruit.

By “what if”, I mean you should have a backup plan. When planning a portrait session with a customer, I always make sure to have a reserve day in case the weather doesn’t cooperate, someone gets sick, or any of a million other unexpected things happen.

It can also mean having a reserve place to make the portraits, one that will still work if the original one doesn’t for some reason.

Outdoor portrait in the rain.

Do Your Best and Enjoy the Moment

The time has arrived and so has your subject. You’re in the right place at the right time, and now all you have to do is make some great portraits. There are a lot of great articles that cover the main things that will help you make the best of it, so I’ll only mention them:

  • Always be aware of the background: what kind of patterns are there, what colors, what is the light like?
  • Don’t be afraid to pose your subjects.
  • Make your subjects feel comfortable and calm – this way you can both enjoy both the session and the final portraits.

Portrait of child in the grass.

A Practical Example

Lastly, I want to share a strategy that I sometimes use for location portraits with customers. It’s not always possible or sensible to do this, but when it is, it’s an easy way to have a comfortable and fun photo session.

This is what I do…

After I know when and where the portraits will be made, I visit the place and familiarize myself with it. Then I explore the area, find a nice route to walk along, and choose several places where the portraits can be made along that route. When it’s time for the photo session, I take the subjects on a short walk along the route that I found. I also tell them about the plan, so they know what’s going to happen.

On-location family portrait.

I took this lovely family on a walk with some beautiful backdrops.

This approach offers many advantages. If you don’t know your subjects, taking a little walk is a nice way to relax and chat a bit before you start making the photos. It often also makes the subjects feel less awkward and on the spot, since they get to take in the surroundings a bit rather than immediately being put in front of a lens.

For you, as a photographer, it’s a good way to structure the session, to have a beginning and an end but leave plenty of room for spontaneity. It also lets you use several different settings within the same area so you can offer your subject a range of different portraits afterward.

Conclusion

Knowing how to make location portraits is a very useful skill in many situations: weddings, birthdays, graduations, for families, bands, teams, pets, etc. The list goes on and on.

What is your favorite part about making portraits on location? Are there some specific challenges you’ve encountered? I’d love to see your photos and your thoughts in the comments section!

Goodbye!

Sadly, this is my last article here at Digital Photography School. I’ve learned a lot and really enjoyed it, both writing the articles and taking part in all the discussions we’ve had. Thank you! You can find all my articles here.

Keep learning about and enjoying photography – I sure will!

The post How to Make Your Location Portraits Even Better appeared first on Digital Photography School.

Tips for Preparing for a Portrait Session

A portrait session can be a nerve-racking event. There’s so much to remember and prepare before the actual press of the shutter button. It takes a lot of prep work. People don’t always realize what goes into being ready.

Even if you’re an amateur taking pics of your family and friends, there are some important steps to take if you want to capture some really beautiful images. Here are some tips to help you out.

Tips for Preparing for a Portrait Session - girl jumping into the water

In some cases, planning for a shoot is really simple. In this case, we took the kids to the beach at sunset to shoot some pics we could share on social media.

Logistics and Planning

This is the part where you discuss the portrait session with your friends or clients. You need to pick a date, location, and a time. You should also discuss backup dates in case the original plan doesn’t work.

If you’re shooting professionally, you need to get the contract signed, collect a deposit and ensure that clients know under which circumstances their deposit (retainer) is refundable.

Image Sharing

If you are taking family pics at a reunion and you intend to share these photos with everyone, consider setting up an online photo album you can send to everyone. It’s much easier to share the pics this way.

Make sure you have everyone’s email so that they can all download the images afterward. It’s a huge pain to email people separately. You’re taking the pictures to stay in control and don’t overwork yourself sending them to everyone. They can take some of the responsibility.

If there are older family members, consider printing out a set of instructions they can use for accessing and downloading the images. I’ve run into that issue before and found myself driving an hour to click download on someone’s computer.

kids running in the water - Tips for Preparing for a Portrait Session

Another from the sunset shoot of informal family pics.

The Style and Portrait Session Design

It’s also a good idea to discuss the type of look and feel you want to create in the portrait session. If you’re working professionally, this is really important. Make sure you and the clients are on the same page.

Do they want relaxed, candid images or do they prefer something more formal? Clothing can affect the look of a photo shoot so be sure to discuss attire. If you’re snapping pics at a family event, you probably won’t have much control over the look of the images unless you plan and get everyone on board.

I’ve seen families choose themes like “Old West” for a fun afternoon of photos. At some reunions, I’ve seen groups create a t-shirt they all wear to commemorate the pics.

A friend of mine set up a photo booth at a Christmas party. Everyone was asked to bring one piece of “bling” for their photo. When paired with the props and the background she created, it was a ton of fun.

portrait of a boy by a tree - Tips for Preparing for a Portrait Session

In this case, I was working with a family. Prior to the shoot, I visited the home and we discussed possible locations.

Location Matters

The chosen location can also affect the look and feel of a shoot. Consider a big comfy couch in a brightly lit room versus wooden dining room chairs on a studio backdrop. The background can considerably change the feel of an image so plan carefully.

Props

Collect some props for the portrait session. If you’re working with really young people like toddlers, it is really helpful to have things to distract the kids. Teenagers love goofy items they can hold and use for posing.

If you’re working with your own kids, it can be a huge battle to get them to cooperate. I find other people’s kids far more flexible, but if I want to photograph my kids, it’s a huge ordeal.

So think about styling the shoot in such a way that your little ones will cooperate. This might mean including their favorite toy is in the image. That’s okay! Go with it because it’s far better to get a positive, happy image than a forced angry looking smile.

Tips for Preparing for a Portrait Session - 3 ladies smiling and laughing

This was another paid session. The family had gathered for a 50th-anniversary celebration. They were dressed semi-formal for the occasion.

Be Informed and Plan Ahead

Make sure you do your research. Know the area in which you are going to be shooting. It’s helpful to visit the site before the shoot so you can be familiar with all the little nooks and crannies.

Plan your route to the photo shoot if you can’t visit before the big day. Download offline instructions to your phone in case you lose your connection. It’s happened to me once that I lost the signal and drove around for ages before I could find the location.

Get Permits if Needed

Double check to be sure you don’t need a permit for shooting at a specific location. Some places require you to buy a permit. So don’t get caught without one.

I know of a family that planned to do photos in the Distillery District here in Toronto only to learn they could not photograph each other when they were halfway through the shoot. I’ve also seen a family get in a lot of trouble for trespassing on private land. All they wanted to do was take a family pic for their Facebook profiles.

So double check that you can visit and use the site you want for the session. If you’re shooting professionally, permits and property releases are a must so be sure to take care of the entire nitty gritty well before the day of the shoot.

Backup Plans are Essential

Have a Plan B. Always! Have an alternative plan at the ready. You never know what may go wrong. Have a family member bring an extra camera (or rent or borrow one) in case yours breaks. Choose an alternate site if the first won’t work.

Just be prepared. The reality is that when things go wrong, they usually go horribly wrong. So try to plan for every possible road bump in advance.

girls in the snow doing a selfie - Tips for Preparing for a Portraits Session

This shoot was planned for months. Friends were happy to join me for a day of photographs in the winter.

Day of the Portrait Session

Always make a checklist of items that you can use to help you pack up and be ready for the photoshoot. It’s really frustrating to leave equipment at home.

Arrive early! This should go without saying. You don’t want to make people wait.

Check the weather forecast and make sure you can contact people in case of emergencies. Get contact numbers from folks.

Be prepared to have fun! Just before everyone arrives or your clients show up at the studio make sure you’ve relaxed a little. I know some photographers who take 5 minutes to have a coffee before shooting. Others will sit and meditate for a few minutes beforehand.

Whatever works for you, just make sure you are confident and enthusiastic before you begin shooting. Your nerves will affect the quality of your work so don’t let them control you.

Conclusion

Photography is so much more than picking up a camera. To take memorable images, you need to put in some effort and plan out the event. So think carefully about the shoot and make sure you have everything ready.

If you are prepared and relaxed you will enjoy the event more, and so will those you are photographing!

girl blowing snow off her hand - Tips for Preparing for a Portraits Session

We wanted to create some of those images where you make snow dust. Of course, there was just too much white space around our chosen location. So sometimes your plans won’t work.

Tips for Preparing for a Portraits Session

We tried a lot of different locations.

Tips for Preparing for a Portraits Session

Eventually, we chose to shoot portraits that were much different from our initial plans.

Finally, make sure you share with us some of the ways you prepare for a photography session. Let’s get a good base of tips together we can use to our benefit.

The post Tips for Preparing for a Portrait Session appeared first on Digital Photography School.

4 Tips for Helping People Feel Comfortable During Their Portrait Session

Sooner or later, almost everyone has to sit alone in front of a camera for a grad portrait or professional headshot. It is almost always an uncomfortable experience for portrait clients. But it’s easy to forget this as photographers.

When I great people for their portraits they often confess things like, “I’m terrible with photos,” “I feel sick,” or “I hate my face.”

Perhaps because I’m so empathetic, I’ve developed a knack for making the most nervous and hopeless people shockingly excited about their photos.

In this article, I’ll show you how I do it so that you can make even your most uncomfortable portrait clients happy with their experience.

Black and white head shots - 4 Tips for Helping People Feel Comfortable During Their Portrait Session

I am personally drawn to black and white portraits.

1. Simple Light Setup

Since everyday life already throws you a heavy load of distractions and difficulties, I always encourage photographers to keep their projects as simple (but meaningful) as possible.

No matter how you choose to light your portrait subject, I recommend you do it as simply as possible. The point is to put all your focus on the person you’re photographing, not on equipment.

I either use natural light (a window and a reflector), or a one light setup inspired by Zack Arias.

Window Light

The benefit to natural light is that there are no flashes of light or large umbrellas to make the person feel as though they are at a high-pressure professional photo session. Your subject’s imagination is filled with the photo shoots they’ve seen on TV and you should relieve that pressure for them.

Natural light studio setup - 4 Tips for Helping People Feel Comfortable During Their Portrait Session

This is my natural light setup.

Window light portrait - 4 Tips for Helping People Feel Comfortable During Their Portrait Session

This is a portrait taken with that window light studio setup.

Using natural light and a silent shutter with a mirrorless camera allows the photography part to be as invisible as possible.

One Speedlight

My one light setup includes a speedlight with a 60-inch umbrella and a reflector.

One Light Setup - 4 Tips for Helping People Feel Comfortable During Their Portrait Session

This is my one light setup. It’s one speedlight with a 60-inch umbrella.

One light portrait - 4 Tips for Helping People Feel Comfortable During Their Portrait Session

This photo was taken with that one light setup.

Once set up, you should forget about your gear (the window, speedlight, and the camera) and focus 100% on your subject.

2. How to Focus

This isn’t about your camera, but focusing on your subject in order to make the best portraits possible.

If you are at all self-conscious as a photographer, it is absolutely critical that you do not focus on yourself.

Perhaps you’re nervous because of a lack of confidence, or because you’re worried they’ll hate their photos. Forget all that and just focus on your subject.

Small talk

“A portrait is not made in the camera but on either side of it.” — Edward Steichen

Female head shot - 4 Tips for Helping People Feel Comfortable During Their Portrait Session

You can use small talk to distract the subject from their own nervousness and self-consciousness in front of the camera. Talk about their business, their kids, or the last trip they went on. Anything that will distract them from being camera shy.

Warm up

Feel free to warm up with some “test shots,” even if you don’t really need them. Have your subject sit in front of the camera for a few shots where you’re doing nothing but “testing the light.”

Direct them a little bit, but nothing too serious. I sometimes transition into the real photos by saying something funny like, “Okay the light is perfect, now let me see a cheesy smile.” It can often lead to some laughter and the first candid photo.

Female headshot, laughing - 4 Tips for Helping People Feel Comfortable During Their Portrait Session

Candid portraits are the most joyful part of a portrait session for me. You don’t have to be a comedian to make people laugh. Just connect over something in your life and laughter will eventually flow.

Male headshot with suit. 4 Tips for Helping People Feel Comfortable During Their Portrait Session

I’ll often try to match the expression with the clothes my subject is wearing. I think a softer expression is more suitable for formal wear. But I’ll try everything at the moment and decide what looks best later.

Candid portraits

“There is one thing the photograph must contain, the humanity of the moment.” — Robert Frank

Yes, even a professional headshot session should include some informal candid photos. Candids are real, and even if you’re after a posed photo, candids are the path to discovering who they are when their guard is down.

Female headshot laughing - 4 Tips for Helping People Feel Comfortable During Their Portrait Session

When people can laugh together there begins to be a comfortable connection.

Female headshot - 4 Tips for Helping People Feel Comfortable During Their Portrait Session

We often laugh because of the tension created by a joke. But even real-life discomfort or tension can lead to the eventual release through laughter.

3. Finding Soul

“Look and think before opening the shutter. The heart and mind are the true lens of the camera.” — Yousuf Karsh

I don’t care whether I’m photographing real estate agents, future lawyers, high school grads, or “mompreneurs.” I treat everybody like an executive, valedictorian, or royalty during their portrait session.

We’re all much deeper than our occupation, even though it may be a deep expression of who we are. Fill your sessions with lightheartedness and true human connection. When you look through your photos later, you should be able to see the moment that your subject finally became relaxed.

Once relaxed, you’ll find the “real” person that was trapped below the surface of fake smiles and self-consciousness.

It may take you 10 minutes or more to get there, but it is the point in the session that you can move through your creative vision with your subject. You can show them how to squinch (Peter Hurley’s famous technique with the eyes), strike more advanced poses, or move in for close-ups.

Female headshot - 4 Tips for Helping People Feel Comfortable During Their Portrait Session

Once I know I have made the portrait that the subject needs, I move on and try other things. I love this very soft expression and the way that her hair creates a frame around her. This won’t likely appear on her business card, but I think it’s a wonderful portrait.

4. Completely Candid

“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.” — Paul Caponigro

Being inspired by photojournalism and the idea of capturing truly raw, candid, spontaneous photos, I decided to try a portrait session with no posing. All there would be was conversation and pictures.

Here are some of the results, which I love.

Close up female headshot - 4 Tips for Helping People Feel Comfortable During Their Portrait Session

This photo is all about the eyes, and whatever is going through her mind makes me want to laugh!

Female soft light headshot - 4 Tips for Helping People Feel Comfortable During Their Portrait Session

A completely candid photo portrait session means taking a lot of photos. Some of them looked posed, but it was a matter of quickly noticing something that looked right and capturing it before the moment passed.

Window light headshot - 4 Tips for Helping People Feel Comfortable During Their Portrait Session

I used a window as a natural light source. There were moments of silence during our conversation when she just looked out the window. Those were wonderful chances.

Portrait of a mother and her son - 4 Tips for Helping People Feel Comfortable During Their Portrait Session

Leave room for surprises in your portrait sessions. You may find yourself thinking, “Did this client dare to bring their kids to a portrait session?” True, they’ll tear your studio to pieces and distract her from her professional portrait session. But along with a little chaos comes life and surprisingly human moments. In the middle of it all, her son came up to be nursed. Maybe this is what Robert Frank meant about the “humanity of the moment.”

Mother hugging son portrait - 4 Tips for Helping People Feel Comfortable During Their Portrait Session

The portrait session was supposed to have been for her. But who she is on her own isn’t who she is completely. We’re all much deeper than ourselves and are who we are partly because of the people around us.

Portrait of a mom nursing her baby. 4 Tips for Helping People Feel Comfortable During Their Portrait Session

Perhaps you know your subject has reached their maximum level of comfort when they can nurse their baby even while the camera is still clicking. I’m thrilled to photograph people one on one and make portraits that they’ll use as authors or business people. But I’m even more thrilled when those portraits become intensely human moments.

 Get Comfy

The next time you greet a nervous portrait client, remember that the experience has been hyped up in their mind. Distract them from their discomfort with small talk, warm them up with “no pressure” test photos, and make laughter a part of your session.

Include the candid photos when you deliver their photos. Even if they don’t use them for business purposes, they may be the photos they (and you) love most.

I’d love to hear what else you do to help people get comfortable in front of your camera. Let me know in the comments below.

The post 4 Tips for Helping People Feel Comfortable During Their Portrait Session appeared first on Digital Photography School.

Tips for Better Bridal Portraits

If you think that bridal portraits are a thing of the past, you are greatly mistaken. Bridal portraits have taken on new life in the wedding photography industry and are every bit as important as they were before.

bride in three poses - Tips for Better Bridal Portraits

What are Bridal Portraits?

Bridal portraits were once taken in a studio, and subsequently when faster and lighter cameras were made available, on location. This is where the bride dresses up in her day-of wedding dress and poses alone. Sometimes the groom would join her.

The photographer would then take several poses of her with her bouquet and veil. So basically, it’s a chance for the photographer to take their time and photograph the bride in many different poses.

Tips for Better Bridal Portraits - two photos of brides in a pink room

This bride was in her home next to a big sliding glass door that let in light even though it was raining.

Now, bridal portraits are taken during the wedding day, thanks to digital photography. Usually right after the bride is done getting ready or during the bride and groom portraits.

It’s a good idea to take portraits during both times to get a more diverse set of bridal portraits, especially if each location is different than the other.

bride on location - Tips for Better Bridal Portraits

Same bride as the one above, this time at the location we photographed the bride and groom photos. It provides a different feeling and look than the ones taken in her home.

Ask the bride to have a little more time during the getting ready and bride and groom portraits so that you can focus on her. She will appreciate the gesture, knowing that you are going to capture her as a beautiful bride on one of the happiest days of her life.

Why are they important?

Bridal portraits are such an important part of the photographic timeline because each bride takes a lot of time to find the right dress, the right look, and choose just the right bouquet for her wedding day. As the photographer, it’s your job to photograph these details with a lot of attention if they hold a particular meaning to the bride.

bride near a window - Tips for Better Bridal Portraits

I used window light through sheer curtains in a hotel room to create a soft light on the bride’s face.

For example, her something blue might be a ring that her mother wore and gave to her on her wedding day. There might be something special on the bottom of her shoes or tied to her bouquet. All of these details are important during bridal portraits and you need to get detail photos of each.

bride by a window, her shoes and bouquet - Tips for Better Bridal Portraits

Bridal portraits are also a great time to get the bride completely alone so that she can have some breathing room before the big day starts.

It’s a great way to quiet the nerves and focus on her and how happy she looks.

bride reading a letter b/w - Tips for Better Bridal Portraits

A special moment in between posed portraits. The bride reads a letter the groom wrote for her.

Bridal portraits aren’t just for the bride alone, though, sometimes the groom will join in as well. This gives you the opportunity to create really solid portraits of the couple together on their wedding day without anyone else present.

bride details - Tips for Better Bridal Portraits

bride holding her veil - Tips for Better Bridal Portraits

When you take bridal portraits on the day of the wedding, be sure to ask your clients for extra time so that you can make sure that you get enough of the bride alone, the bride and groom together, and all of the important details the bride and groom will be wearing.

Bridal portraits inside

Brides usually get ready inside a hotel or in their home. If this is the case, carve out some time before she has to leave to get the bride alone.

Take her to another room where there is sufficient window light. Window light is the best, in my opinion, because it gives you enough light but also casts off into the room allowing for shadows to define silhouettes.

Sit the bride down on the edge of a chair and have her face the window. Change it up and have her stand full frontal toward the window. The poses and variations are endless and you’ll have beautiful soft light to give her a glow.

bride 3 photos - Tips for Better Bridal Portraits

Use window light and if need be, fill flash bounced off the ceiling to create a soft light on the bride’s face.

In some cases, especially in the home, you can take the bride to other rooms or locations within the home that offer more options. Like the photo above, where I took photos of the bride in her living room in her house. I did use flash to bounce light since it was raining that day, however, she is calm and relaxed.

getting ready - Tips for Better Bridal Portraits

Here we see a detail photo of her dress as well as the bride sitting below her grandparent’s wedding photo.

Don’t be afraid to move furniture if you have too. It’s best to move furniture than working around it and missing the opportunity for a great photo. Just make sure that you put it back as you found it.

On location

When you’re out photographing the couple’s portraits, don’t forget to get individual portraits of each, especially the bride. On location may offer better opportunities to get the full dress from both front and behind.

Tips for Better Bridal Portraits

Take individual portraits of the bride and groom if they opt to have the bridal portrait session together.

If the bride has a long veil, you can play with lifting it into the air and dropping it to get some really interesting photos. Having her hold her bouquet and getting up close makes for a great photo.  Capture her shoes in action as well, especially if she has put something special on the soles.

outdoor bride - Tips for Better Bridal Portraits

Being on location gives you more room as well to have the bride walk, turn, spin, and have fun. Photograph her in different types of lighting and backgrounds. Experiment with close up photos as well as full-length photos.

Try lifting and having the veil blowing in the wind. Letting the bride move around a bit can loosen nerves and get the bride comfortable in front of the camera.

Tips for Better Bridal Portraits

Bridal portraits before or after the event

As important as bridal portraits are on the day of the wedding, sometimes you’ll have the opportunity to photograph the bride before or after the wedding. Many photographers call this a “day after session” or “trash the dress”.

Tips for Better Bridal Portraits - hawaii

These two photos were taken during the wedding day.

couple on the beach - Tips for Better Bridal Portraits

The same couple as the previous photo but the day after their wedding. The photos are more relaxed at a different location, and with different styling.

Bridal portraits are important on the day-of because of all that day’s details, however, portraits taken either before or after the day of the event can offer clients a chance to have a more relaxed look.

The bride may wear her hair differently and use perhaps a different dress altogether. Giving you more opportunities to pose her differently and add to the photos taken on the wedding day.

Tips for Better Bridal Portraits

Photos were taken the day before the event.

Taking the bridal portraits before or after the wedding can also give you the opportunity to photograph in an entirely different setting than that of the wedding day. Giving you more creative freedom while the couple is more relaxed.

sunset beach photos - Tips for Better Bridal Portraits

Two photos were taken the day after the event.

It’s not just about the bride

More often than not, the groom may join the session as it gives you more time to create more portraits of the couple as well as individually. Focus on taking details of both the groom and the bride.

couple kissing - Tips for Better Bridal Portraits

When the couple poses together, you have more time to allow them to just be themselves, especially if you are doing a before or a day after session.

couple with antique classic car - Tips for Better Bridal Portraits

Try offering the couple something more of a stylized photo session so that you can use props to tell more of the story. This will give them an entirely contrasted look compared to the one that they are going to have on their actual wedding day.

couple near lily pond - Tips for Better Bridal Portraits

In conclusion

Bridal portraits are growing in popularity both on the actual wedding day and before or after the event. Having this extra time to photograph the bride alone can add to the collection of photos that you will deliver to her allowing her to remember how she felt that day.

couple by Hard Rock cafe - Tips for Better Bridal Portraits

In addition, bridal portraits offer the opportunity to capture all of the important details that the bride took so much time to choose. Bridal portraits let you capture the bride in a more intimate way both individually or with her groom.

couple on the beach - Tips for Better Bridal Portraits

Take advantage of this time and allow your creativity to flow so that get some really amazing photos of the bride either before, on, or after her wedding day.

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