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.

The post Tips for Better Bridal Portraits appeared first on Digital Photography School.

Fun Ways to Photograph Couples That are a Bit Awkward

One of the problems, when you photograph couples, is that they can be really awkward and uncomfortable in front of the camera. But photographing these couples can be especially fun for them and for you!

In this article, I’ll show you how to understand awkward couples and find out what makes them tick so that you can make the lighthearted, romantic photos you’re both hoping for. As you overcome the challenges, you may find yourself taking some of the most cherished photos of your life or career.

Candid couples photography - Fun Ways to Photograph Couples That are a Bit Awkward

Sometimes having an audience staring at a couple makes them severely uncomfortable. And sometimes being so uncomfortable leads to playful behavior. Be ready for any real expressions that come out.

1. Camera Settings

First, just a quick word about camera settings. If you’re already perfectly comfortable with camera settings, please skip this part.

You want to use your camera in such a way that allows you to put all your focus on the couple – not your settings. So manual mode may not be the best option for you.

Many photographers, both pro and amateur, prefer aperture priority (A or Av). Setting your ISO and then choosing your aperture based on creative preferences is perfect for photographing couples. You can then use exposure compensation to make quick adjustments as you move through the session.

Don’t let fumbling over settings get in the way of interacting with the couple.

Silhouette photo of a couple. Fun Ways to Photograph Couples That are a Bit Awkward

Exposure compensation was used here to get just the right look for this silhouette. It took a little warming up to get this couple to dance and kiss.

2. Ugly Locations

We’re going to dive into the minds of awkward couples, but first, let’s consider ugly locations.

Couples seem to have a knack for choosing ugly locations. Yes, the place is meaningful and beautiful to them, but they’re looking at it through the eyes of love, not the eyes of a photographer!

However, I have come to realize that the entire location you’re photographing does not need to be majestic – you only need to find pockets of beauty. Just little pockets of nice light, and tiny patches of background that look nice.

Candid couples photography - Fun Ways to Photograph Couples That are a Bit Awkward

Normally, this is a majestic location but it was a tough time of day for light. The exact scenery was irrelevant to this photos since I got in close to capture the expression of the moment. At this point, I wasn’t even telling the couple what to do, there was just a lot of fun at the moment. Often people find it difficult to “smile naturally” for the camera. But not when they forget that the camera is even there.

3. Awkward Couples

Move out of your comfort zone. You can only grow if you are willing to feel awkward and uncomfortable when you try something new.  – Brian Tracy

Some people are simply as “cool as a cucumber” and perfectly comfortable in new situations or in front of the camera. But when it comes to the awkward couples, one or both of them tend to be a little neurotic or disagreeable.

You’ll know the signs when they tell you they’re nervous, begin saying self-critical things, or simply refuse to adopt a pose you’re asking them to do. Now, you have no idea what they’ve been through in life and what has led them to be uncomfortable like this. Even though they’re nervous and maybe a little difficult to work with, it’s still your job to take some great photos of them.

I always consider the first couple of scenes to be throw away photos. Everyone needs time to warm up. Don’t put so much pressure on yourself or the couple. Who cares if the first few photos turn out or not?

Romantic black and white photo of a couple - Fun Ways to Photograph Couples That are a Bit Awkward

This was exactly the photo I had in mind for this couple. It should have been easy too. It normally is. But there was drama leading up to it.

The Director

You need to think of yourself as a director with a couple of stubborn or uncomfortable movies stars. The audience wants to see drama and romance and you’re going to have to get this couple to play along.

So set the scene in a nice pocket of light with a good background and don’t be distracted by camera settings.

Sunburst during golden hour - Fun Ways to Photograph Couples That are a Bit Awkward

This was the scene I wanted. I got my camera settings dialed in before I told the couple what I wanted them to do. I told them that this was a silhouette photo so that there would be no pressure to have the right expression on their faces.

Set up your couple the best you can and start clicking. Don’t worry that it’s not perfect off the bat. Give them some direction, be kind and playful in the way you speak (keep your humor appropriate). Most importantly, watch for the outtake moments. The magic is always in the laughter and the expressions.

A couple dancing during golden hour. Fun Ways to Photograph Couples That are a Bit Awkward

When I told them to dance, they looked at me like I was crazy. She even had some choice words for me. I finally convinced them to twirl and we all loved the photo.

Improvise

If both of them are uncomfortable in front of the camera and disagreeable toward each other, you may witness an awkward dispute or fight between the couple. They may be distracted, unhappy, and even unwilling to follow your directions.

At this point, it will be a little less like directing and more like being in an improv sketch. They’re going to throw surprising lines your way and you’ve got to respond creatively. The scene will change quickly and be full of surprises. But this may lead to the photos you love the most.

You can see why you need to keep your mind off of camera settings and on the couple. Don’t stress about anything, just roll with the scene.

Candid couples photo - Fun Ways to Photograph Couples That are a Bit Awkward

This was a fun moment as they were trying to understand how I wanted them to pose.

Couples photo - Fun Ways to Photograph Couples That are a Bit Awkward

But it didn’t take long for the fun to wear off. There may be a lot of moments like this leading up to all those perfect Pinterest photos you see.

The Magic Ingredient

Neurotic and disagreeable behavior leads to drama – and drama is the magic ingredient in your photos.

No matter what happens, your job is to turn this ordinary couple, who feels uncomfortable in front of the camera and disagreeable with each other into a Pinterest dude and a beautiful belle. He may be stiff and expressionless, she may be less than encouraging, but you’ve got to work the scene to bring out the best in them.

Couples photo - Fun Ways to Photograph Couples That are a Bit Awkward

As we pushed through the scene trying to get the pose correct, I decided to keep taking pictures. I saw something here. Certainly not the moment I was after, but it was the moment I was given. Something deep and human was coming out.

Couples photo smack - Fun Ways to Photograph Couples That are a Bit Awkward

This is one of the truest and most human photos of a couple I’ve taken. It was the perfect combination of directing and improvisation. He wasn’t living up to the Pinterest standard of a romantic photo, so he got a whack. It was a playful whack but added a level of drama to the photo that I had never achieved before. This is the way it works for couples in real life. Trying something new, struggling through the frustration of trying to get it right, and finally – hopefully – overcoming.

Couples photo walking between blossoming trees - Fun Ways to Photograph Couples That are a Bit Awkward

After the tension is released and the challenge overcome, they will have their “happily ever after.”

The Awkward Photographer

Of course, the awkwardness of the photographer plays a role in this too. Perhaps you know exactly how uncomfortable it is to be in front of the camera. This is good because it means you can empathize with the people you photograph.

Unless they’re trained models (and perhaps even if they are), they don’t know how to be in front of the camera. They feel or look awkward because it is a truly awkward experience. But you can embrace the drama of the moment and lead your couple through both the fun and the difficulty in order to achieve the photos you’re all hoping to make.

Awkward is Real

  • Remember to use your camera in such a way that it does not distract you from the couple.
  • Don’t stress over the location. Simply look for little patches of beauty and put the spotlight on your couple.
  • Be the director that is willing to join the scene, embrace the drama, and capture it for them.
  • Don’t think of awkward as a bad thing, but a fun thing.

I’d love to hear your awkward stories below.

The post Fun Ways to Photograph Couples That are a Bit Awkward appeared first on Digital Photography School.

Tips for Posing Large Families and Groups

Portrait sessions can vary in many ways, one being the size of the group you are photographing. Don’t be afraid, these tips for posing large families and groups will help you to create the perfect large group portrait no matter the location or the number of people.

Tips for Posing Large Families and Groups - family posed on the grass

What is considered a large group?

Large group portraits typically begin with six or more people. Large groups can include children or be made up of adults, it all depends on the type of session you are photographing.

It can also reach up to 20 people, especially if you are photographing a bridal party or a family with smaller family units all mixed together.

Tips for Posing Large Families and Groups - large family in front of trees

Posing rule for any type of grouping

The most useful posing rule for large groups is to use the triangle method.

This is where you pose people, either standing or sitting, or a mixture of both, and if you draw imaginary lines connecting their heads, they would create triangles. This method is the best so that you don’t pose people’s heads one on top of another (totem pole-like), creating an awkward photograph.

Tips for Posing Large Families and Groups - use triangles in posing

Use the triangle method to pose large groups.

This method works for any type of grouping with three or more people. However, for large groups of 10 or more, this posing rule is perfect so that everyone in the photo can be seen. It ensures nobody’s head is directly behind another person’s.

Large Families

Large families can range from nuclear families where there are more than five people or extended portraits where more than one nuclear family is going to be in the portrait.

Tips for Posing Large Families and Groups - family of 5 with young kids

The key is to pose the families in different combinations in the same spot so that you can offer your client more poses without having to move them too much.

Always pose the parents in the middle and then pose the rest of the family out from there. The parents are a great focal point in any portrait and from there, you can lead the eyes to the children or other families.

Tips for Posing Large Families and Groups - family in white and jeans

For example, for a portrait of a family of five, begin by placing the parents in the center of your photo first. Then, pose the taller children next to each parent. Smaller children can be put between the taller child and parent, creating the triangle.

Afterward, you can seat the family in the same order as when they were standing. If there are really small children, they can stand and hug another family member from behind. Be mindful of where their heads are positioned so that you create triangles and can see each family member in the portrait.

Tips for Posing Large Families and Groups - family standing and sitting

Pose the family sitting or standing.

In the same spot, you can then have the family stand up and separate a little. This gives them a little more space but still keeps them at arm’s length. Ask them to interact with each other in between posing for the camera.

Don’t forget the triangles in this pose as well! It can look a little off if you pose two family members who are the same height together. Try and move the family members from one side to the other to create more variety.

Tips for Posing Large Families and Groups - extended family standing

Give the family some space while posing them standing.

For larger families, walking is a good way to get more natural photos of everyone. Pose nuclear families together.

For example, if you have a family of 16 with grandparents, pose the grandparents in the center, then group the families on either side keeping the children with their parents.

Tips for Posing Large Families and Groups - extended family on the beach

Keep in mind that if it looks a little awkward, it probably will look that way in the photo as well. Taking more time and moving people around will ensure that you get the right posing even before taking the photograph.

Lastly, try posing some people away from the center to give the photo more depth. Facing everyone toward the center is a good starting point. However, with large groups, it’s best to try different poses so that you can offer your clients an assortment of different options.

Connect People

There is nothing more awkward than people standing together with their arms at their sides. With families, especially large groups, try and have your clients connect with each other.

You can do this by grouping the main people (the parents or grandparents) in the center facing each other hugging, and then group smaller families where each family member is touching another person. This shows connection within small family units in the large family photo and shows warmth.

Tips for Posing Large Families and Groups - family hugging b/w

Resting hands on shoulders, holding hands, hugging and tucking fingers behind, resting a hand on someone’s arm, or having someone lean on another’s shoulders are all good examples of connection.

Connecting people in a photo also gets rid of this most often heard question, “What do I do with my hands?”

Tips for Posing Large Families and Groups - family with 4 kids

For the people that you pose on the edges of the family portrait, be mindful that they look in toward the center so that they don’t seem out of place. If they are male and there are no children present, have them put one hand in their pocket. If they are female, make sure they aren’t standing too short or they will look out of place.

Chairs and Stools

If you are photographing at a venue, say a wedding reception, you may have the chance to use chairs or stools for posing.

In this case, try and place them throughout the photo so that they don’t line up perfectly. You’ll want to space them out according to the number of people in the portrait, always keeping in mind the triangle rule.

Tips for Posing Large Families and Groups - family photo

Chairs tend to work better than stools because the stool height can create really big valleys in your triangle posing if the person is too tall or too short in relation to those around them in the portrait.

Natural Posing

Once you have taken the best-posed portraits of the large group, have them loosen up a bit by asking them to do a group huddle or squeeze. This will get some laughs out of your clients and allow them to let their posed bodies rest for a bit.

Tips for Posing Large Families and Groups - family hugging

Asking the family to take a break can offer some great natural posing. This man had his whole family together after many years and was overcome by joy.

Ask your group to walk around, talk to each other, and just be. Look out for the children in particular, as they’ll usually act the most natural.

This collection of natural posing will often make for the most emotive portraits because they will portray the family just as they are. Even better if they are in a location that is fun or open where they can enjoy a walk or play games.

Photograph Family Units Separately

When you photograph families with grandparents or more than one family unit, make sure to photograph each family separately and together. Pose each family together in the larger portrait first, then, if you have time, mix them up a bit and have some fun.

Tips for Posing Large Families and Groups

Ask them to play, run, walk, do a group hug, or anything that will create authentic smiles and expressions from the oldest to the youngest.

Tips for Posing Large Families and Groups - individual portraits

Take time to get portraits of the adults as well. Either in couples or individually.

This also helps to break up a session with little children because they can get bored quickly.

Tips for Posing Large Families and Groups - individual photos of kids

Photograph children individually.

Try different combinations with the families, for example:

  • Grandparents with the grandchildren
  • Grandchildren together
  • All of the children of the parents together with and without the parents
  • Each couple in the family alone
  • Individuals portraits of each child
  • All the men together
  • All the women together
  • Generational photos
  • Cousins together
  • Brothers and sisters with and without in-laws
  • Each grandparent alone and together

Tips for Posing Large Families and Groups - different group posing options

Not all of those may apply to each large family portrait, but they can help you to add to the collection of poses that you’ll deliver to your clients.

Tips for Posing Large Families and Groups - family and kids photos

Take photos of the whole family together and then take photos of just the children.

Tips for Posing Large Families and Groups - 4 generations photo

Make sure to get generational photographs like this one of the 4 generations of men in the family.

Wrapping up

Before you wrap up the session, ask your clients if there is any portrait or pose that they specifically want. Some large families may bring a prop for everyone to use like shirts. There may also be a combination that you missed or didn’t think of that they would like to get.

Tips for Posing Large Families and Groups

Asking, “Is there anything else you’d like me to photograph before we leave?” can also be a great way to end the session once you feel you have gotten all of the best photos.

Giving your clients the chance to make sure they get all of the portraits they want is key for you to do a complete job with their photographs.

In conclusion

Posing large families can seem like a big challenge, however, using the triangle posing method can help tremendously in getting different combinations and poses. This will give your clients an assortment of poses and keep the whole experience fun and light which will make them want to get more portraits taken in the future!

The post Tips for Posing Large Families and Groups appeared first on Digital Photography School.

6 Types of Portrait Backgrounds for Creative Images

There are many options when choosing backgrounds for your portraits. You can pretty much do anything you want. The key to remember though is lighting and positioning your subjects in relation to that background.

Whether that be natural or artificial lighting, outdoors or indoors, it is vitally important to understand how light also affects your background and not just the subject of your portrait.

#1 Busy or patterned background

6 Types of Portrait Backgrounds You Can Use for Your Images - busy patterned background

Before you look at various types of backgrounds, I’d encourage you to experiment. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes or to try your ideas out. That was what I did with the portraits above. I wanted to see how a portrait could look using a busy background in my own home. I decided to use LED lights for these and moved either the subject or the light around depending on how I wanted the background to look.

Backgrounds can either strengthen your portraits by directing focus toward your subject or vice versa. If the background is too busy such as the one above right, (I feel there is a weaker focus on the girl) make sure your light draws focus towards the subject rather than the lighting the background too much.

I didn’t want the background to be completely dark, however, as I wanted to capture the fairy lights in the fireplace as well as the detail of the wallpaper and other decors. To achieve this, I shot with a small aperture for greater depth of field and put my subject closer to the background. All of these required balancing the exposures in post-processing.

The photo on the left also has a very busy background – a patterned wallpaper. However, unlike the busy photo of the right, I didn’t want to emphasize the pattern but planned to use it as a blurry background. In order to achieve this effect, I shot with a shallow aperture and positioned my subject away from the wall.

#2 Dark textured background

6 Types of Portrait Backgrounds You Can Use for Your Images - dark background

The above set is another one of my experiments. This time I wanted to use textured fabrics in a natural way as a backdrop.

The lighting I used for these portraits was a simple window light coming from the side. The choice of dark fabrics was because I wanted to draw attention to the face and keep everything else rather minimal but rich in texture.

In contrast to the busy patterned background, I reigned in the color palette here to just browns and skin tones. They are simple portraits but are very rich in texture.

#3 Bright background

6 Types of Portrait Backgrounds You Can Use for Your Images - bright background kids photos

When I do outdoor family shots, this is one of my go-to-backgrounds. I look for bright spaces which are not the sky but are brighter than the subject such as foliage, trees, and leaves showing the bright sky behind it.

As long as it’s bright but is not the sky, it’s fine to use. The most important thing to remember is to put your subject in front of the bright background and expose for their face. This means the background gets brighter and the face is properly exposed. Use a flash to light the face if you want but as long as you properly expose the face, the image looks right.

6 Types of Portrait Backgrounds You Can Use for Your Images - kids photos by trees

Another thing to remember is to avoid having any dappled light on your subject’s face. The background can be dappled such as the trees with the light coming through on these the images above but never on the faces. That would more often than not, ruin your image unless you are intentionally doing so in an artistic shot, for example.

#4 Plain dark or light background

kids with dark background - 6 Types of Portrait Backgrounds You Can Use for Your Images

Plain backgrounds whether they be light or dark or mid-tone in color, make for classic portrait shots. You can’t go wrong with them as long as you know what you are doing with your lighting.

In the portraits above, I simply used a dark wall and window light for the main light. I put a reflector on camera right to bounce some of the light. That’s it.

dps-portrait-background-examples

The portraits above were shot in the client’s kitchen where they had a bench by the wall. It was perfect for some quick natural and fun portraits of the children for as long as they sat still! The lighting here was merely the window and skylight on the far right and a weak bounced fill flash behind me on camera left.

My main tip when shooting plain backgrounds is to match the lighting to the background so that if the background is light, then the subjects tend to be lit in the same strength. Similarly, when the background is dark, then I tend to light the subject with a moodier tone.

6 Types of Portrait Backgrounds You Can Use for Your Images - kids on light background

Although this is a personal preference, technically I prefer an even contrast between the subject and the background.

#5 White seamless background

white background portrait of a boy - 6 Types of Portrait Backgrounds You Can Use for Your Images

Contrary to what many people believe, a pure white background is not so easy to achieve. What I mean by that is that you can’t just set up a white background and your subject, take a picture, and you have your nice clean white seamless background. If you do this, you’ll end up with a light grey or off-white, rather muddy background.

Actually, in order to get that bright white background, you have to light the background and light your subject as well.

If you want to learn how to do this properly, read this article I have written and it will show you a step-by-step process of achieving a clean white seamless background – 3 Rookie Mistakes to Avoid When Shooting on a White Background.

#6 Fake background

fake background kids photos - 6 Types of Portrait Backgrounds You Can Use for Your Images

Yes, you can fake a background in Photoshop!

The photos above were shot on a plain dark wall similar to #4 and then I added textures in Photoshop afterward. You do need a separate image of a texture to overlay on the dark wall.

You can see how this is done on this article here I have written on adding overlays: Basic Photoshop Tutorial – How to Add Creative Overlays to Your Portraits

sun flare portrait - 6 Types of Portrait Backgrounds You Can Use for Your Images

Another way of faking it in Photoshop is by adding a sun flare. The background here was just a plain white wall but it was shot in a windowless room with very little ambient light. I used a flash at camera-left to mimic window light. In post-production, I added sun flares so it looks like the girl is sitting next to a window.

Here is an article where you can learn ways on how to add sun flares to your photos in post-production; 2 Quick Ways to Add a Sunflare in Photoshop

I hope this article has helped you in choosing backgrounds for your portraits. If you have any other ideas you wish to share, please do so in the comments below.

The post 6 Types of Portrait Backgrounds for Creative Images appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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