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Video Tutorials – Portrait Posing Tips

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

Taking portraits is a challenging genre of photography, but add in posing and it can seem insurmountable if you’re just starting out in photography. Here are three videos I found to help you with some portrait posing tips. Practice with a friend and see tell us how it goes.

How to pose a single portrait

In this video excerpt from a class, you’ll see how the photographer works with a single model. She helps him get comfortable in front of the camera and create poses that are flattering to him.

How to pose (direct) couples

In this video from Mango Street, you will see how to gently direct a couple in how to pose. Giving them a few suggestions and tips and letting them fall into their own comfortable pose makes the images look more natural.

How to pose people to get rid of a double chin

Finally, in this last video, photographer Joe Edelman shows several tips for posing to flatter your subject and get rid of or minimize a double chin. Where you position the camera is also important, taking a higher position can be helpful for posing.

The post Video Tutorials – Portrait Posing Tips by Darlene Hildebrandt appeared first on Digital Photography School.


5 Creative Indoor Portrait Locations for When the Weather is Blustery

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

What if I told you that you can find some interesting indoor locations and take photos for free? In this article, I will show you five remarkable indoor portrait locations that you can seek out for your winter shoots.

Winter time is a huge bummer for us portrait photographers. Harsh winds make us (and our models) question our sanity when we step outside for a photoshoot. Sure, we can rent studio space but this can be expensive. Also, let’s be honest, many studio spaces just look bland and uninspiring. Let’s see what else is available.

Editor’s note/disclaimer: The suggestions made in this article do not reflect the views of dPS and are solely the author’s recommendations and opinions. We suggest that you ALWAYS get permission when shooting at an indoor location that is private property (i.e. anywhere other than your subject’s home or yours). Please be aware of the laws in your area regarding photography in private locations, and follow them so you do not find yourself in trouble with the law. 


5 Creative Indoor Portrait Locations for When the Weather is Blustery - library

Libraries are an excellent place to shoot portraits. Tall shelves of books and impressive architecture provide a variety of wonderful backgrounds.

Seek out public libraries and university libraries that are open to the public. I’ve taken portraits of model friends at the Boston Public Library, Boston College, and MIT.

Some libraries have strict policies about photography, so if you’re unsure just ask a staff member. In many places, “Can I take some photos of my friend in here?” is all it takes to get permission.


Convenience stores are one of the easiest places to get permission to shoot portraits. Just walk into the store and politely ask the cashier if you can take some photos of your friend inside. That’s how I got these photos:

When shooting in a convenience store, be aware that the aisles are typically narrow. I recommend bringing a wide-angle lens, such as a 35mm, to allow you to fully capture the setting.


Many universities have academic buildings that are open to the public, which makes them a good option to take photos indoors. Empty classrooms are a personal favorite.

university - 5 Creative Indoor Portrait Locations for When the Weather is Blustery

university - 5 Creative Indoor Portrait Locations for When the Weather is Blustery

I want to emphasize that it’s very important to have respect for the space and its owners. In most instances, the worst case scenario is pretty mild – being asked to leave. If you are asked to leave a property, simply leave without making a fuss. In my experience, it’s not common to get kicked out of places for simply taking photos.

If you’re nervous about confrontation, then ask for permission in advance. Trust me, if you’re polite and transparent, most people will be willing to accommodate your photography (given that you’re not doing it for commercial use or taking photos of their patrons or guests).


Filled with colorful vegetables and bright lights, grocery stores are a goldmine for portrait photography. You can capture a wide variety of different scenes reminiscent of everyday life. Have your model interact with different items in the store and use them as props.

Plan to shoot at off-peak hours, such as the middle of a weekday, to avoid throngs of shoppers photo-bombing your pictures. The layout of different grocery stores can vary widely. Some have wide, spacious aisles while others are more densely packed and narrow. Be sure to bring the right lens to properly capture the environment.

It’s useful to scout out the location in advance if you can.


Laundromats are great places to put a different spin on your portraits. If you live in a city, chances are there are plenty of laundromats. If you don’t where to find any near you, start with a simple Google search. Look for self-service laundromats, since these usually don’t have any on-site staff.

It’s rare that laundromats are completely empty, so get used to shooting around other people. When you ignore the side-eyed glances from people drying their socks, then you can get photos like this:

laundromat - 5 Creative Indoor Portrait Locations for When the Weather is Blustery

laundromat - 5 Creative Indoor Portrait Locations for When the Weather is Blustery


Again, it’s important to be respectful of your environment and the people there who are just going about their business.

You don’t need to go to a public park or shoot in a studio to take great portraits. When you think outside the box, then the world can be your photography playground.

What’s are some of your favorite indoor portrait locations? Let me know in the comments section below.

The post 5 Creative Indoor Portrait Locations for When the Weather is Blustery by Dan Bullman appeared first on Digital Photography School.


3 Simple Ways to Use Framing and Layering in Portraits

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

I love using framing in my images with a layering technique. Layering is simply incorporating not just your subject and background, but adding a foreground and other levels if possible as part of the elements you use to frame your overall image. It’s not always the most straightforward setup to do but it excites me because I love an image that invites the viewer in to explore the image through many levels. Your eyes travel around the image because there is so much to see.

3 Simple Ways to Use Framing and Layering in Portraits

This does not mean there are many objects to see but rather there are layers of varying depths of field making the image more compelling. I’ve been shooting for nine years now and I still strive to improve the composition of my images.

As I’ve said, it’s not always the most obvious and quickest thing to do. Sometimes, I choose a location that I know will give me a variety of choices for layering. Or we will do a “walk” during the photoshoot as part of the experience, exploring spots that would give us layering opportunities. I’d like to share with you three simple ways you can use framing in your images with this layering technique.

#1 – Shoot through glass

3 Simple Ways to Use Framing and Layering in Portraits

I love shooting through glass. In fact, when I do engagement sessions, I always suggest we either start or end the session with a planning meeting or a chat in a cafe. Look for a window table and shoot from the outside. This is a good way to get some funky compositions, colors, and patterns on the images as well as a reflection and layering.

Shooting through glass allows you to capture different layers of details and you can play around with these details and where you place your focus to achieve a fresh or unusual image. Pictures through glass also provide that extraordinary look and feel, sometimes ethereal, that we often don’t notice in our day-to-day lives unless we purposely stop to see them.

You may need to move around a bit to get the composition right. Or have to wait until a passerby in a white shirt walks past behind you, for example, and provides that needed white blur in the foreground to get your composition right.

3 Simple Ways to Use Framing and Layering in Portraits

#2 – Shoot through foliage

When shooting at a park, position yourself behind trees, leaves, bushes, etc., to achieve that “observer” feeling. Make sure you provide clear instructions to your couple so they know what is expected of them before you go hide.

For example, as I am shooting from a distance and obscured by foliage, I instruct my subjects to look a little towards my direction so I can see at least a part of their faces. I ask them not to talk to each other but to communicate via looking into each other’s eyes and smiling a lot. If they feel awkward, that’s all the better because then they can laugh it off and that sort of natural expression is what I’m after.

3 Simple Ways to Use Framing and Layering in Portraits

Gently direction them

Tell them not to leave big gaps in between each other. For example, lean their heads towards each other with a very small gap between their faces, or to slightly touch each other’s faces but not squish their cheeks together. Get them to always be in a V position towards you or facing each other directly but never fully turned away with their backs facing you.

The only exception I make for this is when they are on a bench and I shoot from the back for a romantic shot with their heads leaning against each other. Being physically a lot closer than what is normally comfortable can feel unnatural because you are right in each other’s spaces and in reality, you don’t talk to a person with your faces too close to theirs.

But the connection between them is important and sometimes you have to exaggerate things to communicate that connection in photographs well.

3 Simple Ways to Use Framing and Layering in Portraits

You don’t have to be at a park or somewhere green to achieve the look of layering by using foliage to frame your images either. I often just pick some leaves, put them in front of the camera, and shoot through them.

I have also shot with a piece of cellophane wrapped around the side of my lens but not obscuring my lens altogether. That makes the look of shooting through something, thereby creating a foreground, middle ground and background. This makes for a more interesting perspective and composition having more than two layers to look through in your images.

3 Simple Ways to Use Framing and Layering in Portraits

#3 – Shoot through structure

I love hiding behind buildings and walls and using these large solid structures as part of my composition and adding framing. This not only makes me a little more invisible but I feel the distance makes the couple feel more at ease with the camera not being in their face and me, not in their immediate space.


When I want to incorporate a geometric element in my image, I often hide behind some large building, columns or any solid structure and use that to frame my couple. This is a really fun way of trying out more abstract compositions, perspectives and lines, patterns and some foreground blurring to accentuate the focus on your couple.

3 Simple Ways to Use Framing and Layering in Portraits

However, sometimes there are no buildings or structures you can easily hide behind. My advice is to make one yourself! For this photo below, I asked the maid of honor to stand just to the left so I could use her silhouette to frame my bride in an interesting composition. This is one of my all-time favorite wedding images.

3 Simple Ways to Use Framing and Layering in Portraits

In the photo below, I used the long veil to create a foreground element giving the impression that I was hiding behind a big boulder and that there was continuity between the foreground and the bride’s veil.

So be creative and find ways to achieve your intended outcome. As the saying goes, “When there’s a will, there’s a way!”

3 Simple Ways to Use Framing and Layering in Portraits

Your turn

Do you have any other tips for framing your images using layering or any other techniques? Do share them here in the comments below!

The post 3 Simple Ways to Use Framing and Layering in Portraits by Lily Sawyer appeared first on Digital Photography School.


How to Take Unique Crystal Ball Portraits

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

The search is always on to try something new in photography. That process is often about taking a technique and applying it in a new way. A crystal ball is a great addition to any landscape photographer’s camera bag. In this article, you’ll see why this is also true for portrait photographers.

You’ll learn to take the perfect crystal ball portrait. There are some special characteristics of refraction photography to consider. You will learn the technical side of refraction photography, and how to use this for your portraits.

How to Take Perfect Crystal Ball Portraits

In this photo, the model is seated, with her legs near her body. This made it easier to “eclipse” her behind the ball.

What is refraction photography?

Refractions is an effect that is produced when the light is bent upon passing through an object of denser mass. In the case of a crystal ball, this has the effect of inverting the background image inside the ball. This can be great to use for photography, as the ball becomes an external optic for your camera. You can read more about refraction photography in one of my previous articles.

This effect is mostly used for photographing landscapes, as it creates a super wide-angle scene within the glass ball. However, there are occasions you’d use a wide angle lens for portrait work, and the same is true with the crystal ball.

As with all crystal ball photos, try to ensure your subject is well lit, this will enhance the image coming through the ball. If you try to use strobes for this you need to position yourself carefully, the ball will pick up the light from the flash as a reflection very easily. The best advice I can offer is to position the strobes in a parallel line with the glass ball.

How to Take Perfect Crystal Ball Portraits

In this, photo the model is silhouetted against the dawn sky. The distance from the model to the crystal ball is quite far, so the person appears small in the ball.

How to create your crystal ball portrait

Now you know what refraction photography is and how to do it, the next step is to apply this to a portrait.

There are three main types of crystal ball portraits you can make, each uses the ball in a slightly different way. The three types of photo are shooting close to the ball, photographing the ball in the scene, and using the ball as a prop. Let’s take a look at each one.

1 – Fill the frame with the crystal ball

This composition type has the crystal ball fill the entire frame, or become the dominant part of the frame. In this photo, your model will be the main subject inside the glass ball, which means they’ll need to be quite close to the ball itself. To succeed with this type of photo look at the following points, and apply them to your portraits.

How to Take Perfect Crystal Ball Portraits

You can avoid distortion by placing the model in the center of the ball.

Center the model

  • The model needs to be in the center of the ball so that you avoid ugly distortion of the face on the edges of the ball. To do this consider the following steps.
  • Don’t have your model standing up strait, a sitting position where there body is more compressed will fit better inside the ball.
  • Take the portrait from the chest up, and center the composition on the eyes.

Compress your scene

Use a long focal length to hide the model behind the glass ball, essentially eclipsing the model. The larger the glass ball the easier this will be.

Position the ball

The ball should be level, or a little higher than the model. This will avoid distortions on the edge of the ball, and by having the ball higher than the model, it will focus the viewer’s eye more on the face.

Avoid bad bokeh

The background in a crystal ball photograph can make or break your image. With your model close to the ball, the background is likely to contain some bokeh. Use an appropriate aperture to blur them out, or consider using post-processing to remove them.

How to Take Perfect Crystal Ball Portraits

You can enhance your crystal ball portrait by using good light on the model.

A photo of this type is best achieved with a macro lens, or a long telephoto lens. Both these lenses will allow you to fill the frame with the crystal ball, and then it’s simply about avoiding a bad background.

2 – Use the crystal ball as part of the overall picture

The next option for incorporating the crystal ball into your portrait shoot is to include much more of the background, and make the ball a smaller part of the frame. In this type of photo the focus will be on the ball, but the background bokeh will be equally important in telling the story.

How to Take Perfect Crystal Ball Portraits

Use the bokeh in the image to create your crystal ball portrait.

  • The ball is smaller – The ball will be more of an accent within the overall frame. It’s likely the ball will be placed on the ground, or perhaps on a wall and will take up between 10-25% of the frame.
  • The background will be bolder – The shape of your model is important, so have them strike an interesting pose. As the focus is on the ball, the focus on the model will be soft.
  • Use the correct aperture – Adjust the aperture to a suitable level, so defined shapes can be seen in the background. The background should be neither to blurred nor too sharp. An aperture of around f/4 is a good place to start.
  • Wider focal length – Now that you are including a large amount of the background a wider lens will be needed to achieve this.

3 – Use it as a prop in your crystal ball portrait

You can also use the ball in the more traditional way, as a prop for your model. In this type of crystal ball portrait your model will be directly interacting with the ball. This will mean that the refraction effect inside the ball may or may not be seen, depending on the way you arrange your photo.

How to Take Perfect Crystal Ball Portraits

Have your model hold the ball, and interact with it.

  • Tell the story – As a prop, the ball will be a focal point for your photo. You can use the crystal ball to show tropes like fortunetelling and magic. Use these ideas when composing your photo.
  • Do you refract? –  When using the ball as a prop you don’t have to show it producing refraction; however, it will add more interest if you do so.
  • Using strobes – A glass ball is a very reflective surface. When using strobes you need to decide if you want your strobe light reflecting on the surface of the ball. Moving your strobe to a side light position will eliminate most of the reflection on the ball, so this is a solution.
How to Take Perfect Crystal Ball Portraits

Using more than one ball gives you more storytelling potential.

Go out and create your magical crystal ball portrait!

Have you ever tried using a crystal ball in portrait work? Let’s see your results if you have. What difficulties did you encounter when you tried this style?

If you bought the ball primarily for landscape photography, how about trying your hand at a portrait?  Give it a go and let us know how it turns out.

How to Take Perfect Crystal Ball Portraits

The ball can help you make some unusual portraits.

How to Take Perfect Crystal Ball Portraits

Experiment with your crystal ball portrait, how about using other techniques like light painting?

How to Take Perfect Crystal Ball Portraits

When your model looks into a crystal ball, there is a story to that photo.

The post How to Take Unique Crystal Ball Portraits by Simon Bond appeared first on Digital Photography School.


6 Tips for Better Engagement Photos

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

When doing engagement photos, it is very important both to you and to the couple that everyone feels relaxed so that you can capture them being their truest selves. When your clients are relaxed and comfortable in front of your camera, it makes a huge difference in the images you capture and ultimately the client’s experience.

Engagement photos tips 0008

Here are a few tips that can help settle your nerves and your clients’ so that you rock the session and are able to photograph them at their best.


Have a simple meeting, either in person or via email, where you and the couple can talk about what the session will entail. The who, where, what, when, and how of their engagement photos. A few questions can help you narrow down the location, or locations if you’re up for doing more than one, clothing changes, and perhaps special information about the couple.

Start this conversation by asking how their wedding is coming along and how they met. This gives you great insight as to who they are as a couple. In addition, it conveys to the couple that you are interested not only in the session but in them as people. Let the conversation flow between topics and session details.

Ask questions like, “What do you envision for the feel of your engagement photos? Something more earthy or perhaps a more urban feel?” This will help you get an idea of what kind of surroundings they want for their photographs as well as where they’d feel most comfortable for their session. Another great idea is to offer shooting at a location that is special to them, so ask about that too.

Add something special just for them

Engagement photos tips 0002

Perhaps the place where they met, or where they went on their first date might be great locations if they are local and accessible. If they do reveal a place that is feasible, offer it up as one of the locations. They will love that you took interest in finding out such a place and recreating a special memory for them. If not, then go with the previous ideas and
narrow down some places where you like to shoot that go along with what they are envisioning for style and feeling.

Any additional details you can get during the consultation are key to helping you be more confident on the day of the shoot. Knowing a little more about the couple helps to have a few conversation starters as well, which will become important on the day of the engagement photo shoot.

Engagement photos tips 0017

Each couple is different, so it helps when you can get to know them on a more personal level rather than showing up at the location and having an awkward beginning. It isn’t unheard of for clients to turn into friends after photo sessions!


Now that you have the details of the session planned out and a little insight as to the personality of the couple, it’s time to begin preparing yourself for the session.

Aside from the obvious gear preparations, it’s good to go over some inspirational photos that you would like to try. Have at least 10 on your phone so that you can look at them during the session when you need a refresh or want to try something new. Having a set of images to help you with ideas for posing or lighting will make you more confident on the day of the session in the event you get stuck with a pose or need to change it up.

It’s a good idea to confirm with the couple a few days before the session and ask them if they have any questions for you. Being accessible reassures the couple that they have chosen a friendly photographer, which in turn helps them to feel more comfortable when the time comes to be in front of your camera.

Get to the chosen location early, even if it’s a place where you have shot before. Going early can help you make a plan of where you want to start shooting and move through your session. Having a plan makes the session run smoothly without losing momentum.

Engagement photos tips 0012


You’ve already set the groundwork for being friendly during the pre-session consultation and the confirmation and now it’s time to really be genuine.

When the couple shows up, don’t start shooting right away. Spark up a conversation with them. You will have much more relaxed clients this way and it will also relax you a bit if you’re nervous. Which, by the way, is completely normal! Plenty of seasoned photographers still get nervous before big shoots.

During the entire session, keep the conversation going. In between locations, clothing changes, and through the entire session. It relieves a little bit of the awkwardness between the clients and the professional, you. It speaks volumes when you can give your clients more of a personal experience by finding common interests, discussing the news, or even sports, anything. When your client has a good time, especially if they are nervous during the session, talking about common interests will aid in getting genuine expressions.


Each session and each couple is different. It’s important to keep the session moving smoothly throughout or the couple could tire quickly or become bored. This is why getting to the location and making a plan of where to shoot is so handy. Try different places within the location to shoot, offer clothing changes when you feel you’ve got enough with what they arrived wearing.

Engagement photos tips 0014

If a pose isn’t working, don’t say so, otherwise, you could make the couple feel like they’re doing something wrong. Keep going and try a different pose. Make sure that when you get a great shot, show them! This can build their confidence quickly and help them be more engaged during the session.


Whether this is your first engagement session or you’re worried because sessions sometimes go in a different direction than you hope – you simply need to take charge.

Direct the couple by showing the poses you’d like for them to do by demonstrating them first. Allow yourself to direct the flow of the session.

It sounds scary, however, you are the photographer. You’re the one who knows what to do and taking charge of the session speaks to the couple that you are confident in your work. Over time, it will become natural to you.

Once your clients become more relaxed in front of your camera, they will offer ideas, poses, and locations. Always allow them to be part of the creative process, as it makes them more confident and offers up more shooting opportunities where they are just being themselves.


You got into photography because it was fun for you, so why not have fun during your session as well? You should enjoy the shoot as much as the couple.

If you feel nervous that the session tends to go stale, have the couple do actionable poses. For example, have them dance, walk, tell each other a secret, or whisper something funny into their loved one’s ear. This will unwind them and you’ll be able to capture their real expressions.


Engagement photos tips 0004

All of these tips are here to help calm your nerves and allow the clients to be themselves in front of your camera. Being prepared, friendly, having a good momentum during the session, and most importantly, having fun all contribute to real expressions and real moments. Your clients will appreciate how real and relaxed you made them feel during their session and in turn, refer you to more people!

The post 6 Tips for Better Engagement Photos by Jackie Lamas appeared first on Digital Photography School.


Tips for Making the Most of Morning Light for Portraits

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

There’s something about taking photos in the magical morning light that makes my heart so happy. Maybe it’s because of the extra effort it takes to be outside in the crisp morning air when your family is still in bed. It could also be because morning sessions are more uncommon, so they feel a little more special. Most likely it’s because that soft, beautiful light just glows, and looks just a little different from the light later in the day, or evening.

How to Make the Most of Magical Morning Light

If you’re a night owl, and can’t imagine getting out of a nice warm bed just to take some pictures, let me try and convince you to give it a try. You might become a morning person, just for that incredibly gorgeous morning light.

Time it Right

The best time to start a morning session is right around sunrise. I have an app on my phone that will tell me what time the sun rises in my area on any date. I like to start about 15 minutes after sunrise. The light level is usually fairly low right at sunrise, so I give a little bit of time for things to lighten up before starting.

The nice thing about using that morning golden hour versus the evening golden hour is that you can take as much time as you need. In the evening you have to decide when it’s the exact right time to start. You want to use the best light right near sunset, but you don’t want to start too late and not have enough time before it’s too dark. If you start too early, you could be done before the beautiful golden sunset light shows up.

Morning light at sunrise takes care of that problem. You start with that gorgeous glowy light and shoot until you’re done. No light is ever wasted.

How to Make the Most of Magical Morning Light - portrait

Morning Weather is Usually Good

Depending on where you live, you might have better luck with the weather in the morning. In my area, it’s usually less windy than it can get in the afternoon. Most mornings are calm and still. Oftentimes there’s a light hazy cloud cover that makes any shooting direction work, so you can use your backgrounds to their fullest extent.

More often the rain and storms come a little bit later in the day. It’s not always the case that you get beautiful weather in the morning, but more often than not, it’s perfect conditions for shooting.

The only negative would be during the colder times of the year when mornings are brisk, or even downright freezing. I just instruct my subject to dress warm, and I wear fingerless gloves and a coat with pockets, so I can try to keep my hands as warm as possible.

How to Make the Most of Magical Morning Light - golden portraits of two girls

Morning Light has a Special Quality

There’s a softness to morning light that you just don’t see most afternoons and evenings. It feels like it wraps around the subject a little more, and has a bit less intensity compared to light later in the day. It can be easier to work with because you won’t have as much glare in your lens when backlighting (facing your subject away from the sun).

You can face your subject toward the sun easier too, because the light isn’t quite as harsh, so they don’t squint as much. The shadows on faces aren’t as pronounced, and everything feels a bit softer. The light isn’t usually as warm as it is in the evening, so sometimes I warm the photos up a bit more in post-processing, but there are times when the cooler light is simply stunning.

How to Make the Most of Magical Morning Light

Be Different, Learn Something New

Many times when I’ve shared photos from a morning session, people have told me that they love the photos, but they don’t quite know what makes them so special. Most photographers are out there during the evening golden hour, and that little bit of difference you’ll see in a morning photo will set you apart from everyone else.

Your photos will have a quality to them that other photographers might not be able to put their finger on. I don’t do every photo session in the morning, in fact, most of my sessions are later in the day, but doing something different, outside of the norm, sets you apart from other photographers, and it also opens you up to more inspiration and creativity.

Every time we do something a little different, we learn new things, and sometimes discover something new that takes our photography to the next level. Shooting in the morning is just one of those things you can do differently, but it’s a big one. It might even be a game changer for you.

How to Make the Most of Magical Morning Light

Wake Up

How do you convince your next photography subject to get up early in the morning and get ready for a photo session when they could be sleeping longer? How do you convince yourself to get out in the brisk morning air with your camera when you could be snuggled under the covers?

The best way to convince anyone is to look at the results. I’ve had clients get up at 4:00 am to be ready for a session because beautiful photos were more important than a little bit more sleep. They can always take a nap later. If you can convince one person to give it a try, you might convince a lot more to do it too, once they see those photos.

You will love the feeling of accomplishing something wonderful first thing in the morning, and then having the rest of the day to edit and play. So, set that alarm and give that morning light a try!

How to Make the Most of Magical Morning Light

Are you a lover of a beautiful sunrise and glowing morning light? Share your morning photos, people or nature, in the comments. I’d love to see what you’ve captured while your neighbors were still in their pajamas!

How to Make the Most of Magical Morning Light

The post Tips for Making the Most of Morning Light for Portraits by Melinda Smith appeared first on Digital Photography School.


Top Portrait Photography Tips of the Year on dPS in 2017

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

This week on dPS we’re featuring some of the top articles in different categories that were published on the site over the last year, 2017. Yesterday was the Best Landscape Articles on dPS in 2017, and this one is all about the best portrait tips of the year.

Here are the top 18 portrait tip articles:

  1. How to Create Portraits with a Black Background
  2. How to Make a Low Key Portrait Step by Step
  3. How to Make Beautiful Portraits Using Flash and High-Speed Sync
  4. How to Create a Dark and Moody Rembrandt-Style Portrait In Lightroom
  5. 4 Beginner Tips for Creating Dramatic Portraits with One Flash
  6. How to Pose People for Group Portraits
  7. Tips for Making Natural Light Portraits
  8. How to Create Good Black and White Portraits
  9. 5 Tips for Creating Romantic Portraits of Couples
  10. 8 Tips for Mastering Your Portrait Photography
  11. Six Ways to Capture the True Character of a Subject in Portraits
  12. A Quick Exercise to Help You Take Better Self-Portraits
  13. How to Create and Shoot Night Portraits
  14. 6 Tips for Posing Hands in Wedding and Portrait Photography
  15. 5 Reasons to Use Lightroom for Portrait Retouching
  16. Basic Portrait Post-Processing Workflow Tips to Help You Save Time and Stay Organized
  17. 5 More Tips for Making Better Black and White Portraits
  18. 3 Tips for Taking Portraits with a Kit Lens

Tomorrow, look for the most popular articles on post-processing in 2017.

The post Top Portrait Photography Tips of the Year on dPS in 2017 by Darlene Hildebrandt appeared first on Digital Photography School.


5 Tips for Doing Portrait Photography in Busy Locations

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

I live in London and it’s a pretty big city with an array of location choices when it comes to portrait photography. There are beautiful parks, many are vast and rolling, dotted around the city; you almost feel like the country is never more than an hour away. There are canals and rivers with boats and ships within easy reach. There are hilltops offering astounding views of the rising skyline and various parts of the city. And of course, there’s architecture that’s so impressive weaving itself across the city, the fabric of London life with a culturally diverse population traversing the criss-cross of alleys and roads. It’s a fast and busy place.

Some of my couples prefer such busy locations that remind them of the hustle and bustle of the place or of icons and landmarks that they love. Here are 5 tips for you on how to photograph a portrait while walking through a busy city. Embrace the buzz of activity, the age-old structures and new glass skyscrapers that loom over you as you go about your daily business of life, work, and play.

#1 Scout out the location and look for pockets of photo spots

5 Tips for Doing Portrait Photography in Busy Locations

Communicate with your portrait clients and give them some location ideas and options from which they can choose. Get them involved in the process as this helps them get excited, look forward to the photoshoot and own it too!

This is also a good opportunity to discuss outfits, as clothing is really important to the overall look and feel of the images. For this photoshoot, we had an area in mind, but with two very different locations in terms of ambiance and style.

Originally the couple wanted an old ruined church which has stunning walls and old architecture and some greenery. This also gave a really cozy country feel, soft light, and almost enchanting ambiance. However, they had already decided on their outfits and had bought them specifically. I felt that these outfits would work better in a fun city walk photoshoot rather than the old church ruins.

5 Tips for Doing Portrait Photography in Busy Locations

Match the location to the subjects

Just a stone’s throw away was the Leadenhall Market. It is built-up, old, colorful, busy and with a very city-feel, yet smart too. I suggested to them this would be the perfect location and after thinking about it they agreed. The forecast was also rainy and the market is a covered area so that was a good option for shelter.

The main idea was to walk the streets in this part of town and find pockets of photo spots that appealed to them. I know the area well as I shoot quite a few weddings in the city, so I was able to lead them to areas where I thought there were interesting spots to make portraits.

It’s a nice experience walking the streets, being part of the everyday goings-on, the mundane and the special alike.

5 Tips for Doing Portrait Photography in Busy Locations

We were also specifically on the lookout for British icons and landmarks as the couple was visiting from America. So we asked Waterstones, a British book retailer if we could take some pictures inside. They agreed. This leads me on nicely to my next tip…

#2 Incorporate icons and landmarks

We chose boutique shops and food stops that were traditional and well-known in the area and used their shop windows as backdrops. Incidentally, the guy’s name is Tom and we passed this quaint Bar called Old Tom’s Bar – just a perfect location for him.

It’s important that you know a little about what your couple likes so you keep your eyes peeled for anything that appeals to them. In this case, Tom is English and he likes his beer so we stopped by the Tavern for a drink!

5 Tips for Doing Portrait Photography in Busy Locations

5 Tips for Doing Portrait Photography in Busy Locations5 Tips for Doing Portrait Photography in Busy Locations

Get permission

There are places where it would be wise for you to ask permission first before going in for some photos. Usually, the shopkeepers are helpful and allow you to do so if you are quiet, non-disruptive and quick. However, others refuse and that is perfectly fine – don’t take it personally.

In the market, there was a lady shining shoes. She had a traditional shoe-shine set-up which would have been perfect for some photos, but she refused consent so we didn’t push. Other places are public and open and you can take snaps, just like any tourist would, to your heart’s content. The spot on the left is one such place. The photo on the right was taken from across the road, a fair distance to the building as permission is needed if you go too close!

5 Tips for Doing Portrait Photography in Busy Locations

#3 Leverage the busy-ness

There is just no getting away from people on crowded, busy streets. Often, it’s a waiting and asking game. You either wait for people to walk past and clear your space, or you ask them to move away. Again, politely and with great gratitude, if they happily oblige.

You can leverage this busy-ness by incorporating motion into your images such as this one below. It could take several attempts to get it right as this can be a very difficult setup with no planning ahead or anticipation of what is to come.

Of course, if things don’t go to plan in shots such as this, there is always Photoshop!

5 Tips for Doing Portrait Photography in Busy Locations

Adding motion with a long exposure and blurred moving objects can add a sense of the hustle and bustle of the city to your images.

#4 Do something fun and quirky

Keep the photoshoot lighthearted and fun by finding some unusual spots and asking your couple to do some quirky things if they are open to that. Like this image below standing in between the huge exhaust installations with the BEL-AIR sign in the background pretending to get blown away! Don’t forget to capture some safe, normal shots too like the one below it, just in case.

5 Tips for Doing Portrait Photography in Busy Locations

5 Tips for Doing Portrait Photography in Busy Locations

We found this old chapel with sculptures (below) and thought it would be funny if they copied the poses of the sculptures as another quirky shot. This turned out to be one of their favorite spots from the day too.

The photoshoot is more than just taking pictures, it is an experience as well, so aim to make it easy and fun.

5 Tips for Doing Portrait Photography in Busy Locations

#5 End on a high note

As you are shooting, don’t forget to include “indicators” in your conversations as to how far you are into your photoshoot, what other plans you may have in terms of location or shots such as individuals, action, walking away, etc. Tell them how far along you are into your plan, if you are are already nearing the end of the shoot, whether this is this your last location and your last shots, and when it’s a wrap.

Couples appreciate knowing where the markers are in the photoshoot. Some people just cannot handle more than half an hour so markers and indicators help them through it. Others like long photoshoots that could well run beyond the agreed duration and you need to keep tabs on your time so these markers work well for you too. As much as possible though, do not look at your watch!!!

Lastly, end on a high note with lots of laughter if possible. If you achieve this, it greatly helps in reinforcing good photoshoot memories so that there will be a “next time” for another photoshoot with you! Your couple will look back at this day and remember good vibes, not so much the other trying parts like the weather, how cold it was, the hassle of waiting for people to get out of the way, and so forth. When you show your couples their image gallery, end with happy photos too! And that’s a wrap!!

5 Tips for Doing Portrait Photography in Busy Locations

5 Tips for Doing Portrait Photography in Busy Locations

I hope you enjoyed this little article and do share any tips you may have which have not been covered above!

The post 5 Tips for Doing Portrait Photography in Busy Locations by Lily Sawyer appeared first on Digital Photography School.


Tips for Planning and Capturing a Creative Portrait

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

There is saying, in the photography world, that an image can be taken in a hundred different ways. This is especially true, as you have probably already noticed when capturing portraits.

Portrait photography is probably the most popular genre, within the realm of the diverse world that is the art of photography. People take portraits so frequently, snapping selfies or photos of their loved ones, with mobile phones or cameras. In any case, this is pretty much what portrait photography is all about, capturing people’s faces.

However, as photographers, you will always be striving for higher excellence, whatever the style of your photography. It’s a natural cause, this is one of the reasons why photography is artistry. The drive for capturing better images, in the field of portrait photography, will eventually lead you to a higher dimension where you won’t be satisfied with just capturing a face, but rather the soul of your subject.

creative portrait of a woman

Lonely young and beautiful woman seating in a bar, next to a piano and a bottle of champagne, of 1920s time period. The woman is dressed in 1920s black evening dress and Gatsby-style diadem on her hair, there is a large old rusted window in the background where blue evening light invades the scene.

This dimension in photography is where creativity lay hidden. It waits to be unleashed by forces such as knowledge and the inspiration gathered along the way, as you were growing as a photographer. So let’s embark on a quest which will help you harvest the power of creativity in photographing portraits and escape the ordinary.

In the list below, you’ll learn the main ingredients that will help you harvest this creative force and take you to another level with your portrait photography.


Know the equipment you work with well. This is the baseline from where you need to start. Technical knowledge may not seem connected to art at first, but let’s examine the image below.

creative self portrait

Self-portrait with creative lighting involving a continuous light and a studio strobe.

This image was captured with a single exposure and there weren’t any alterations applied to it in Photoshop. A second curtain flash technique with slow shutter speed created the effect here. Camera White Balance was set to tungsten and the key light colored with CTO – to balance the colors with gels.

Self portrait lighting diagram

Surely you have noticed how technical knowledge and art correlate. Be it your camera settings, lens, or strobe lights, the more you know about your equipment the more options you’ll end up having to explore in bringing your artwork to realization.

Selecting the right faces, exploring your model’s hidden potential

Most photographers create their best work by working on personal projects. When working on a personal project, you’ll have the full control to choose the model sitting in front of your camera – you are the Art Director.

There are faces full of potential, although they are not faces of professional models (it could be people you see in the public transport or the streets), revealing great characters and features. You need to be able to see this potential and invite such people for a portrait photo session.

Keep in mind that although a person looks great, he or she may not feel comfortable sitting and posing for you at first. This will obviously affect the overall quality and purpose of the photo session.

Remember, as a photographer, it’s your job to bring a good vibe and mood to the set, in order to help your model relax and being able to explore his/her best features.

creative portrait of a man

Low key portrait of a black man wearing glasses and a black leather jacket, having his hands and fingers very close to his face.

In the first image above, is a man who booked a personal creative portrait session. It took four hours of working with him in order to reach a point where he was finally in the right part of his own creative universe, feeling free and exploring himself. He had never had such an experience before and was feeling quite nervous and shy at first.

The second image below is a good representation of working with a great character.

creative portrait of a man

Portrait capturing a model dressed in WWII pilot outfit holding Cuban cigar in his mouth. The creative look of this portrait has been achieved by the use of multiple strobe lights.


Light is the very reason why photography exists. Think about light, study light – how it spreads, how it bounces, how it is reflected, its specularity, etc. There is so much to light. Light is what will be rendering the reality in front of you, by reflecting and bouncing back into your camera lens.

Light has a quality which is defined by the source, intensity, size, and color temperature of the light. The best part is that you have full access to controlling any of this. Main sources of light for photographers are:

  • Ambient light
  • Strobe light
  • Continuous light

But as you move on to the next topic, you’ll see that there is much more to light than just being available in some form.

creative portrait setup

Photographic studio setup for a portrait session, the image features Bowens strobes, a white backdrop and light modifiers.

In the image, above, can be seeing a studio strobe lighting setup for a portrait session. Some characters may require really complex lighting in order to capture their personalities. Others just require one or two light sources – it will be up to you as an artist to determine this.

creative portrait of a man

Low key portrait of a man with a ginger beard and leather jacket, the scene features dramatic and creative strobe lighting.

The portrait above was photographed with only two strobe lights – portraying very well how the most appropriate lighting was selected to illuminate and capture the mood and personality of the person. While for the image below involved the use of six strobe lights.

creative portrait of a woman

Portrait of young woman on blue background wearing a purple dress – with a creative, multiple lighting setup and approach.

Shaping the light, light modifiers

All artists use different sort of tools that help them shape the fabric of their own inspirations and bring creative ideas to life. It is the same for us photographers too.

First, there’s the light, ambient or strobe, which is the raw material you work with. But this material needs to be softened or shaped, helping you in the process of reaching deeper dimensions of your subject’s features and character.

Light shaping tools will help you define your own creative realm – the realms of Game of Shadows, Game of Highlights and Game of Midtones, where you are the master controlling and balancing what sort of reality your light will render.

creative portrait of a woman and man

Tattooed rockabilly, demon, barber holding razor blade in his dark and demonic barber shop with pinup model as his evil assistant on the background next to a bottle of Jack Daniels.

For the creation of the image above, several light shaping tools were used and some of them were even further modified in order to produce the quality of light needed in this particular situation (the image was shot at 10 am in the morning but the idea was for dark – Sweeney Todd concept)

Studio, location, and features

Another very important ingredient to the process of building unique and creative portrait images is exploring what is around you. What is available or what you can build, light and create on location or in the studio?

Although portrait images are characterized by very tightly cropped frames, around the subject’s face – attention needs to be given even to the smallest details. Such details will greatly contribute to the overall contrast within the scene you are capturing.

An example of this is when you are shooting in a studio you can use a snoot, or another light modifier, and create a spot of light or perhaps colorize your background, by placing color gels. Do not limit yourself to only thinking of the face you intend to capture, but rather on the grand scene of everything that will be captured in your composition/frame.

Following the same flow of thoughts and principles – you can turn even a simple room into a professional studio like has been done on the image below – photographed in a bedroom.

creative portrait of a man

An image featuring the founder of Vialucci media, Theo X photographed on a white background.

Things even get more challenging and interesting when shooting environmental, wide-angle portraits. A location can reveal so much about the personality of your subject and also contribute greatly to the level of creative quality in your images. All you need to do when you’re at a great location is help stylize the scene, frame well (appealing creative composition), bring the strobes in and work out the best of your models.

Props, makeup, and hair

This is a very challenging step that eventually one day you’ll take, but it is also very rewarding. By reaching the point of employing props, makeup, and a hair stylist – it will be solid evidence that a line was crossed with no option of turning back. This is the stage where you’ll be seeing beyond the ordinary qualities of your subject and looking to reach a deeper dimension – a state of creative vision.

creative portrait of a woman

A conceptual scene of a four-handed Queen seating on a throne receiving scripts from her Demon servant, and pointing at a Victorian style globe. The scene is lit by several light sources with different colors, rendering the whole scene in a very creative and original light.

creative portrait of a man

Creative portrait composite representing WWII pilot in the cockpit of his aircraft engaged in an aerial battle, with the enemy aircraft in the background.

The images above illustrate very well, the level of creativity obtained by employing props, makeup and hair into the photoshoot.

Editing and retouching

Processing or editing images has always been an integral part of the whole creative process. Although having all the advantages and power of digital technology, you shouldn’t abandon the universal rules and laws of aesthetics.

Think of retouching and editing as a process that helps you enhance the high-quality photographs you already capture and bring your creative vision to final realization. This is achieved without overdoing and diminishing the quality of your photographs.

The two images below are good examples of a photograph captured with simple lighting setup and processed just enough to clear and strengthen the subject’s appearance.

Creative portrait photography before

Before processing.

Creative portrait photography after

After processing.


Capturing creative images involves innovative and creative thinking – seeing things differently, thinking differently. That is why you always need to be on your own small quest for creativity, not bound only by what was covered here or elsewhere.

Come up with your own new solutions – in the process of which you only will add and improve your portrait photography.

The post Tips for Planning and Capturing a Creative Portrait by Nikolay Mirchev appeared first on Digital Photography School.


How to Master Natural Light Portraiture

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

I love working with natural light, I always have. Even more so now that our digital cameras have sensors so incredibly capable of making images in extremely low light. Making portraits using natural light only is a good skill to learn so you can make photographs anywhere. Here are some tips to help you mast nature light portraiture.

How to Master Natural Light Portraiture

Be aware of the quality of light

When you want to make a series of portraits using only natural light, you first need to be aware of what the light is like at your chosen location and the style of portrait you want to make. Is the quality of light hard or soft?

If it’s a bright sunny day and the light is harsh (hard), you will get portraits with a much different look and feel, than if the sky is cloudy and overcast. Morning and evening light will give your portraits a different quality (soft light) as will photographing your subject indoors and using light from a window.

How to Master Natural Light Portraiture

Soft side light from a window.

Hard sunlight can be quite challenging to work with, but can produce some good results if you style you portrait well. If you’re working in open sun it can be helpful to have a reflector on hand and a friend to assist you so dark shadows can be reduced.

What kind of photo do you want?

Having a concept in mind for the type of photo you want will give you a better chance of success. If you’re heading out to make some portraits on a sunny day and have an idea of making some soft dreamy romantic photos, this will be difficult. But if you want to make some photos to illustrate the idea of a journey in a hot country the light will be your friend and support your idea.

How to Master Natural Light Portraiture

Bight, harsh sun in the middle of the day.

Cloudy days provide a soft light that’s generally easier to get a more even exposure. The flat light tends to render a softer feeling to portraits.

So if you’re making portraits with natural light on a cloudy day, you will have more success if your concept is for a gentler look. Photos taken under a cloudy sky and later converted to black and white work well as the tone range will be more limited than on a sunny day.

How to Master Natural Light Portraiture

Portraits on a cloudy day.

Use light to your advantage

If the sky is heavily overcast you will find it challenging as the light will be very dull. On days when there’s not such thick cloud you will notice the light is still soft, but brighter and more vibrant (less flat,) so nicer for making portraits. Be careful of your exposure settings if the clouds are moving and the light value is frequently changing.

Finding a shaded space and making use of naturally reflected light will help you achieve a different look on a bright sunny day. This is not the same as the light you have on a cloudy day. Light reflecting off a wall close by or light-toned pavement, (cement rather than asphalt or dark paving,) will fill in shadows on your subject’s face and produce a more even, lively result.

How to Master Natural Light Portraiture

Light reflecting off a nearby white wall provided fill light for this portrait.

Placing your subject so they are slightly inside a shaded area, but close to the bright sun, can allow the reflection of the sunshine to have a very helpful effect in lighting your subject. So long as your subject is not too far away from the bright light you can make use of the reflection to add a more interesting dynamic to your portraits.

The Golden Hours

Of course, making portraits with the rich morning or evening sunshine (often called Golden Hours), or even subdued light can produce very pleasing portraits. Be careful though not to have your subject look directly ahead into the sun as they will typically make an unpleasant face. Backlighting or side lighting your subject at these times can be more effective and more comfortable for your subject. Diffused morning and evening light is lovely to work with as it is soft yet can still be quite rich and warm toned.

How to Master Natural Light Portraiture

Diffused early evening light.

Try new things

I’ve loved making natural light portraits for many years, but I also enjoy developing my technique by trying new ways of working. If you enjoy a particular aspect of photography, stick with it, develop what you do. But don’t just do the same thing every time.

If you like making portraits in natural light on a cloudy day because you find it easier, sometimes try shooting on a sunny day. Stretch yourself to learn some new technique. You may discover something new, a new way ot working that you really enjoy.

How to Master Natural Light Portraiture

Portable natural light studio

I have a portable natural light studio I love to take into the mountain villages here in northern Thailand. We’ve even started including it in some of the workshops we run and our customers love the professional looking results they can achieve. My outdoor studio only requires that we have space to set it up, (just a few square meters is enough,) and a sunny day for the best light, but I do use it on cloudy days too.

The best thing about it is having control over how the sun lights my subjects. I set it up so the sun is behind the backdrop. Above the backdrop is a fine gray nylon screen to filter the sunlight. The light reflects off the ground which is a light colored earth and works well with Asian skin tones, or a large plastic sheet. I have more recently introduced a large reflector too and am achieving some very pleasing results.

How to Master Natural Light Portraiture

The light coming from behind the backdrop is providing great light on these subjects’ hair as a rim light, and on their faces via reflected light.

The portable studio behind the scenes.

Your turn to try it

Next time you head out to make some portraits try something different with the light. If you prefer sunshine, make some in the shade as well. If you prefer a cloudy day challenge yourself to go out in the middle of the day when the sun is shining and find a location where you have some good light. Remember, the only time you cannot make a photo is when there is no light at all.

The post How to Master Natural Light Portraiture by Kevin Landwer-Johan appeared first on Digital Photography School.