5 Tips When Photographing People


Portrait photography takes a lifetime to master, but we all have to start somewhere. So, here are 5 tips to remember always when starting a portrait project.

1) Underexpose

exposure example
Amy in downtown Asheville

As any photographer should know, shooting raw is important. When taking photos of anything light-colored, you can underexpose the image. This will preserve details in the lights and allow you to simply brighten the image in post-production. After all, there is more detail in darks than there is in lights.

2) A Wide Open Lens Is Not Always Better

Ken Krahl
Ken Krahl

There are plenty of photography blogs that tout the 1.4 or 1.2 lenses for portrait photography. While beautiful bokeh is nice, it’s not always appropriate; sometimes it’s important to show the background! This becomes especially true if the background environment informs the photo in some way and helps to tell your story.

3) Lens Choice is Important

Lynn and Helios
Lynn and Helios the Horse

Once again, some photography blogs and tutorials can be misleading. A long lens is useful in portrait photography, but again, it’s not always appropriate. A wide lens can introduce lots of fun, quirkiness, and interest. A long lens adds an air of professionalism to your subject. Consider who your subject is and what the project has to communicate.

4) Plan to Post Process

Rigby Dog

If a pro photog tells you they deliver photos right out of the camera, they’re lying. Post-processing images is just as important as the actual shoot. There’s a lot to coordinate on a shoot day—the talent, the angles, the depth of field, and so on—but there are many things that should be handled in post. It’s important to remember that even the most natural-looking photos usually involve a considerable amount of editing. There are a lot of tutorials online to guide you through the editing process itself. It’s important to remember that post-processing is a separate step of the photography process, not a crutch for things that should be managed the day of the shoot!

5) It’s all about the eyes

Heather Vaughan
Heather Vaughan

When photographing people, that old saying “the eyes are the windows to our soul” is true. Always consider the eyes. They can be looking right into the lens. They can be looking out to the future, or at the environment, each of these will tell a story. You don’t always need them in the frame (like photographing someone from behind) but it’s important to know what they’re looking at.

6) Connect with your subject.

Heather - Capturing Emotion
Heather – Capturing Emotion

Learning about your subject will help you stage your shot. As easy as it would be if it was, not every portrait is the same. People have personalities and history, and the best portraits capture those qualities. While most of your portraits are going to be all smiles, I find that the best ones tell a story and show emotion.

7) Bonus! Get Creative

Anita Vaughan
Anita Vaughan

Portraits can be some of the trickiest shots to master, but with these tips you’ll be on your way to shots that will make you, and your subjects, truly proud!

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