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5 Tips to make you a better portrait photographer

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Portrait photography can be one of the most difficult genres to master. It’s not as simple as just pointing your camera at someone, pressing the shutter and moving on to the next shot. There’s a lot of preparation that goes into capturing a truly great portrait so we put together a list of 5 important things you’ll need to know in order to take your portraiture to the next level.

Portrait Photography

Research your subject prior to the shoot as it can help you to establish a connection with them.

The reality is that most people (professional models and narcissists aside) just aren’t comfortable being in front of a camera, so asking them to pose for a portrait is something that they most likely don’t want to do.

Making an effort to connect with your subject can go a long way towards putting them at ease during the process and one way to do this is through research. When you have your subject booked for a shoot, try to find out what you can about them prior to the shoot.

There are many ways you can do this, but the easiest way in today’s age is to do a quick google search to familiarize yourself with your subject as best you can. This can often include finding information on their interests, what they are passionate about to specific things, like their favorite music to play in the studio during your shoot with them.

Knowing all of this beforehand can go a long way to helping them to feel at ease with the whole process.

Colin Firth © Steve Carty

Colin Firth © Steve Carty

At a recent event at Vistek, photographer Steve Carty shared the story behind his shot of Colin Firth. Having only 15 minutes with the movie star to capture the shots he needed, Steve didn’t rush in and start to take shots, but instead, after noticing that Mr. Firth had the same newly released iPhone 4 as he did, talked about the phone, compared apps and wound up showing Mr. Firth how to use a couple of features on it that had been giving him trouble.

Their conversation went on for almost all of the time that had been allotted for the shoot, but it had totally put his subject at ease and Steve was able to capture the fantastic shot you see here.


If you have the opportunity to speak to them in advance, ask a few detailed questions, such as their favourite color or if they have a favourite outfit they would like to bring. If they’ve posed for portraits before, there’s a good chance that they know what facial angle or pose that they know works for them. It’s also a good chance to find out if the portrait you’re shooting for them has a specific purpose and if there are any production specs you need to know about.

Next: Lighting Needs & Environment

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