5 Tips to make you a better portrait photographer

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Outdoor Model Photo

Shot using an Elinchrom Quadra HS Head and a beauty dish @ 2015 Gary Goldberg

Lighting needs & environment

One of the most important parts of a successful shoot is to make sure you have a solid pre- shoot plan in place for both your lighting and camera needs.

This should include a pre-shoot location visit to assess the existing lighting and background set-up so that you will be able to figure out exactly what equipment you’ll need on the big day.

For interior or studio shoots, find out what your options are for backgrounds and lighting within the space. Is there natural light source available? Will you need need to bring artificial lighting with you? In terms of backgrounds, does the shooting area have clean walls or other interesting features that might enhance the look of the photos? These are all things it’s good to know prior to you showing up on the day of your session.

For outdoor shots, you’ll be most likely be making use of natural light, so you’ll want to pre-scout the location at the time of day that you’ll be shooting to assess the direction that the light will be falling on your subject and thus the way that you’ll be positioning them relative to the sun. It’s also a good chance to determine if you’ll need to bring any additional lighting to complement the natural light.

Pro Tip: The best outdoor lighting happens early morning or late afternoon, not at mid-day when the sun and shadows are at their harshest. Also, remember to monitor the weather for the day of the shoot, overcast weather, can create beautiful consistent lighting, and softer shadows.

When you’re ready to shoot, position your subject so that they are facing the sun, or at an oblique angle with their face lit and features defined. This positioning will also help to minimize unwanted shadowing.

One of the things that many photographers forget to do when composing their portraits is to look beyond their subject and check/double check/triple check their composition for any distracting issues that may appear in the background. Remember, things that might appear insignificant through the viewfinder or camera LCD can appear large and distract the viewer away from the subject in the finished photo.

Next: Camera Settings & Lenses


Also published on Medium.

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