8 Amazing Portrait Tips
I like to meet with my clients to discuss their photo needs, concerns, clothes, background, and address any questions they may have before we get started. I want to know how the images might be used, and get a read on the client, so I can make better lighting and posing decisions during the photo session.
Go with the lighting that is most effective in the particular session which depends on many factors. I prefer darker shadows and short light on men. For ladies, I prefer lighter shadows and broad light. I like about 1/4″ tall shadow under the nose, shadow fall off on the sides of the face, and shadow on the neck.
If the shadows are in the right place, they can be soft or not so much. Softer for ladies of course. Shadows can increase wrinkles so they have to be used with care.
Highlights, in moderation, on edges work best for me. If I get a highlight dead center of the nose tip or forehead, I will minimize or remove it.
Outdoors, keeping the sun in the back slightly off to one side can create rim lighting on one side of the subject which adds some spice to the image!
It must be natural, relaxed, comfortable or it doesnt work. It also depends on the person and the body type. For ladies, I often like weight on back foot, bent front knee, standing a little sideways and twisting the upper body toward the light. It’s nice to keep it moving and keep it loose.
Sometime hands on hips works well but other times somewhere between hips and hanging down on the side is best.
I like to pose guys more directly, shoulders back a little, forehead out, chin down a bit, leaning into the lens (minimizes the double chin), often a hand in a pants pocket.
Keep it simple, keep it subdued, and let it compliment the clothing. Surprisingly often white clothes with a white background can work well, and if rim lit, black clothes on a light black background can work well too.
Outdoors, I love to use a long telephoto lens with a wide aperture and let the background go softly out of focus. I prefer green foliage in the back to enhance flesh tones. I also love a slight bit of light peaking through the foliage to add a dash of interest.
I like to keep it moving, talk about fun things, have some music playing, keep it loose and relaxed. Of course, most of us tighten up in front of the camera, and it can take a few minutes to warm up. Telling jokes doesnt really work (especially if you’re a poor comedian like me) because when folks start laughing the eyes close and the expressions aren’t useful.
We generally are going after a relaxed, pleasant expression. Some folks look best with a big smile, others look best with the lips closed and a small smile. In either case, I try to find a way to give them moving, and when a natural attractive expression presents itself ….. CAPTURE IT!
Keep it simple. No patterns please. What they feel most comfortable wearing often works best.
My Favorite cameras are Nikon D4s and Nikon D800. The files sizes of the D800 are really too large most often, so I usually use the D4s, especially in low light situations because the ISO capability is amazing!
My favorite portrait lens is my Nikon 70-200mm f2.8 VRII. It has the most versatility and is amazing for most portrait situations. Occasionally I love my Nikon 85mm f1.4D lens, and a 135mm f2. My other workhorse, when I dont have much space, and I need to get wide is my Nikon 24-70mm f2.8.
The lighting in my studio consists of an assortment of flashes and modifiers. Profoto Compact 600R, Profoto AcuteB 600R and two P Buff Einstein 640’s with a Vagabond Mini. I have a Profoto 20.5” beauty dish, multiple soft boxes, Photek Softlighters, pocket wizards etc.. Just to keep it fun, Im always experimenting with gear and trying new lighting techniques.
When I travel light, I carry Nikon SB800 flashes and various modifiers. I spent way too much money on gear. Now I try to do more with less! It’s not so much the gear as it is the skill in using it.
Photo Processing – Photoshop CC & Lightroom
I dont like over-processed images so I try like heck not to do that. I always keep the original psd file so if I go over-board, I can go back and remove some of the processing. My goal is to help everyone look there best, maybe even a little better, but natural.
One thing I notice is that very rarely do teeth or eyes need much whitening. It just looks unnatural when we do that. Seems most portrait photographers go over-board with it.
Of course, pageant photos usually get more processing.
This process is very hard to describe. I look at the portraits with my portrait painter eyes, squint down, and carefully assess my work as I go to determine if it’s helping or harming the image. I often dial back the opacity of a layer or delete it altogether. I try and create a work of art but keep it real at the same time.
Photo Session Review on Google+
"Mark did a wonderful job sitting down with us to further understand the type of photos we were looking for. The photo session itself was well executed and we were very happy with the finished results."Greg Stuart