5 Portrait Photography Do's and Don'ts For Better People Pix

Quick tips that will improve your portrait shots

Got five minutes? Here are five quick but helpful portrait photography tips that will help you take your portrait photography skills up a notch.

Good portrait photography doesn't take much gear, but it does take planning, patience and practice. Whether you're a snapshooter shooting outdoors or an experienced pro shooting in a studio, have a plan, and keep the following five tips in mind and you'll see an immediate improvement in your portraits. Got your camera? A good medium telephoto portrait lens? Nice, open, flattering lighting (or flash modifiers that you bought from Adorama  that will turn bad light into flattering light)? OK then, read this exclusive Adorama Learning Center article, and Let's go!

Photo © deimagine/iStockphoto

1. DO focus on the eyes. The eyes are the windows into the soul, and are will lock in your viewers interest. Keep them (or at least the closest eye, if shooting a subject at an angle) in focus, otherwise it will look like a mistake. Tip: Use fill flash with a diffuser to make the eyes bright!

Photo © Neustockimages/iStockphoto

2. DO use props to tell us something about your subject. If you're shooting in a studio against a plain background, ask your subject to bring something that's important to them, and include that in the image. An accountant, for instance, could bring a calculator...or a tax form!


Photo © fotandy/iStockphoto

3. DO shoot a variety of poses. Include shots that are head and shoulders, waist-level and full-length shots. Have your subject pose looking over the shoulder, head on, torso at a 45 degree angle to the camera while looking at the camera, etc. Take more pictures than you think are necessary. One advantage of this approach is that subjects that may feel ill at ease in front of the camera will eventually loosen up as you keep shooting. Eventually, their poses will become more natural. (Be sure to let them know you'll be taking a lot of pictures so they don't get antsy.)


Photo © halbergman/iStockphoto

4. DON'T take a close-up photo with a wide-angle lens. The closer you get to a subject with a wide-angle lens, the greater the linear distortion. In other words, foreheads and/or noses will appear to be exaggerated in size compared to the rest of the face, and the head will be overly large compared to the rest of the model's body. This is fine if you're shooting for a laugh or a certain effect, such as in the photo above, but it won't flatter the person you're photographing. If you've got a wide-angle lens on your camera, shoot a full-length portrait.


Photo © drbimages/iStockphoto

5. DON'T touch your model. It could creep 'em out, or worse, even if your intention is simply to show them how to pose. Instead, demonstrate the pose yourself, give directions verbally or pointing with your hands.

Bonus do: DO Stay away from harsh light. Harsh light will cause deep shadows and either blow out details or emphasize unflattering features. Find open shade, and keep it simple!

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