Portrait photography

Six things they won’t teach you in portrait photography class

The only thing that will teach you how to become a better portrait photographer is failure. Typically, when you fail at something, you just sit there and wallow in agony. Then you figure out what you could have done better and find a way to keep those mistakes in mind for your next project. Failure, trial and error, and perseverance will help you create better portraits. This is the first big lesson they won’t teach you in portrait photography. Here are five more.

I have an idea

So how do you shoot a portrait? First, you need an idea.

Many portrait photographers (not just those just starting out, but even those who are experienced) fail from the start by not having an idea or a vision for the shot. This is important because it determines many factors of the shoot:

– The feel and atmosphere on set

– The wardrobe

– The accessories

– Lighting

– Shooting angles

– The post-production process

If you don’t have an idea to start with, you’ll have to come up with one. A great way to find ideas is to browse tumblr, 500px and pinterest. By using these platforms, you will be able to come up with plenty of ideas just by paying attention to the mass of creative content out there.

On The photographer’s TumblrGevon and I try to post as much inspiring and cool content as possible.

Ideas can also be closely related to environmental portraits.

Know the subject

Knowing your subject is key to ensuring the portrait session runs smoothly. Here’s how a recent situation played out for me: Yael emailed me asking for a head shot/portrait. But she did something very helpful for me: in her email, she said she needed a decent photo of herself for an event she’s speaking at. The animators asked her to speak because she is funny.

It’s a lot to work on here: we know that the photo of her must express the funny character of Yael and the final result must arouse this certain emotion in the viewer.

After speaking with Yael, I knew that she is a woman who dresses very simply and whose humor is shown above all in her sarcasm on the spot. So now we have more to work with:

– She is sarcastic

– She is straightforward

– She is funny

– Because she’s usually sarcastic off the cuff, she’s also probably a little nervous about doing this. Indeed, she was.

So how do you capture all of this? After speaking with her, we came to agreements on visions.

Originally she said to me, “Can’t you just use that big scary ring light you have?”

I replied, “No, we have to bring out the humorous side of you. So we have to work with props, a simple lighting setup, and a pose that will work for you to bring out your personality.

And then we agreed.

Capture their personality

In order to capture her personality, I needed to get to know her more. Fortunately, I have known her for a few months now and I know all the character traits mentioned above. So the question was, “How do we get this across in a very clear and simple way?”

Yael is also Jewish, and she also wanted to convey it in a very simple way that also shows her as being funny. But when the viewer sees the image, I want them to think, “It’s simple and it works. But I would never have thought of this idea.


First of all, know that I used a Canon 5D MkII, 50mm f1.4, 580 EXII and Phottix Odin TTL wireless triggers for this shoot. The 580 EX II was mounted in a Impact LS6 Light Stand with umbrella holder with a Impact Umbrella 60 inch black and white with silver bead interior.

However, it can be done with just about any equipment: remember that your vision is what counts!

We tried a few different poses and looks. Additionally, we also moved the panel around in different ways to change the humor of the photo while playing with the body language. In the end, we had the photo in the next section.

Post production

Yael and I went with this photo at the end after narrowing it down to three. This photo forced me to extract it in Photoshop in order to:

– Completely balance colors

– Sharpen your eyes

– Soften her skin using Guassian layered blur and working with opacities

– Saturate her lips more

– Crop and fix the bottom of the image to make it look like a seamless white background.

And in the end, it worked pretty well.

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