Hey, how’s it going? I’m Andy Jones and this is episode 124 of the Photography Side Hustle podcast.

This week I’m going to give you 12 Portrait Photography Tips. 

So I won’t waste any time and get on with it.

#1  Preparation

If you are going to be shooting a session at a new location make sure you check it out before the shoot.

Either visit it a day or two before the session or turn up an hour or two early on the day of the shoot.  Because you need to walk around and find the best spots. If you are there a day before the shoot try to be there at the same time of day, so the light is similar.

Even if you are going to be using a rented studio, ask to go in a check out the lights.

You don’t want to be flapping around trying to figure out how a piece of equipment works in front of your customer.


#2  Focusing

When shooting any portrait you need to focus on one of the subject’s eyes. Generally, you focus on the eye that is nearest to you. 

I see lots of photos where the nose is in focus and the eyes are a tiny bit soft. So concentrate on focusing on an eye, it will make a massive difference if you haven’t been doing it.


#3  Shooting Mode

There are two modes you should use for portraits, they are Manual mode and Aperture Priority. 

If you feel confident using Manual mode then fine, but if not try Aperture Priority. This is because you need to control the aperture setting. This is your first consideration when setting your camera up.

Aperture Priority allows you to set the aperture and the ISO. The camera sets the shutter speed for you. If the shutter speed is too low you just turn the ISO up to a higher number to speed up the shutter speed.

So why is it important to control the aperture I hear you say. Well, the Aperture setting can be used to control the depth of field in your portraits. Low aperture numbers like f1.8 or f2.8 will give you a shallow depth of field. This is an effect that gives the portrait a blurry out-of-focus background.


Okay, next is …

#4  Mood Board

Now a mood board is a collection of photos that you have picked out so you can try to replicate them.

So let’s say your next session is a portrait session for a family of four in October. 

You are going to search for photos online that are of a family of four in a fall/autumn setting. The best place for this is Pinterest, and it’s still free. So you pin or save all the photos you choose to your account. 

Knowing what you want to create before the shoot is very powerful. During the session, instead of trying to figure everything out as you go, you will have direction and purpose. 

So try a mood board for your next session.


#5  Lighting

If you are using on camera flash or shooting in a studio, you need to avoid flat lighting.

Flat lighting is where you have a flash on your camera and point it straight at the subject. The light hits the face and lights each side of the face evenly, causing a flat and uninteresting result.

You need to bounce the light off a wall or ceiling so that the light hits the subject’s face from different angles.

The same will happen in a studio if your key (or main) light is set directly in front of the subject.

Move the light to the side to create shadows on the face to give it depth. 

Next is …

#6  Kids

If you are going to be taking young kid’s portraits, you need to turn up to the session armed with treats. If you can make them laugh and have fun during the shoot it will make your life a lot easier.

Take some chocolate bars with you and only show them to the kids if they are causing trouble. Most children will settle down if they know there is a chocolate bar waiting for them at the end of the shoot.

The reason I say only show them the chocolate if they are being naughty, is that if they are well-behaved you get to keep the treat. So it’s a win-win situation.


#7  Longer Lens

The 50mm 1.8 lens is a great starting point for portraits, and the 85mm 1.8 or 1.4 lens is known as a great portrait lens. But consider using a 70-200 2.8 lens. 

The longer 200mm focal length compresses the image and isolates the subject. This allows you to stand further away from your subject, which will make everything easier if you are shooting kids.

The 70-200 2.8 is a great portrait lens.


#8  Composition

Keep your compositions simple, and use the rule of thirds. Put the points of interest on the intersections of the lines. Doing this will place your subject on one side of the frame.

If your subject is looking away from the camera make sure they are looking into the side of the frame that is empty.

If you need ideas for posing subjects use a mood board and Pinterest. 


#9  Pets

With dogs, you will need dog treats to get their attention. If you let them see the treat being put on your lens, then they will constantly stare at the lens. If the dog is well-trained and looks at the lens without the use of treats, don’t eat the treats, save them for the next doggy session. Trust me they don’t taste very good.

Always get down to the same level or lower than the dog. This will make a huge difference in your dog portraits.


#10  Control your Attitude

Now there is a thing I heard about called the Betari Box. It says that your attitude affects your behavior, and that affects the subject’s attitude, and that affects their behavior. 

So your attitude during a photo session is crucial. 

If you are happy and positive about the shoot it will come out in the way you behave. 

This will in turn affect your subject’s attitude and behavior.

So don’t turn up to a shoot angry at the world, because it will show in your photos.


#11  Connection

It is really important that you make a connection with your customers. Talk to them and listen to what they are saying. 

Don’t just turn up, tell them where they should stand, take their photos, and go home.

Find out what they do for a living, ask about their family, and get to know them. You’ll be amazed at what you find out about them, and it’ll change the way you and the subject work together.


#12  The Squinch

Now I got this from watching Peter Hurley on YouTube.

He gets his subjects to smile and then asks them to squint their eyes a little. 

When some people smile at a camera they have that deer in the headlights look. The squinch or squint makes their smile look more natural.

Try it yourself, look in the mirror, and squint your eyes just a little. Now some people do this with their eyes every time they smile. This is for people who need a little extra help.

Okay, those are my 12 Portrait Tips.

If you need any help with anything you can find it in the Facebook group or use Facebook Messenger.

I just want to say that the quality of images being posted in the Facebook group is amazing, thanks to all the members for making it a success.

Right, I’ll be back next week with a plant pot full of waffle. Talk to you soon, bye.