Get Better Portraits Easily!

Every photography job demands some preparation. You need to check the batteries, card space, lens cleanliness, and more. This is all a core part of taking pictures, and yet doesn’t require any special pro knowledge. Are there more things like this you can do to push your portrait photography forward without being a pro? You bet!

You can add a lot to your portrait photography just by observing a few simple rules. They’re about things as simple as a good shot location and  good model work.

Choosing a Shot Location

The first part of preparing any portrait shoot is choosing the shot location. First let’s note that it’s no disaster if you don’t have access to a studio. Actually, photos not taken in a studio can often be the most interesting and content-rich. The important thing is to choose the right non-studio location. It should be in an environment that isn’t busy and that adds something to the photo. A physically or visually “broken-up” environment will harm, not help, the shot. Choose an environment that is simple and constant, but interesting.

A well-chosen environment gives your photo a leg up.

A well-chosen environment gives your photo a leg up. 

No Necklaces And Rings

Unless you’re shooting for a jewelry ad, tell your subject to take off their accessories. That mainly means rings and necklaces. The subject’s eyes should be the most striking element in any portrait. A shiny necklace or ring draws some attention to itself. When you’re photographing nudes, then this rule goes double. Nude photography is about the interplay between the human body, light, and shadow. Necklaces and rings have no place in that kind of photo. This is one of the most frequent mistakes among beginning photographers, and meanwhile it’s so easy to avoid.

Necklaces and rings would spoil this shot.

Necklaces and rings would spoil this shot. 

Clothing

The clothes make the person. This is especially true in photography. You don’t have to be a stylist to see when a model is wearing something really awful. Keep in mind that the model can’t see themself! Pay attention to clothing during the shot: make sure collars are straight, shirts aren’t wrinkled, pockets are tucked in, etc. If you mixed feelings about anything, don’t hesitate to say it—your model will appreciate it.

On the Level

That brings us to our last tip. Always speak on the level during your shoots. Communicate with your model directly and clearly. Here’s the most typical example of this from the realm of nude photography. Avoid the situation of mumbling something mealymouthed like “Please, it’s a bit awkward for me, but would you please take off the rest of your clothing on top” and then a bit later, “Well you know, this photo will work better without underwear. But what do you think?” It’s enough to just say, “Undergarments off, turn your breasts towards me, sit like a lady—that means crossed legs—and look this way.” The latter route is concise, clear, and comprehensible. You’ve already agreed the model that it’s a nude shoot, so your model knows why she’s there, and instructions like these cannot faze her. They also establish you as decisive, confident, and professional.

When shooting nudes, it’s not a surprise for the model that they will be, in fact, nude. So don’t act like it is.

When shooting nudes, it’s not a surprise for the model that they will be, in fact, nude. So don’t act like it is.

The things mentioned above are just a part of what you should watch out for in photography. But if you observe these “non-photographic” rules in your photography, you’ll find they help take it to the next level. It will be slicker and more refined. Believe me, it’s easy!

Last updated 1. September 2014

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Author: Majo Elias

I’ve been taking pictures since 2004. When I was starting out, I photographed almost everything. Later my style solidified and I began photographing people almost exclusively. At the moment my main genres are fashion and advertising.

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Comments

  • Thanks Zoner for your advice regarding portrait photos and in recommending no jewelry. It was very helpful!

    • Zoner

      We’re very happy you like it, thank you!