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3 Portrait Photography Tips for Digital Photography

Learn three portrait photography tips from commercial photographer Dan Bracaglia in this digital photography lesson from Howcast.


Portrait photography is easily one of the most difficult forms of photography out there. Because in addition to having to control your exposure and the light, you also throw in the factor that you have a subject that you need to really bring out their natural emotion, at least if you want a good portrait. And some really good tips to get a good portrait, aside from lighting it well and composing it well, is to loosen your subject up and get them to laugh and get them to relax.

This portrait in particular, I told the subject that I had no memory card in my camera and was still setting up, so she was still loose and she was still relaxed and I was able to bring out this really beautiful smile. But once I actually told her I had a memory card in there, she tightened up a lot and tensed up and I didn't get as great a pictures. But thankfully I was able to get this before the fact, which is another example of a portrait. This was just shot with a single light really powering the face and really giving her a poppy look. This is just a good example of how you can use light to really kind of bring out the look that you want.

And it really depends on what you're going for. Not every photograph it's going to be appropriate for a big smile or a big laugh. And this was a charity shoot I did with children with cancer and terminal illnesses. And I was going for something a little bit more serious, a little bit more humanizing. And I spent a long time with this girl and, you know, we just talked and got really comfortable with each other. And that's how I was able to kind of just bring out this very natural emotion.

A good portrait photographer can get people to trust them. They're going to trust that you're going to come back with a good photograph and that's just a really important skill to have, and it's really hard to learn and it takes a lot of time and a lot of patience and a lot of practice. But once you get it, once you can make people comfortable and you understand the lighting, you're going to be able to take great portrait photographs.

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