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Portrait Photography Ideas

Get some great ideas on how to take a portrait from professional photographer Joe Sinnott in this Howcast photography tutorial.


I'm Joe. I teach at the School of Visual Arts in New York. We're going to talk about portrait photography ideas.

First, things not to do. Show up wearing something nice. You don't have to show up in a tuxedo and an evening gown but it's better to stay away from your ripped clothes and your dirty clothes and your stained clothes.

There are a whole bunch of poses that people think work really well and really do not. Hand under the chin. I don't understand why people put their hand under their chin, it's a disaster. What are you trying to hide?

Crossed arms. Crossed arms make you look vain and arrogant. Why would anybody do that?

And people do this thing where they tuck their chin in as far they can go because they're trying to hide the fact that they have a neck. Everybody has a neck. You don't have to hide the fact that you have a neck. No neck, no head.

Make sure your hair is blown out and looking the way you want it to look for your picture.

Put on your make-up before the shoot. Especially true for men.

So now we have our subject looking good. Not wearing ripped up clothes or a nasty tee-shirt. A nice collared shirt. Clean shaven. Have your subjects shave like right before the shoot. If they shave in the morning and you're shooting them at 3:00 in the afternoon, they're going to have to shave again.

Keep your eyes on the lens. Don't be looking off into space.

Smiling people look good. Duck face doesn't look good. Smiling people look good.

Right and left is always your right and left, never my right and left. Turn your body in profile to me. Good, now from your waist, turn to your right.

Get a little bit above people's eye line. Nobody's going to thank you for photographing them below their chin and looking up.

Keep your eyes on the lens. Happy, happy, joy, joy. Look at you. Drop dead gorgeous. Don't let the smile get creepy. Creepy smiles, there you go. That's like a happy smile.

A reflector helps you bounce a little light back on the subject and make them stand out a bit more from the background.

Overcast days or the shade is better. Direct sunlight doesn't make anybody look good. Deep shadows in their eyes and a slash of a shadow from their nose across their face.

That's fabulous. Bring the reflector around this way just a little bit.

Whoever is holding the reflector, you want to make sure that they stay out of your frame. But if you're shooting a portrait, it's not really hard because portraits are pretty close.

That's a fabulous smile. Roll your left shoulder back just a little bit. That's terrific.

Photograph people from across their shoulder like that. They always look thinner that way.

From you waist, lean towards me a little.

You're going to ask people to do things that feel incredibly awkward. It doesn't matter how they feel, they look great.

Tilt your head a little bit to the left. That's terrific. Turn your head a tiny bit to your right. Don't get all sad about it. Play through the pain. From your waist, lean towards me just a little bit more.

There's almost no amount of high that's too high.

Lift your chin just a tad. That's terrific. Turn your head a little bit to your left.

And those are a few good portrait photography tips.

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