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Portrait Photography Tips

Get some great portrait photography tips from professional photographer Joe Sinnott in this Howcast photography tutorial.


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

Shade is better than direct sunlight. Direct sunlight is harsh. It makes people squint. It creates deep shadows in their eyes and big shadows across their face from their nose. Shade is your friend. Overcast is your friend. Nice, even, soft, diffused lighting.

Keep your shutter speed above 1/125th of a second or so. Keep your F-stop at about 4 or 5.6. That's enough to keep your subject in focus all the way through without having your background become a big distraction.

Almost anything works as a background if it's out of focus enough. A reflector bounces a little light back into the subject and keeps them kind of, even though the light's soft, it makes them a little brighter than the background.

Have your subject keep their eyes on the lens. Photograph them from above their eye line. 25 to 30 degrees is usually a pretty good spot.

Have your subject lean towards you a little bit. It makes them look like they're engaged with you.

And smiling is better than anything in the world. Happy people look good. It doesn't matter anything else about them. Happy people look good.

Lift your chin just a tiny bit. Very nice. Turn your head a little bit to your right.

Give your model their instructions, your subject their instructions according to their left and right, not your left and right or it's all going to get very confusing very fast.

And keep talking to them because if you just stand there like this, it's going to get awkward in no time.

That's terrific.

Have people pose so you're shooting across their shoulders a little bit. Everybody looks thinner when you shoot across their shoulders a little bit.

This looks bigger than that.

Lift your chin a tiny bit. Arrrrrrrrr. There you go. Turn your head a tiny bit to the right.

It doesn't hurt to tell people how good they look when they're having their picture taken. And I'm not saying that you should get in trouble with the law, but very few people hate being told how good they look.

You don't want to use a lens that puts you so far away from your subject that they can't hear you. You don't want to use a lens that's so short that you've got to get right in their animal space to take their picture. Usually something in the range of 85 to 105 millimeters if very flattering for portraits. It allows you to be far enough away that you're not disturbing, and not so close that you're even more disturbing.

And those are a few great portrait photography tips.

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