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How to Take Portraits with Joe Sinnott

Learn about professional photographer Joe Sinnott, one of Howcast's portrait photography experts, in this video.


Hi, I'm Joe. I teach at the School of Visual Arts in New York. I've been teaching here in the photography department for 22 years. I'm also the staff photographer for a public media company here in New York.

I've got the greatest job in the world. I take beautiful pictures for money. I think the only way I could be living the dream better was if I was an astronaut, and since I'm kind of not okay with heights, I think that I've settled pretty nicely.

It's kind of funny, originally when I was younger I actually kind of did want to grow up to be an astronaut and I was studying aerospace engineering in college. And I was working in a camera store at the time to pay my tuition, and I was doing less and less and less well at school as I became increasingly resentful of the time my studies were taking away from the photography thing that I was doing and that was consuming so much of my life at that time.

You know, I had to talk my parents into staking out a corner of the basement and setting up an enlarger and making a mess on the washing machine with the developer chemical and all of that stuff.

And as my grades were slipping lower and lower and lower at the college that I was at, my best friend at the time took me out and dropped the gear in front of me and said "what are you thinking?" And I went "ahhhh, I could have my cake and eat it too."

And I applied to art school and actually graduated from the School of Visual Arts. Came to SVA and spent four years working harder than I ever had at anything before in my life and had more fun doing it than anything I had ever done previously.

I've been taking pictures for money for 25 years now and I'm still loving it. I'll tell you, I don't want to say anything bad about any other art school but it's amazing how many of my peers that I graduated with are still doing this. It's a really competitive field.
Being a photographer is a very competitive field. A lot of people want to do it, and I'm always amazed at how many of my students move on to really, really amazing careers. Careers that are marked by accomplishment and recognition and progress and advancement. I've got to believe that a lot of that has to do with where they got their education. I've very much drunk the Kool-Aid here.

I'm a photographer. I've got to do it. It's not an easy thing to get into. And a lot of that is because of where I went, and the education I got, and the quality of the education I got, and my amazing teachers.

In order to teach here I have to be a working professional in my field. That's one of things about this school that's pretty amazing.

And now I'd like to show you a series of tips that you can use for shooting better portraits.

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