My Ten Tips for Better Portrait Photography

_DSC0773LR1.  Use natural lighting whenever possible.  Place your subject by a window, or even better, go outside in the shade if it’s a bright sunny day, or if its overcast, even better.  Photographing your subjects in sunshine creates harsh shadows, and isn’t flattering to most subjects.

_DSC0737LR _DSC0737LRVBW2.  Convert the photo to black and white if there are lots of competing colors.  The photo looks much more cohesive in black and white than in color.  It makes the busy-ness of the photo much less noticeable.

81uNEDeqMzL._SL1500_3. Invest in a copy of Photoshop Elements.  It’s less than $70, and will make processing your photos so much easier.  Watch videos on You Tube to learn how to process your portrait photos.  Once you get really confident in portrait processing, invest in a set of portrait actions from RadLab.

Doris 3LR4.  Shoot down on your adult subjects.  Trust me.  This is my Number 1 tip for portrait photography.  It creates a much more flattering portrait.

5.  Avoid wearing white.  It makes you look washed out if you have light skin, and create too much of a contrast for darker skin tones.

6.  It’s okay to wear white for a group portrait, as long as everyone is wearing white.  A popular portrait for families, especially at the beach is for everyone to wear a white shirt and blue jeans with bare feet.

_DSC0981LR7.  For family portraits, take LOTS of photos.   There will be one most likely where everyone is looking at the camera and not squinting.  If that’s not the case, you can do a Google search on how to replace one face for another in Photoshop._DSC0797LR8.  Portraits of kids come with their own set of rules.

  • Make sure they aren’t hungry and tired for the shoot.


  • Keep the session short, 30 minutes, and if you haven’t finished, take a break, let the child have a snack and decompress, and then shoot for another 30 minutes.
  • The photo shoot should not last more than 60 minutes.
  • If the child is upset or not cooperating, don’t force the child to pose, take a break and come back, even if it’s on another day.


  • For children four and older, they are going to want to give you “fake” smiles.  The best way to avoid that is to talk to the child, as him or her “What is your favorite toy, or movie, or where are you going on vacation this summer, etc.”
  • Kids have a VERY short attention span.  Having Grandma or an aunt, uncle or someone else the child is comfortable with, talking and engaging the child while the photographer is shooting will help create great natural looking portraits.



  • If the child is going to be really dressed up, have that outfit as the first one, then change into more casual clothes after the break if necessary,
  • Always take a short break between outfit changes, and I would recommend no more than two outfit changes in total.

9.  If you are shooting indoors, don’t use the flash on the camera.  Put your subject next to a window or have someone stand off camera with a white poster board so that the light will bounce off the board and onto your subject without using a flash.  If you are shooting next to a window, make sure your subject isn’t back-lit (subject is dark and the outside is bright).  Move your angle to take advantage of the light on your subject.

10.  Make sure everyone is fed and rested.  There is nothing worse than having cranky people who are hungry and tired.  My same principle applies for adult photo sessions as with children.  Keep them short and sweet.

Happy people = Happy photos.

Have a great weekend.

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