Portrait Photography Tips

Five Tips that will Turn
Mom's Pictures on their Ear

Warning: The Portrait Photography Tips you're about to read aren't the ones your mom used.

Just for fun, let's take a look back at when you and I were kids (not that long ago for you, perhaps). In the world of portrait taking, it will feel like light years.

Think back to when you were 5 years old. Your mom would iron your best Sunday clothes adding spray starch and love, until they were crisp, pointy and scratchy around the shoulders.

She'd steer you to the big, beautiful, over-stuffed arm chair in the living room. The one with the busy, Persian-rug-style design. You know, that one you weren't allowed to sit in with your shoes on.

Then, with hands clasped neatly in your lap and head at attention, you'd hear mom's guiding words. "Okay, honey, smile for the camera."

Get Out of Your Old Photography Rut
Try a Fresh Approach

Birdie on Camera

You'd flash your biggest, brightest, toothiest smile. And mom would say. "Oh. There's something wrong. Just hold on … Hooooold still. . .justa a a a miiiiinute. Keeeeeeep smiling." … And then. Finally, in a click and a flash. You were done.

Off you'd go to peel off your Sunday duds and climb back into some decent play clothes.

Step Away from Complicated
Move Toward Simplicity

Fast forward to today. And there have been some improvements in the way of portrait photography tips that will liven up any photo portrait.

  1. Step outside the living room and into the light. Yes, you've heard this one before (on this site, even), but the point is worth repeating. Natural light (especially on a cloudy day) adds depth and enriches colors in a way flash just can't. So, whenever possible, use natural light for your photos.

  2. That leads us to #2, surrounding colors. Leave the overstuffed, Peruvian-Persian-Asian-tapestry-colored chair for dinner parties and formal events. It doesn't work for portraits. Those beautiful, meticulous patterns overpower the lovely face you're trying capture. And they leave the 5, 10 or 35+-year-old face looking ghostly and insignificant. The best backgrounds are simple, neutral and uncluttered.

  3. Let me make myself perfectly clear (as our now-infamous Watergate president used to say) the SIZE of the armchair your mom photographed you in all those years ago wasn't what made you look smallish. It was the camera angle.

    Chances are mom stood while you sat, and the result was a picture that looked down on you - making you look trivial and awkward at any age. The best angle for portrait pictures is just below the subject's eye level.

    So get down on one knee or sit right on the floor to get this pic. And your subject will look as big as life!

  4. Take Pictures Like A Pro
    in Two Simple Steps

    birdie on slr

  5. Not for the faint of heart, the finale to your list of portrait photography tips comes in two parts.

    • Part 1 is simple. Rather than having your subject look straight at the camera, have him tilt his head slightly to the right or left.

      This will add personality and intimacy to the photo… And if you're photographing a youngster, the Smile for Me Toys™ Birdie is just the tool you need to capture that quizzical, smiling tilt.

    • Part 2 is the trickiest of all these portrait photography tips. Once you have your subject titling his head, be sure to leave space in the direction where his eyes are looking.

      In other words, if Jimmy is tilting his head to the right, his eyes will be looking left. And you want to leave that space open in your viewer.

      Soooo, you'll take the picture with Jimmy just to the right of center. The result is a very natural and compelling image.

    As always, practice and experiment with these portrait photography tips. Soon you'll be creating fantastic, original portraits you and mom can be proud of.

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