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4 Killer Tips To Nail Your Next Portrait Shoot

If you’re a portrait photographer perhaps you’ve found yourself in the position of carrying bulky, heavy gear around. That’s unnecessary though. With these 4 easy tips you’ll be able to get the best results at your next portrait session without the hassle and the back pain afterwards.

Photo by Paul Faecks

Photo by Paul Faecks

These tips also help you save a fair amount of money that you can spend elsewhere (Perhaps on the 4k$ Zeiss Otus 85mm?) Just kidding, unless you’re rich you won’t be able to afford the Zeiss anyways…

TIP #1 Use the Diffusion Of Your Reflector As a Light source

I used to carry softboxes, strobes and heavy battery packs to every on-location shoot I had. Terrible mistake. Most reflectors come with a semi-transparent inner sheet of diffusion material (see image) that can be used to soften hard sunlight. The lighting that you are able to achieve using this diffusion material is nothing short of amazing and reflectors weigh and cost next to nothing so why not give it a shot at your next shoot?

To effectively use this technique though you’ve got to understand that as soon as you place the reflector between a light source (for example the sun) and your subject, the reflector basically becomes a light source. With that in mind you can manipulate the softness and direction of the light just as you could if it was a softbox or any other kind of light modifier. If you go completely crazy you can also use multiple reflectors to gain even more control over the lighting in your image. And there you have it:  professional looking lighting that can be achieved on a tight budget and without breaking your back.

Photo by Paul Faecks

Photo by Paul Faecks

If you want to get yourself a reflector: this one is my favorite because it can easily be operated without the help of an assistant.

TIP #2 Get Your Model Comfortable/Build Social Connections

Many photographers (including myself) have at some point made the mistake of focusing all their efforts and energy on getting a technically perfect image but they’re not taking communication with the model and the team seriously enough. Although you totally should! Many times facial expression and posing are just… awkward in amateur pictures and you, as the photographer, are to blame for that.

Try to figure out how to comfort your model, how to properly tell your subject how to pose and what to do to elevate your images to the next level. Also, by making friends and connecting with people you greatly improve your chances of getting hired because people will trust and like you more and will therefore be willing to pay you more.

Photo by Paul Faecks

Photo by Paul Faecks

TIP #3 Try Something Unusual

Our world is flooded with images of all kinds so if you just do what everyone else does, how are you going to stand out? If you want to be noticed you’ve got to develop creative ideas that are different from everything else. Unconventional ideas are often the best and have lead to some amazing pictures. So don’t be afraid to experiment with different camera angles, perspectives or an unusual lighting setup!

You’re the pilot in your own creative plane and you’re not restricted by rules or the standards of what is “normal” because “normal” images are great but they’ve been done dozens of times. I know, it’s extremely tough to follow the advice of “just doing something unusual” but why don’t you just try to portray the next crazy idea you have? Maybe your idea is so unique and awesome that it instantly goes viral. Who knows?

TIP #4 Go For the Eyes

Eyes are the single most important facial feature when it comes to portraiture. They allow everyone that’s looking at the image to connect with the subject and to see what the person might be feeling. You can use that knowledge to your advantage: Try to make the eyes stand out as much as possible.

Portraits in which the eyes are in deep shadow often look very dark and cold because the viewer isn’t able to build that connection with the subject. If that’s what you’re going for then go ahead, if you want the photo to look warm, friendly and engaging though you shouldn’t leave the eyes in deep shadow. Of course that’s a creative decision only you as the artist can make. To separate the eyes from the rest of the face even more you could use a shallow depth of field to blur everything except for the eyes.

Conclusion

Shooting great portraits is easier and it requires less expensive gear than one would think. Many times reflectors do the job just as good as a traditional softbox would while they’re way cheaper and lighter than the traditional approach. Being able to direct and pose your subject properly is a skill that is just as important as exposure or anything else.

It’s often underestimated and forgotten though. Another critical thing aspiring photographers have to fight with is trying to stand out to be different than everyone else because if almost every photographer is capable of taking the images you took, why would anyone book you instead of someone else? So be unique and offer a photographic service other photographers don’t offer!

What do you think about these tips? Is there anything you would want to add? Feel free to let me know in the comments.

All images (unless stated differently) belong to Paul Faecks and are exclusively used by photodoto with permission. Do not copy, modify or repost without the permission from Paul Faecks and photodoto!

Paul Faecks

Paul Faecks is a portrait- and fine art photographer, based in Berlin. If you want to check out his latest work, you can do so by following him on Instagram or by liking his Facebook Page

  • duhhhh
    im sorry the examples displayed here do not strike me as ” killers” at all

  • Michal Rosa

    4 Killer Tips To Nail Your Next Blog Post
    1) Use your head, try and come up with something original, do not recycle advise that has been given hundreds of times before.
    2) Build a social connection with your audience, engage them in dialogue. Don’t treat them like idiots.
    3) Try something unusual, don’t be just another useless blog.
    4) Go got real content.

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