Turning Props Into Fresh Portrait Ideas

When Grace’s mum turned up at my studio with her daughter’s name in big fabric letters, an idea started to form… Follow my thought process and find out how I turned it into a reality. Grace is the daughter of one of the couples whose wedding I photographed previously, Amy and Jonny. When they came in, Amy mentioned she had brought some props but nothing quite prepared me for the soft, fabric letters spelling out her name! I’m not normally …

Searching For Giants

Making your shoots fun for your subjects is key to getting memorable portraits. This image was the final shot of the day and the result of a playful interaction. The shoot with George and his parents was over, and we were walking back to the studio. I had plenty of shots already, but then we passed a church with a huge door. An image formed in my mind. Note: to create the sense of height in the doors, I lay …

Kai With His Skateboard

Simple is often best. A patch of daylight on a simple brick wall is all I needed to create this portrait. Oh, and the coolest kid on the block as my subject. Kai is very cool, very photogenic and completely at ease in front of the camera. I’ve photographed him a few times, and knew how relaxed he would be during this shoot. I asked him to bring his skateboard, and loved how it was nearly as big as him! …

A Crouch To Suit The Composition

I invited Steve into the studio so I could create some portraits for our book, Mastering Portrait Photography. I was specifically looking to capture portraits that illustrated different angles for photographing guys. Steve turned up wearing jeans and a jacket, so I wanted a pose that worked well with that combination. This crouch is quite striking and masculine while still being relaxed and informal, which is in line with his outfit. I particularly like a crouch as it allows for …

Telling Stories with Composition

Shooting families with young children? Accompanying everyone on a walk allows you to capture relaxed shots like this one, with everyone being themselves and interacting naturally. It also means you are likely to end up getting muddy… Twiggy, mud-splattered clothing is now an expected part of my appearance after an outdoor shoot. I spend a high proportion of my working day lying on my stomach, trying to get the lowest angle possible. In a portrait like this one, a low …

Four Ways To Crop A Portrait

To crop, or not to crop? For all portraits other than full-length ones, you have to decide whereabouts on your subject’s body to place the edge of the frame. There are a few places where cropping is fine, and a few you should always avoid. The nice thing about working on location is that, more often than not, you can create numerous images out of one spot, and make them look very different simply by changing your crop. I photographed …

Who ‘Nose’ The Rules?

The ‘nose room’ rule & ‘cheekline’ rule are are rules about noses in portraits that you need to know, even if you decide to break them to create visual tension. I had just finished a shoot with Ryan and his sisters in a wood on his farm. We were walking back when I saw this caravan and thought it would look make an interesting background for a portrait. So I asked Ryan to sit on the wooden pallet – a …

Portrait Blocks & Stabilisers

Why you need wider shots to help you sell wall portraits, and how to place elements in your composition so they are either visual blocks or stabilisers. This kind of portrait works well on the wall. My subject, Emma, isn’t so close up that the picture would feel overwhelming at a larger scale. The mood of the picture is calm and relaxing, and the environment surrounding Emma is beautiful in itself. If you’re selling prints then bigger is better, so …

Farmhouse Rule-Of-Thirds Portrait

Sometimes the best portraits start unplanned – in this case, during a shoot break. I saw a patch of light, adjusted the scene to improve the composition and used the Rule of Thirds for a visually pleasing result. My client for this shoot commissioned me to create some portraits of their two grownup children, at their beautiful farmhouse home on the top of a hill in the Chilterns. As you’d expect, we spent loads of time outside, making the most …

Location Scouting & Cloud Cover

We had a tight brief for this portrait. Here’s how playing games, careful location scouting & controlling diffused daylight all played a part in its creation. This image was commissioned to promote a local beer festival. The brief was very specific: they wanted a red-headed girl playing hopscotch, to be used in a very tall, thin format (you can see the final ad below). If there’s one thing kids love, it’s playing games. Especially when those games involve movement. Enter …