Shoot what sells (and a little of what you love, too)

There’s not always an overlap between what you want to shoot and what your client will buy. As always in life and business, there’s a compromise to make. Imagine a Venn diagram, with ‘what you love to shoot’ in one circle, and ‘what sells’ in the other. I know of many full-time portrait photographers who prefer nothing more than shooting landscapes and wildlife. Unfortunately, they struggled to make a living from them, so they capture portraits as their main source …

Flattering Faces: Broad and Narrow Lighting

Different face shapes benefit from different lighting patterns. Read on to find out how to slim down a wide face or fill out a narrow one by changing just small thing – the angle of your subject’s nose relative to your main light. According to the people who measure these things, there are seven basic face shapes: oval, round, square, diamond, heart, pear and oblong. For our purposes, however, we’ll use a shape sorter with just two categories. The first …

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 …

A Portrait of Two Halves

When Liv and Hannah turned up in opposite-coloured tops I had to adapt from my usual tendency towards portraits with narrow tonal ranges. Getting forced out of your usual habits can result in some of your most creative images, so use it as an opportunity to experiment. When all else fails, you can always exaggerate differences for creative impact. Liv and Hannah came into my studio as part of a project for MasteringPortraitPhotography.com. I prefer harmonious colour palettes when it …

High Key Striplight Portrait

Can you shoot a pale subject on a pale background? Yes, you can, if you control your lights. Here’s how I used strip lights for this studio portrait of Lizzie. A fair-skinned subject in a white top on a white background? Common portrait wisdom states that it shouldn’t be done, but I disagree. White-on-white fails when you throw uncontrolled light all over the scene, losing shadow, definition and detail. Instead, control your lights and your exposure carefully for a high …

Dealing With Reluctant Subjects

Pauline walked into my studio and declared, “I don’t know why I’m here”. This is how I responded, and how it led to me creating one of my best-known images. I create images for our local espresso bar, Little Italy, who use them in their advertising. In lieu of payment, they display my portraits in their customer seating area. This is mutually beneficial, as they get free photography, and their customers get regular exposure to my work. Relationships like these …

Using Your Subject’s Natural Stance

People need direction in front of the camera – otherwise they often become self-conscious and suddenly forget how they would sit or stand in a relaxed manner normally. So how do I pose them without making them look all… posed? Glen got in contact with us because he wanted some portraits to give to his nan. He has quite a dark skin tone, and arrived in this dark suit, which made me very happy because I love portraits that combine …

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, … To get access, you need to first be a registered member and then head over …

A Portrait With A Prop

I don’t often bring props into my portraits: they have to be there for a reason. In this case, the prop belonged to my subject, and it was the perfect way of visually revealing a little about the man himself. This is Alex McAleer, who is better known as ‘Alex The Mind Reader’. I photographed him as part of the Champions of Magic series. His shoot in our studio is the reason why we have a signed playing card stuck …

Aiming For The Lens

My high risk strategy for getting young James to look directly down my camera lens (and why safer alternatives are a good bet for engaging portraits, too) To get this shot, I challenged James to throw one of his marbles and land it inside my lens hood. He thought this was very funny and set about the task with enthusiasm. This gave me plenty of opportunities to capture the right moment just as a marble went airborne. I happily acknowledge …