Introduction - Portrait Photography is one of the most difficult forms of
photography for several reasons. Master photographer
Martin Wilmott offers 11 tips for taking spectacular portraits.
There are very few rules to portrait photography. The few rules there are
can be broken and still result in good images. What I have attempted to give you
here is some quick tips to hopefully help you to improve your image taking.
I wish you the best of luck on your future picture taking and hope we can talk
again at some time in the future!
- Make it Personal - When photographing people involve something that makes it
more personal and about that individual. One of my favorite images shows a
little girl in what is to her a very natural environment. Her grandfather breeds
and races pigeons and since she could walk she has helped him in the daily tasks
of cleaning and feeding them.
The photograph shows her with the pigeon on her lap as she feeds it peanuts. I
always look to try and capture images that tell stories and capture a little bit
of the true spirit of the person being photographed making it so much more
- Have Fun - False smiles are hideous and should be banned. Asking someone to
smile or say cheese is a last resort. If you want natural smiles and laughs you
need to create things for people to smile or laugh about. Personally I much
prefer images with people laughing out loud to a posed straightforward Victorian
- Always be Ready - always remember a certain portrait session. I had been
photographing a family on the beach. The little girl decided she wanted to climb
onto a small pier that led out to sea.
Luckily I had my camera out and managed to capture a few frames as she crawled
along. Had I attempted to set this image up there are a million things that
would have got in the way. As luck had it everything went right and a fantastic
image was captured.
- Get in close - Donít be afraid to get in close and clip the tip of peoples
heads out of the frame. Very often it helps the image, giving it a more dramatic
approach. If your camera doesnít have a zoom facility then move closer
- Take Photographs Outside - You will get far far better images of young
children if you allow them to play. As long as you pick a safe area you can let
them run loose and do as they wish leaving you free to concentrate on capturing
some magical moments.
In my portrait business I take 98% of my images outside. I know this works as I
continually receive more and more referral business from happy clients who
recognize the joy and happiness in their child's expressions.
- Catch people unawares - Very often the best images are when people don't
realize they are having their photograph taken. I recently shot a portrait
session in London of a young couple. The girl had large ties to a market and
wanted some atmospheric images. However her partner wasnít keen to be
photographed in public. I solved the problem by using a long lens and
concentrated on capturing some totally natural images as they were walking
around the market.
- Change the angle you are shooting from - I always have a change of clothes
with me when I am on a shoot because I tend to end up covered in mud. Donít be
afraid to lay on the ground. You will be rewarded by the images you take.
- Capture natural reaction - Encourage people to react normally as they would
every day. One of the joys of my job is taking images of new mums and their
babies. I know if I ask mum to get in close to the baby nine times out of ten I
will get a totally natural reaction as the baby and mother react to each other.
All that is needed is for me to them judge the right time and capture the image.
I find if you ask people to get closer than they would normally do it will cause
them to laugh. However this is not the case with teenagers as they see it as
un-cool to like brothers and sisters so with this age group different approaches
- Consider your background very carefully - The background is as important as
the subject you are photographing. Ensure it is pleasing to the eye without
distracting away from the image. Some colors are worth avoiding. Red for example
will trigger the eye to look at it immediately and drag attention away from the
People far cleverer than me have attempted to explain why (something to do with
it being natureís danger color). The best thing to do when lining up your
photograph is to avoid red altogether.
- Practice - You can read a million books and visit every website on the planet
but I believe there is no substitute to actually doing something and learning by
I personally run training days for people who like yourself just want to have a
go at a new style of image making. The people who attend have various skill
levels but as I place the emphasis on being as low tech as possible they are of
use for everybody from the amateur through to the seasoned professional.
- Be different - Try and do something out of the ordinary. Use your imagination
to create images that stand out. If everyone else does a top ten do a top
eleven, it will bring more interest guaranteed because it is out of the
About the Author:
Martin Wilmott is a highly successful lifestyle photographer based in the UK who
undertakes work all over the world. People with an interest in portrait
photography can sign up for his free online course at
Martin also runs regular portrait classes for people with an interest in his
style of work.
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