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How to Create Portrait Photography That Reveals Real Life

friday 11 august 2017, 16:32 by | 1,091 views | 0 comments

It's said that in a portrait, you'll see the history of an entire life. That in the best ones, you'll see secrets only a camera can reveal. Like any other kind of artist, portrait photographers are idealists, constantly seeking that shot which reveals fundamental truths about our subject.

But in the pursuit of perfection, it's small details, easily forgotten, that can snare and trip us up. In our mind's eye, we clearly see exactly the photo that we want to take.

But when we look at the results, we may find that the light was slightly off, the pose was awkward, or the image just lacks that certain unnameable quality to make it as stunning as we had hoped.

In our relentless pursuit, we spend countless hours in a trial-and-error process to find the techniques that will work best for us. But why reinvent the wheel?

There are experienced photographers who are happy to share their knowledge and to offer valuable portrait photography tips to help you. It may surprise you to learn that one of the most helpful portrait photography tips involves building your identity.


What sort of portrait photographer are you, really? Do you love the gritty realism of street photography, or do you prefer the artistry of clever props and poses?

That decision will form the skills necessary for your craft. Learning about the experiences of great photographers can help you, and these are quite easy to access.

You can find some great reflections in The Professional Portrait Photographers' Collective, a collection of interviews with 10 different professional portrait photographers, each with his or her own unique experience.

You can learn from Brian Higbee's experience in taking portraits for Hollywood, Catie Laffoon's celebration of her love of music through portrait photography, and learn the ways in which the study of art history can enhance your own sense of identity from Erik Madigan Heck.


You might also want to check out Don Giannatti's Ebook The Heart of Portraiture, in which he shares his valuable experience, examples and insights. After reading about these portrait photographers and the experiences that have shaped them, you will have a much better understanding of the profession of portrait photography and your own place within it.

After encountering some stories and examples, you may be inspired to pursue the uniquely authentic craft of street photography. This work is definitely not for the faint of heart! In some locations, you are legally required to get the permission of your subject before photographing him or her.

It can be tricky to balance that requirement with the authenticity which makes this form of art so compelling. Taking photos of strangers you meet on the street can feel like an invasion of their privacy, but the results are well worth it.

Paradoxically, true success in street art lies in posing your subjects in such a way that they appear unposed.. As you can see, there is a lot of agonizing and inner conflict inherent in this medium. After all, nothing great ever comes easily!

If you have a passion for street photography but feel overwhelmed by the task, you may benefit from a step-by-step guide like Street Faces: How To Shoot Street Photography Portraiture. Successful street photographer Thomas Leuthrad offers his priceless insights and knowledge on this unique and authentic photography medium.


No matter what your niche is, you will find that apparently trivial details have the power to dramatically affect the quality of your portrait photography. From posing your models to the kind of light you use, every little decision impacts the final product.

It's easy to forget many of these small but necessary details. For example, have you given much thought to posing models' hands? It might seem unimportant, but if your model does not know what to do with her hands during a shoot, it can transform a beautiful portrait to an awkward one.

Unfortunately, many portrait photographers don't realize the price they pay for this neglect until the shoot is over and they look at the finished portraits. Then they see that their model looked great, but held her hands in a way that appears awkward and unattractive. You can save yourself a lot of time and effort by taking advantage of a guide on posing models, such as the Portrait Guide to Posing Women's Hands.


Another detail that you might not have considered is flash photography. Some portrait photographers stick with natural light so that they don't have to worry about fussing with flash. If you're ignoring the artistic opportunities available via many different kinds of light, then you're not meeting your full potential as a professional portrait photographer.

Check out the Essential Guide To Learning Flash Portrait Photography for portrait photography tips about different kinds of light and the functions on your camera that are best suited to get the most out of them.

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If you love the art of portrait photography, it's worth it to take the time to learn a few valuable portrait photography tips. In the long run, this will save you wasted time in the form of months or even years of trial and error.

This article is an guest post by PhotoWhoa.


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Elja Trum

Portrait Academy; improve your portrait photography

Would you like to take better portraits? At Portrait Academy all we focus on are tips and tricks to create better portraits. Portrait Academy was founded by Elja Trum and Michael van Helden. The articles are written by us and by other bloggers. If you would like to help by adding your voice to Portrait Academy please contact us.
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