Free Tips for Taking Portrait

Long time ago I want to write an article about taking photo especially portrait but I always postpone it. Honestly I always like to learn by myself such as learning some information from internet, browsing some photos taken by other people, reviewing some photos I’ve taken and so on. The most important thing for me is “brave to accept the critique”, I know critique is very hard to be accepted (people usually will say something to defense (self -defense) and don’t care about the critique). I also feel bad when someone critique my photos, but honestly I learn a lot from critique rather than good comment. Of course I am happy to receive good comment such as “wonderful photo”, “excellent, I love it”, etc…. but I can’t learn more from it. The following tips I have collected during my journey in photography, I always take care the critique so I can learn and create these tips. I know these tips are not excellent, maybe also not good ~ but even it’s so ~ I still love to share what I have learned….

Please note that when I am saying that we must do this or avoid this or can’t shoot like this, etc ~ it’s only to make me easier writing this article.  These tips are just “general image”, we still can learn but not always to follow them. As I believe, “There is no absolute rule in photography”…..

1. Avoid to cut improperly.

It’s too obvious that cutting her leg (and her hand) ruin the photo.  Of course we can crop the photo but there will be many part of photo will be lost. Not only that but also change the composition too much.

2. Avoid to put the POI in the center (dead center).

Most of people like to put the focus in the center, then just click the shutter without thinking the composition. Previously I also like to put the focus in the center of the frame ~ most of them are not good in composition hehe… I have comparison between dead center composition vs rule of third composition, seems from the sample below I can said rule of third is better….

But as I notice previously, there is no absolute rule in photography…. I can give a good sample here…..

I place the model in the center of frame (instead of left side of the frame) but it still looked good (IMHO)…..

3. Avoid miss focus.

If you only see the photo above, you will think “good isolation, beautiful bokeh with nice focus” but if you see the detail as below maybe you will think “It’s a pity that I focus on her nose rather than her eye”.

As usual I shot more than one shot to avoid this happen in my photo. Be careful when using big aperture, when you miss the focus then it will ruin the whole image…. Getting wonderful bokeh is really nice thing but miss the focus is really pain…..

4. Think the frame before you click the shutter.

From the sample above you can see there are many option to shoot her (red rectangle is vertical framing and blue rectangle is horizontal framing). Maybe you say I can crop the photo in post processing so I don’t care about the framing. Well you can do that, but it will reduce the quality and size of the photo. In my opinion it’s better to frame the photo before click the shutter (not to do that in post processing).

5. Adjust the exposure properly.

Usually we always think about getting perfect exposure maybe not overexposed and also not underexposed ~  but in reality sometimes we can’t get it…..

Overexpose is really annoying, I lost many details on highlight part……

Underexpose is really annoying too, really not happy for this kind of result ^^

For those 2 sample photos I prefer the ideal/perfect exposure (with nice detail well exposed on the model). But sometimes perfect exposure doesn’t mean always better than over or under exposure. Sometimes I deliberately make the photos overexposed or underexposed ~ and I think it’s better than ideal exposure (sample as below).


6. Using reflector to fill in the subject.

I often to use reflector during photo session, it is very useful when I want to shoot model with no direct light (so we need to reflect it). As you can see from photo above, the light was blocked so we need to use reflector to reflect the light (red: source light, blue: reflected light).

I also have other sample (below), the same case here we need to use reflector to reflect the light…..

7. Using flash to fill in the subject.

Sometimes we need to fill in the subject by flash because the strong light behind (backlight).

As you can see that, I have lost detail on her face (too dark) ~ of course I can adjust the exposure but it will make the background too bright (over exposure). Reflector maybe can help but we must put the reflector near her (so maybe I only can shoot her face to avoid the reflector enter my frame). If I use flash to fill in the subject maybe it will be better….

Another good sample, taken with strong sunshine behind (without flash), as you can see it’s impossible to use reflector for this case except you want the reflector enter the frame….

Previously I’ve written “the way to use photoshop to fix backlight problem” (as I remember on that time I use camera without built in flash, and without external flash so I don’t know how to fill in the subject ^^), link click here.

Flash also useful for shooting portrait at night, I can give a sample if we shoot portrait at night (without flash) ~ lost detail on her face….

Pay more attention if we want to use flash to fill in the subject, avoid to cast shadow behind (as possible as you can)…. a sample if we don’t have attention on it…. a bit harsh flash and shadow cast hehe….

8. Thinking the composition before you shoot.

Almost the same with tips #4, but composition is more general than framing. You can see that with different angle produce different composition. In my opinion I like right photo maybe because of the slanted angle (not sure for the reason). The most important is you know the composition before you shoot, such as why I need to shoot like that… But sometimes when it comes to reality I don’t really think about the reason, I just think I like this composition then I shoot it hehe….

9. Keep your eyes everytime because sometimes the moment won’t come twice.

The same model, same pose, same composition, same lighting, same technique, just one second different but create different feeling and “taste” hehe…..

10. Keep practice, practice, practice and don’t forget to share what you have learned……

There is no other way to be good in shooting portrait except practice and practice, again and again….

Don’t forget also to share what you have learned ~ the good way to keep you move forward is make many competitors who can compete with you. By sharing what you have learned, you let other people learn ~ you make many people who can compete with you and thus you need to learn more (unless you want other people leap you). More you learn then more you share ^^.

I hope you like this article, comments are really appreciated….

It’s free to share my article ^^

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17 thoughts on “Free Tips for Taking Portrait

  1. Good tips. An interesting idea for a future post would be how to get started working with models, how to pose them, etc. Looks like there’s a lot of photographers shooting the same model in one of your photos =)

    • Thanks for the future idea ^^
      Yap, we usually shoot together (with other photographers). A bit different with photo session in USA which usually 1 by 1….

  2. saya suka karya2 mas edwin. wonderful..
    tajam dan bokeh.
    saya sedang mendalami “kembali” seni fotografi yg sempat saya tinggalkan 1 tahun belakangan.
    melihat karya2 mas edwin, saya semakin semangat belajar. mudah2an suatu saat nanti bisa menghasilkan foto2 seperti karya mas.

    makasih sharingnya diatas, salam perkenalan.. 🙂

    • Makasih bro…..
      Harus tetep semangat, terus berlatih dan berlatih pasti juga bisa menghasilkan foto2 yang bagus….
      Salam perkenalan jg ya hehe…

  3. Pingback: What to do if your models are not good enough ? « Just about Photography

  4. I am reading your blogs man because it helps me a lot in my struggle to become a “PRO”.Keep it up!

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