10 Tips to Elevate Your Portrait Photography


i, I'm Jason Bush, aka Preppyman! I'm a Detroit photographer who specializes in portrait, headshot, and fashion photography and services clients from around the world. I create magazine-quality photos for everyday people.

When looking to help your clients celebrate, influence, inspire, sell, or connect, you need to execute your clients' creative vision while adding your own flair. I have put together my top ten tips to help you elevate your portrait photography experience.

Tip 1: Get to Know Your Subject

This first tip is super important. Take the time to get to know your subject before the shoot. This means having an introduction call, a questionnaire, or meeting them in person. The more you can get to know your subject before their session, the better you will know their style, their vision of the session, and what they are comfortable with doing and not doing.

Photography can be overwhelming and a little scary for some people. Understanding their personality will create a more natural and relaxed atmosphere during the shoot.

Tip 2: Communicate with Your Subject

Some people will naturally move like models and may not need guidance. For the majority of your subjects, they will need some guidance on what looks good with their body or how extreme you want to get with their vision. Good communication with your subject is essential for capturing natural and relaxed expressions. Give them clear instructions and make them feel comfortable during the shoot. Encouraging words, example poses, and a few Yas Queen's go a long way!

Tip 3: Treat Light as Your Friend

Light is a very useful tool for photographers. Learn where to use it, where there shouldn’t be any, and how to shape it. In portrait and headshot photography, lighting the face is popular. In fashion photography, shaping light around the product or apparel makes the focus on the item more than the person wearing or holding it. Pick what you want to focus on in the photo and play around with light.

Once you master where to use light and how to shape light, you will instantly elevate your portrait photography and start to stand out from others' work.

Tip 4: Pay Attention to Composition

The composition of a portrait can make or break the shot. Make sure to pay attention to the rule of thirds and use negative space to create a sense of balance in the image. The traditional rule of thirds is a guideline that places your subject in the left or right third of an image, leaving the other two-thirds open.

In the image below, I have my subjects in the top two-thirds, leaving the bottom third open. The negative space and contrast in color bring the stairs and the umbrella into the shot as their own props, adding a dramatic effect to a traditional couple pose.

Tip 5: Experiment with Different Angles

When just starting out, portrait and headshot photographers tend to stay safe and shoot their subjects head-on. Once comfortable doing that, experiment with different angles to add interest to your portraits. Try shooting from above or below your subject, or from a side angle. Use their body and natural features to play around with different positions. Surprise yourself with how creative you can get.

Tip 6: Focus on the Eyes

The eyes are the most important part of a portrait, as they are the windows to the soul. Make sure to focus on the eyes to ensure a sharp and clear image. The white of the eye should be visible, the color of the eyes should pop, and a reflection is a bonus.

Tip 7: Use Props

Props aren't just for product photography. Props can be a great way to add interest to a portrait and help convey a message or tell a story. Grab a fruit, a hat, or a rope and try a few poses!

Tip 8: Shoot, Shoot, Shoot

The more you shoot, the better you will become at portrait photography. Take the time to experiment with different techniques, focus, and settings. Most importantly, re-visit your work later, recognize your growth, and learn from your mistakes. It's better to overshoot and get a few perfect shots than undershoot and miss the potential.

Tip 9: Don't Forget Post-Processing

Post-processing can make a huge difference in the final outcome of a portrait. Take the time to learn how to use editing software and adjust color, contrast, and other settings to enhance your portrait.

Tip 10: Be Creative

Don't be afraid to be creative, try new things, and break some rules along the way. Experiment with different poses, locations, and props to create unique and interesting portraits. Look for inspiration in other photographers' work, and don't be afraid to push the boundaries and try something new.

Bonus Tip: Use CloudSpot for Portrait Photography Galleries

Hopefully, those ten tips will help you elevate your portrait photography! Last bonus tip - When sending your photos to your clients, use CloudSpot as your online gallery service! I started using CloudSpot to send my final images to my clients and my clients are absolutely loving it. I am able to set up folders to organize the images, create client Mobile Apps for easy social media sharing, and customize each gallery for each of my clients. Below, you'll see an example gallery that I sent to a recent subject of mine. It's a clean and professional way to get your portrait photography to your clients for easy downloads!

Now, get out there and shoot, shoot, shoot! To read more about me or see more of my work, visit my website.