Portrait Photography Magic – How to Make People Look Their Best


People often ask if you can make them look younger or thinner when you take their photograph. They are usually joking, but it it’s actually quite easy to make people look a lot better in photographs if you know some simple tricks. Altering portrait photographs in photo-editing software is a controversial subject, and many people believe it shouldn’t be used so commonly. A skilled photographer can use camera techniques to make people look their best, and little or no work is needed in the digital darkroom.

The following are simple ways to make sure a person looks their best when you take their portrait.

1)    Appropriate lighting.

Direct lighting such as sunlight and on-camera flash is not the ideal way to light a flattering portrait. Shadows can accentuate features and deepen eye sockets, and harsh lighting shows every blemish on the skin. For flattering pictures, choose diffused or reflected light. Shooting outdoors on an overcast day is a great way to find natural light which is ideal for portrait pictures. If using artificial lights, always soften them with diffusers or bounce their light off the walls or ceiling.


2)    Appropriate lens.

Wide-angle lenses will exaggerate features and should not be used for close-up portraits. Zoom lenses are great for taking portrait photographs, but keep within a range of 50mm to 100mm. A good quality prime lens of at least 35mm is the ideal tool for the portrait photographer, allowing you to keep a comfortable distance from your subject and fill the frame with their face.

3)    Flattering clothing.

What your subject wears is usually their own choice, but as a photographer you can advise them as to what will look best. Dark clothing generally gives a more slimming look, and is flattering to larger subjects. Stripes and bold patterns can make people look heavier than they are, and are usually best avoided. Attention to detail is important when dressing for a portrait photograph as every crease and mark will be picked up by the camera.

4)    Shoot from a low angle.

Your subject will love you if you get this right. Shooting from a low angle makes people look taller and thinner. If your subject is standing up, you should aim to shoot upwards from their waist level. Keep a reasonable distance back, and check the background before taking the shot.


5)    Pose for the best effect.

Advising your subject about how to pose is another easy way to ensure they look their best in a picture. Some people joke about wanting to be photographed from their best side, but there’s actually some truth in this belief. Most people have something they don’t like about their body, and choosing an appropriate pose can help to hide this. For example, some ladies are very conscious about having slightly chunky arms. Shooting a head and shoulders shot, or posing them in a way that their arms aren’t prominent can overcome this issue.

6)    Use basic photo-editing for enhancement.

Many people are against the idea of enhancing portraits using photo-editing software, but some simple techniques will ensure your subject looks their very best. Everyone has some blemishes on their skin, and these can easily be removed. Whitening eyes and teeth is a quick and easy way to bring a portrait photograph to life. The key when making enhancements in the digital darkroom is to ensure that shots still look natural.

Using these simple techniques can turn an ordinary picture into a stunning portrait your subject will really thank you for.

By: Jillian Hayes (aka AtlCanonGirl)
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One Hour Photo is a weekly radio show that is on live every Wednesday at 1 p.m. est. on www.ArmadaFM.com

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