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Improve your portraits in five easy tips. Photography blog by Anastasia Jobson Photography

5 Simple tips to Improve your Portraits Instantly

Whether you’re a photographer or a model, you want your portfolio to be brimming with stunning shots, drawing your potential clients in instantly and leaving lasting impression, right? Today I will teach you how you can improve your portraits instantly and turn average shots into awesome, portfolio worthy photos in seconds!

I’m a photographer, I know the feeling of having a contact sheet with a variety of cool dynamic images after a shoot, but having this weird feeling that something is still missing…

5 simple ways to improve your portraits instantly:

CONNECTION

Have you ever wondered why, as you’re looking at a photo it draws you in, so you can’t take your eyes off of it? Simple! It’s a connection.

Normally we look a person in the eyes, to get to know them. It works exactly the same in photography: having an eye contact with a subject in the frame subconsciously makes you stop scrolling and get to know them. How simple and amazing is that?

How can you do this? Simple, ask your model to just STARE into the camera lens. “Mirror mirror on the wall, Who’s the fairest of them all…” That’s it, the secret is revealed! Let’s move on!

RELAXED FACE

Believe me, it’s easier said than done! Relaxing your face involves releasing tension in a number of muscles on your face: forehead, eyes, lips, jaw and much more.

If it sounds way too complicated, start small.
Rule number 1: NO POUTING! This one should be pretty easy right?
Rule number 2: Exhale with your mouth. Try to avoid using your lips too much; we are not blowing candles on a birthday cake here! Remember, it’s only for you to relax a tad more.

Practice makes perfect. Don’t get frustrated right away; the results will be truly rewarding!

Gentle hands are a crucial component to improve your portraits instantly
Left: Ballet dancer Riana Desager
Right: Abi Fulbrook

GENTLE HANDS

Think ‘natural’ and relaxed. So many times I see women have their hands very stiff when it comes to posing them.

A simple pose where you gently place your hands on your shoulders or cheeks, often ends up huge claws, grabbing the flesh and pressing into the skin… It’s not flattering. AT ALL. It also looks painful.

When in doubt, do “ballet hands”. Have you ever noticed how graceful dancers’ hands are? Yes, I understand it’s part of the technique ballet dancers practice for years and years. You can at least imitate it, it doesn’t require years of preparation and you can do it in seconds! Stretch your middle finger and drop it a few levels lower than the rest of your fingers… Straight away your hands will look 10 times more delicate and nice to look at.

Voila!

WORK FOR THE LIGHT

When you are working with a single light source always think of the shadow it’s casting. A simple example would be light from the ceiling, it generally gives you huge circles underneath your eyes – ‘racoon eyes’. We don’t want it in the photos! What we DO want is the closest we can get to a flawless, shadowless light on a model’s face. ‘Cause let’s be honest, shadows can often be distracting and they also take away from an image.

You can get beautiful atmospheric portraits using only one light. The trick with it is position your model correctly, so the result is both flattering and interesting to look at.

Here is a good learning technique:
When you are posing a model, start off by positioning the light source right in front of them. Then little by little, move the light around your model in a circle, noticing how the shadows on the face are moving along with the light.

If in doubt, go for Rembrandt style lighting. It’s 45 degrees to the side and 45 degrees above your model’s face. Just make sure your model is facing the light, or just a side of their face is facing the light.

If you are working with a spotlight, tell your model to look up with their face (chin up) and maybe a little bit to the side. Play with it and try different variations to avoid “racoon eyes”.

POSING

It’s a no brainer! For me the biggest and the most important element of a great photo is POSING.

Let’s break it down, what is excellent posing!

Always think about your POSTURE. Keep your back straight. A simple shoulder roll will do the trick. Just make sure you keep your shoulders in the back, really pushing your shoulder blades together.

If you want to go a step further, arch your back. It might feel too much in the moment, but believe me, it looks great in photos! If you’re thinking extravagant fashion poses (Vogue magazine inspired): keep your shoulders back and upper back straight and go ahead bend your lower back.

TWIST your body. When you’re having a close up portrait or a headshot done, try twisting your body slightly with your upper body towards camera. It will make your waist and shoulders appear smaller and will give an extra dimension to your shoulders.

Learn more about posing in my other blog post: THE BEST POSES FOR A PHOTOSHOOT

This is it for today. Hope you find this post useful. Let me know if you know any other tips on how to improve you portraits instantly, I would love to hear them!

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