Portrait Photographers: Don't Make This Mistake

It’s a simple tip, but rewards you with more compelling images. Are you paying close enough attention to the details?

In this two-minute video from David Bergman for Adorama, he breaks down one of the fundamentals for photography: the light. Of course you need any sort of light to make photos, but it’s also critically important to pay attention to the areas of brightness and darkness in order to convey what you’re trying to say in an image.

The reason for this is our eyes tend to be drawn towards the lightest areas of an image first, as well as areas of high contrast. Bergman uses the example of photographing a woman in a white top against a black background. If the photo is supposed to be about the model, this is not going to work because the top is far too distracting.

There are a few different ways to deal with this, such as either asking the model to wear something darker, shooting against a lighter background to reduce the contrast against the garment, or modifying the light source to accentuate the face and not so much the clothing.

Check out the video above to get all the tips Bergman shares and start creating better portraits today.

Log in or register to post comments


Or use a white backdrop with the white blouse.

The eye is drawn to contrast. So with a white shirt on a white background the eye will be drawn to the face as that is the point of contrast. Put a small black dot on a white sheet of paper and ask people what they see. They will all see the black dot and not the white sheet of paper.

One point about the video, asking your subject to change is not always an option. Another option for David was to flag the light off the white shirt.

Ansel Spear's picture

OK, thanks. Unless I missed it, the video explanation specifically said that the eye is drawn to the brightest part of the image first. Therefore I wondered why shooting a head and shoulder shot on an all-white set was going to achieve the desired point of interest.

Antti Mutka's picture

If the eyes are amazing, it really doesn't matter much whats the person is wearing and on what background.

barry cash's picture

I would ask the model to step to the side of the light so feathering the light fixes the point of interest.