Helpful Tips for Capturing Authentic Portraits

Capturing someone's essence is more about the interaction between you and your subject than the technical aspects of your camera. People’s expressions and body language reveal their comfort level, which will significantly impact your photos.

Coming to you from Lotta Milde with B&H Photo and Video, this insightful video emphasizes the importance of making your subject comfortable. Milde shares that a significant part of portrait photography involves the photographer’s ability to connect with the subject. This is especially true with children, who are more transparent about their feelings. Earning their trust can lead to more open and natural expressions, enhancing your images.

Adults, while better at hiding discomfort, still reveal unease in subtle ways. Milde suggests that making yourself comfortable is equally important. Start your sessions with a warmup to ease both you and your subject into the shoot. This can make the first few minutes less intimidating and help capture some of the most relaxed and genuine shots.

Milde also touches on the psychology of compliments. While you might think praising your model will boost their confidence, it can sometimes make them more self-conscious. Instead, direct your positive comments toward elements like the lighting or background. This shift in focus can make your subject feel more at ease and less scrutinized.

Using prompts instead of poses is another effective technique. Milde highlights how prompts can elicit natural reactions and expressions. For couples, asking them to "act drunk and walk towards me" can lead to genuine, fun moments. For individual subjects, giving a simple math problem can capture a range of emotions from confusion to laughter.

Milde also advises on the use of depth of field. While a shallow depth of field can create beautiful, professional portraits, it’s important to consider your goals for each session. For group shots, using a higher aperture like f/5.6 ensures everyone is in focus while still achieving a pleasing bokeh effect in the background. Check out the video above for the full rundown from Milde.

If you would like to continue learning about the art of portraiture, be sure to check out our range of tutorials on the subject in the Fstoppers store.

Alex Cooke's picture

Alex Cooke is a Cleveland-based portrait, events, and landscape photographer. He holds an M.S. in Applied Mathematics and a doctorate in Music Composition. He is also an avid equestrian.

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