3 Tips for Better Portrait Photos

By Loura Lawrence with developingfocus.com

Portrait photography is an important part of the art of photography. A relative who recently had portraits done, featured the photographer’s gallery on a social media page. I love good portraits and I am always interested in other photographer’s work. Plus I just like looking at pretty pictures. So I browsed through the gallery.

This photographer had fantastic architectural and landscape images — photos I only dream about making some day. They were colorful, artistic, and stunning which is why I was surprised when I saw the photographer’s portrait photos. Apparently, this was a new field for this photographer, but the portraits could have been made much better by following these 3 tips for better portrait photos.

1. Get closer!

Unless having the subject in the background is what you are going for style-wise, it is a good idea to take a few steps closer in order to isolate your subject. However, if you do want to include the background, just take a couple of steps back. This is the first tip you need to consider when it comes to good portraits.

This photo could be made even better by stepping closer, or cropping the distracting blanket.
Including the background tells a very different story from the first picture!

2. Try for Natural Light

Making better portrait photos is all about lighting, and people just look better in natural sunshine. Taking photos outside or near a sunny window will typically result in better portrait photos, than relying on the light of a lamp or a typical straight-on camera flash. Professional photo studios use all kinds of flashes, reflectors and lighting tools in an attempt to re-create natural light indoors.

3. Framing is Essential

Framing helps direct a viewer’s eye towards the subject to be photographed. The most commonly used frames are trees, windows or even buildings. Good portrait photos require some attention in regard to framing, so keep this in mind.

IMG_3204_1a
The grasses on the foreground, lead the viewer’s eye to the people on the bridge.
Here, the playground equipment frames the couple.
Artificial frames can also be added later in photo retouching software, such as this vignette.

To summarize, these are the 3 tips for better portrait photography that you can use to make stunning portrait photos. Remember that photography tells a visual story. Good portrait photography should tell the story of the person whose photos are being taken. Backgrounds and props can be important, as they add to the sense of the subject’s story, personality and style. These elements should be balanced with full-framed photos of the subject as well.

View more of our portraits here: Developing Focus Portraits

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Create Soft Portraits with Hairspray Tutorial

By Loura Lawrence at www.developingfocus.com

Back in the day–11 years ago–digital photography was just starting to become popular.

Add a soft touch to portraits--with hairspray.
Add a soft touch to portraits–with hairspray.

When I went to school, we still used slide film and manual 35mm cameras (I went to Ohio University in Athens where we also had to walk uphill both ways in the snow.).

Anyway, this is a short tutorial on how to create soft portraits with hairspray, so let me tell you how this product photo of perfume was made. Nowadays, you can simply add a layer of Gaussian blur in Adobe photoshop to get that softened look. It’s a great tool for portraits.

Before photo editing software however, what I did was take a basic screw-on filter (like a UV filter), and spray it with hairspray* (it washed off with soap and water). Once dry, I put it on the end of my lens, and voila!

*Caution: If you try this, please be sure to spray your filter far enough away from your camera!

To sum up, this is how you can create soft portraits with hairspray – a simple, yet creative technique that delivers the most gorgeous results.

Art of the Tag

"Yellow Flower"
“Yellow Flower”

I have several online shops featuring my artwork and designs. Last week, I was going through one of them and tweaking things here and there when I made a shocking discovery.

My tags were terrible! This particular website had been up for two years (with very little traffic), and I had learned from other, previous sites, that if you want people to see your stuff, it is imperative to tag/keyword your items, posts, website, etc. Previously, I had never bothered to tag things because all I knew about a “tag” was that it traditionally hung from pillows and clothing. So a year went by and I learned to tag, but not how to tag.

For a photo of a yellow flower, I had tags/keywords like “yellow”, “flower”, “August”, and “summer”. While not “bad” per se, these tags were way too generic. My items were getting lost in the wild jungle that is the internet. I also had not added enough tags out of sheer laziness and hatred of tagging.

No wonder I wasn’t getting any traffic! SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is partly the art of tagging things in such a way that Google (or some other search engine) can find and present your items to the person searching for certain “key” terms. Better tags for my photo would have been “yellow flower”, “summer flower”, and “macro photography”.

There is an art to tagging, which I have not yet mastered. You don’t want to spam your items by adding a bunch of tags that don’t apply in an attempt to drive traffic to it. You do that, and Google will ignore you. You do want to bust out a Thesaurus to help you identify different terms a person might call your item. For example, some of my photographed flowers have over twenty common names! And yes, I learned to try to find each name and use them all.

After an entire day and night of redoing the tags on just 32 photos (I did research this time on what tags to use for the kinds of items I had), the payoff was almost immediate. In just a few days’ time, my traffic increased noticeably.

Now I just need to tag 200-300 more photos. What I wouldn’t give for an assistant!