5 Portrait Photography Tips


Capture the Context

The opposite approach to Richard Avedon's spare, close-up technique is something called environmental portraiture. In this type of portrait, your subject only tells half the story; the rest of the details are supplied by a vivid sense of place [source: Caputo].

The setting should be someplace intimately familiar to the subject. It could be as simple as his or her home, kitchen or bedroom. Think of a portrait of a teenager sitting on his bed, framed by the relics of childhood (action figures, trophies) and the signs of emerging adulthood (computer, music posters). Or it can be a workplace. Imagine a shot of a football coach on the playing field, the bright green turf below and empty stands rising behind him.

If you don't know the subject very well, ask them to take you to one of their favorite places. It doesn't have to be a bucolic outdoor setting. It could be a favorite taco stand or a retro arcade. This is a great way to make your subject comfortable and capture them in an atmosphere that matches their personality.

Next we'll reveal a simple lighting technique that separates the amateurs from the pros.