Post & Photo by Joe Farace – Follow Joe on Twitter

You’ve heard me say it before but I still think that communication is the most important aspect of portrait photography, especially for posing. That dialog may begin with the initial client contact and then moves onto all of the communication during a session. To make the best possible portrait, you need to start before a subject arrives at your studio or location. A few simple tips suggested to subjects can make their session go better, and help them enjoy the portraits produced during of the session, which hopefully translates into higher sales.

One of the most important things I always (and I mean always) suggest is that the subject’s wear solid colors. No prints, plaid, or especially checks. (Unless I’m going for some kind of retro look.) Nothing detracts from a subject’s face more than clothes covered in busy patterns and prints. I tell clients that the time to wear these kinds of clothes is for fun, not during a portrait session when the emphasis should be on the their face.

But this is real life isn’t it? And things don’t always go as planned. Although you might prefer that a portrait subject bring solid colors to a shoot, that doesn’t always happen out here in the real world, so for the portrait above left, I got in close and suggested this hands-on-face pose that accentuated Kimber’s smile. A Flashpoint II monolight with 64-inch FlashPoint umbrella is set up as the main light with another Flashpoint monolight with a 28 x 28-inch PZ softbox used as a sidelight (at camera left) and slightly to the rear of the subject. Exposure with Canon EOS 5D with EF 85mm f/1.8 USM lens was 1/125 sec at f/5.6 and ISO 100.

Cropping tightly helped the portrait somewhat but it won’t always work to minimize the busy pattern of a subject’s clothing. Because of that, I switched the camera into Monochrome mode and tried a complete different pose creating a totally different look using the almost identical lighting setup. Exposure was 1/125 sec at f/5.6 and ISO 100. It’s not a prefect solution but it is one possible solution, when the session doesn’t quite go as planned.

Joe Farace is the author of “Studio Lighting Anywhere” the second book in a trilogy on portrait and glamour photography from Amherst Media. It’s available on


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