Photo by Scott Bourne - Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs Creative Commons

Photo by Scott Bourne – Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs Creative Commons

I’ve studied portraiture with Don Blair, Joyce Wilson, Monte Zucker, Clay Blackmore and others. I’ve come to realize that most people don’t actually study portraiture anymore. They tend to just run and gun. If you don’t want to spend time learning from the masters, at least consider these three simple tips.

1. Start with one light. It’s easier to master. It’s easier to set up. It costs less than two. It’s less intimidating to the client and with the use of reflectors, can act like three or four lights.

2. When you’re shooting a basic portrait, remember the reflector should never be held adjacent to the head. The reflector stops where the face begins my friends Monte and Clay would say. This technique is called feathering.

3. Remember to pose the subject before you light them. This order is very important. The lighting position always serves the pose, not the other way around.

Try these for yourself. See if they don’t improve your portraits.


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Join the conversation! 4 Comments

  1. I don’t quite follow what tip #2 is saying. I do know how to feather with a softbox, so maybe it is just the word “reflector” that is throwing me off. Would you mind explaining further?

  2. Can you please elaborate on #2? Thank you for the tips!

  3. @Greg it is the same with a reflector. Just don’t put the reflector even with the face. Put the reflector so it doesn’t go past the nose when perpendicular to the face.

  4. Your views on portrait photographers look very impressive and commendable. I feel that portrait photography is totally different from other styles and needs to be handled with care. This style of photography is mostly practiced in the UK and allowed to remunerate the modern and hi-tech equipments to deal with. Overall I think that portrait photographers have evolved with their new ideas and innovation.


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