When it comes to portrait photography, there is so much to consider. Location, lights, camera, action, hair and makeup and poses, to name a few. If you’re nervous or new to all this it’s easy to forget the basics, here are three steps to make sure you get better portraits.

1. Direct your subjects

Remember most people don’t feel comfortable in front of the camera. Likewise, people feel a little lost just told to stand in front of the lens and act “natural.”

They need direction and suggestions on how to act. Especially with couples and groups. Tell people how to stand or sit, where to place their hands and how to pose. Demonstrate for them, use your own body.

Often people are much more comfortable sitting than standing. Give them things to do, pull funny faces, or whisper in someone’s ear, “pretend you like each other” is one I say and it tends to get people laughing and feeling more relaxed. Suggest a variety of poses, but not too many.

2. Get everyone in focus

When working with couples or groups, try and get as many people as they can on the same level. If everyone is on the same focal plane, there is a better chance of getting everyone in focus.

When it comes to focusing, as a rule, try doubling your f/stop for each person in the shot. For a single person in the shot, I use f/2.2–2.8. With two people, I use f/4. With four people I go to f/8, and more than four … I use f/11.

3. Don’t over extend yourself

Don’t over-promise and under-deliver. Likewise, don’t overextend yourself or bite off more than you can chew. Keep the session simple. Work up a few key poses and stick with them.

Posing cards can be a great help, too. Try these handy posing cards by fellow writer Jemma Pollari. Try some sitting, some standing, singles or couples and larger groups. Try to keep the session short and sweet.

You are better off shooting a few worthwhile images with a variety, than taking 100 of the same image over and over. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box.

Offer an experience, not just a nervous afternoon in front of the camera. Keep it light and fun, and clients will be happy. And so will you.