Say Cheese! 5 easy tips for taking a flattering portrait

Now that the Christmas season is over for another year, we can all sit back, relax and download all those family photos we have on our cameras and mobile phones. The candid cute kid photos and don’t forget those stiff, awkward-looking posed shots that never seem to turn out all that great.

So what’s the key to getting a posed photo to look natural, and dare we say, flattering for your subject? After years of photographing people — from bankers to highway workers, even kids and athletes — we’ve narrowed it down to five easy tips to remember next time you’re behind the lens of a posed photo.

Nervous Nelly
Nervous Nelly
1. Take a deep breath

First thing’s first. In order for your subject to be at ease, you — the photographer — need to be at ease. If you’re tense, the person you’re photographing will be tense, and their demeanor will show it. We like to get people talking about anything other than the photo shoot. Get their mind off what we’re doing and just look, and act like themselves.

Never underestimate the power of good lighting
Never underestimate the power of good lighting
2. Lighting

Have all of your lights set up before your subject walks into the room. Don’t make them wait while you test your flash or find just the right spot for the photo. We even take a few test shots before our clients get to our studio in order to make sure everything is set just right.

This is what using the wrong lens looks like
This is what using the wrong lens looks like
3. Choose the right lens

Choosing a lens with the right focal length is key to making the people in your portraits look their best. Experiment with the lens options you have, and again, figure it out before your subject arrives. A 200mm lens is one of our favorites for portrait photography.

The classic posed shot of a business man hard at work. Right? Wrong!
The classic posed shot of a business man hard at work. Right? Wrong!
4. Don’t over-pose

This is a big one. We’ve all seen those awkward photos where families are wearing matching sweaters and Mom’s hand is placed on top of Dad’s knee while Junior is kneeling on the ground with his head tilted just so. Don’t over-pose your photo!

A few poses to avoid: standing with hands folded in front (it makes people look nervous), standing broadside to the lens (have them turn their hips for a more flattering angle) and folded arms (unless you’re going for the angry look).

For the most natural-looking posed shots, our go-to poses usually include having the person put one hand in their pocket or on their hip. For group shots, be sure people are standing as close together as possible.

Oops!
Oops!
5. Check your work

If possible, after taking a few photos, check your images by downloading them to a computer. Oftentimes lighting and focus can look good on your digital camera, but be out of whack once it’s viewed on your computer screen.

Good photography tells a story

— whether it’s in a person’s body language, the look in their eye, or the smile on their face. As photographers, it’s our job to create art while looking through a lens. Take a look at some of our favorite photos we’ve captured over the last couple years. Look at the people’s faces. The lighting. The natural posing. Each photo tells a different story. 

What stories do your photos reveal?

(Hopefully they don’t involve matching Christmas sweaters!)

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