10 Portrait Photography ‘Hacks’ You’ll Wish You Knew Sooner

Portrait photographer Miguel Quiles recently released a two-part series on “portrait hacks” that might be his most popular series of tips ever. In the videos, he covers 10 tips from his years of experience shooting and teaching workshops—tips that he says “everyone wishes they knew sooner.”

Part 1 was released back in March of 2019 and became one of Quiles’ most watched videos; it covers the most basic tips that will help total beginners understand what they should focus on when shooting a portrait. Part 2 was released this morning, and it gets a little more advanced, covering hacks that fall into the “oh, I never thought of that” category.

You can watch Part 1 up top, and Part 2 below:

For those people who prefer reading to watching, the 10 tips/hacks are as follows:

Part 1

  1. Fill the frame – Beginners tend to leave a ton of headroom above their subject, this isn’t necessary.
  2. Pay Attention to Catchlights – There’s no better way to “hook your viewer” and “hold their attention” than great catchlights.
  3. Eye Placement – Pay close attention to where your subject is looking. They don’t have to look at the camera, but the Iris of the eye should be more prominent than the white Sclera.
  4. Focus on Lighting – Simple, but it has to be said. A great portrait is all about great lighting.
  5. Draw Out a Great Expression – Don’t get so caught up in your location or the lighting or your settings that you forget to help your subject relax and get into the shoot.

Part 2

  1. Use Continuous Drive Mode – Don’t limit yourself to single shot. Light permitting, shooting in Continuous mode can help you capture expressions that you might otherwise miss.
  2. Develop Your Poker Face – Portrait shoots are stressful, but don’t let it show on your face! If you look stressed while you’re shooting or reviewing images, your subject will tense up.
  3. Use the ‘Eye Chart’ Technique – Tell your subject to pretend like they’re looking at an ‘eye chart’ at an eye exam. This is a brilliant way to prevent that wide-eyed Deer in the Headlights look.
  4. Tether Whenever Possible – Having a big screen to review your images gives you extremely valuable insights into how the shoot is going and how your images are turning out.
  5. Role Play – Have your subject play a character. It’s one of the easiest ways to help someone get out of their own head and look much more relaxed and natural on-camera.

If you have the time, you’ll definitely want to watch the videos. Quiles dives into each of these tips, sharing sample photos, behind the scenes video, and stories from his professional work that explain why and how you should follow each piece of advice.

And if you like Quiles style, you can find more of his work on his Instagram, and many more tutorials over on his YouTube channel.

Image credits: Photos by Miguel Quiles and used with permission.

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