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Top tips for taking portraits

Top tips for taking portraits

Portraits come in all shapes and sizes. A good portrait can tell a story, capture a mood, or sell a product. So how do you go about mastering this discipline? Well, unfortunately we can't give you a formula to guarantee a great shot, but we've turned to our community of film photographers to gather their tips. Although each of them have their own style, it seems that one thing they all agree on is that what happens off camera is just as important as your skills behind the lens. 


Ian Wilkinson 

Ian Wilkinson

I always find I take the best portraits of people I know. Building a rapport with someone breaks down barriers and then there are no limits. I think it's important to simply make sure everyone's relaxed and happy so a good environment helps. At the same time I love walking up to someone who has caught my eye, introducing myself and asking if I can take their picture. I used to find that situation daunting but 9/10 times people say yes and a really good conversation will usually come from that. This in turn usually ends with a photo that tells a story.


Florence Law 

Florence Law

My top tip for taking portraits is to get to know and chat to the model while taking their photograph. The more relaxed and casual the process is, the more natural and comfortable the model will look and feel. If you can find out more about the person, you can then communicate this through your style, creating a powerful image.


Sean O’Connell

Sean O'Connell

I don’t like to direct anyone or let them know it’s happening, that way the photograph is authentic. Be present and anticipate what’s coming. Look with your own attitude.


Paul Johnson


Take your time and construct your frame slowly, don't rush. Try different set ups with your subject and pay close attention to exactly what is in the frame and the positioning of everything. You can go back to the viewfinder and check your frame don't forget as much as you want. Make what you think are the best choices for the frame in the environment that you are working in. 

I positioned Tate in the frame at the point of intersection of the wall so there was at least some depth there. I don't usually shoot against brick as a rule but the slogan on the wall provided a point of interest for the viewer, and the fact he was wearing a PSG football shirt didn't make the background too jarring. He positioned his hands so we can see his rings and his arms are positioned so that the PSG shirt didn't take the focus away too much from the subject. I also asked him to look directly into the camera on this frame as I wanted direct engagement. At the moment I'm shooting portraits mainly using 120mm film. 


Cara Davidson

Cara Davidson Photography

Don't be afraid to slow down when taking a portrait shot. I always like to take some time to get to know the person I'm taking a portrait of and put them at ease before shooting. This is really important for both people who are used to being in front of the lens and those that are not. You could do this by getting to know them through chatting and asking them questions about themselves, all of which creates a relaxed environment and hopefully means you will take an image that really captures who they are!

Taking portraits on film helps me slow down and consider my shot even more and I love that on film you can't see how the final photo looks straight away. This image was shot on a canon EOS 3 using Dubblefilm Bubblegum.


Maisie Millington 

Maisie Millington

A lot of my portraits revolve around intimacy and the person in frame, so making sure they’re comfortable is a top priority. I’m a big fan of using Canon EOS SLRs since they have some digital features that make it quick to set up the shot I want, meaning I have more time to focus on the subject and getting to know them.


Keith Kaselampao

 Keith Kaselampao

My tip is when taking portraits it is important to make sure your subject feels as comfortable and relaxed as possible. Capturing subjects in their most authentic self is the best way I feel you will capture amazing portraits.


Chris Cooper

Sometimes people get too caught up in gear and excessive lighting set ups. Neither can beat the relationship and connection between photographer and subject. I try to make the subject feel at ease, joke around and make it a collaborative effort as much as I can.



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