How To Take Photos For A Portrait

How to take pictures that result in the most pleasing portraits

If all of the below seems intimidating, relax just take the picture your way.

Send several poses from different vantages, if you can, but mark your favorite one. The more information I have the better. The best photos capture the personality of the subject, are clear, sharp close up photos, and are taken without flash, Clear sharp focus is of paramount importance.

If you want a group or family portrait, take several photos as a group and also, if possible, a close up of each head in the group in the same position as in the group photo. This way all eyes are open. Try to position each person so the eye levels of each person are at different heights. If it’s to be a painting, if you can, keep the group’s apparel color in the same color family. This will focus attention on the faces in the group. For a large group, position the most important person in the center and surrounding group member’s bodies facing in toward the center, but looking at the camera.

Photos taken outdoors in open even light shade generally work best. This reduces the severity of contrast between sunlight and shadow and reveals far more detail so important for a good portrait. Indoors, if you must use flash, leave enough distance between you and your subject so facial features are not flattened out, faded, or obscured by the flash. You can compensate for the distance by using the zoom feature of your camera. If there’s to be a single subject, you can position the subject near a north window, which should give enough natural light for a photo that shows detail without flattening the image.

It’s important that both eyes are clearly visible, unless you or your subject prefers a profile portrait. A head turned slightly away with eyes looking directly into the lens generally works very well. Avoid glare from eyeglasses. You can help a lot if you take the identical pose of the subject, with, and without glasses on.

For Watercolor Portraits: For a watercolor portrait, it’s important that the apparel worn in the photo is what the subject would prefer to see in a portrait and it’s equally important that the color of the apparel be correct for the room where the portrait will hang. Take a close up photo of the clothing. If the apparel in the photo isn’t color appropriate, let me know the color scheme of the room where it will hang. Take a photo of the room, if you want.

For Pet Portraits: For a head portrait, zoom in so the head fills most of the photo. Try to take photos at the pet’s eye-level (even a horse), or, put him/her on a chair or table. Having a friend distract the pet while you take photos may help. Try to get accurate color, if it’s to be a watercolor portrait.

For House Portraits: When surveying your property, think about the composition of your desired portrait. While straight on is common, maybe a 3/4 view or side view with a glimpse of the back and surrounding landscape may make a more interesting painting. Would you prefer a more close up view or a more distant view. Are there elements important enough to be included in the portrait or discarded?

Other matters to be considered for a successful watercolor portrait.
What is the purpose of the portrait? Do you want a very serious formal portrait or an informal one? Some written description regarding personality, personal interests. goes a long way in helping Howard interpret the photo to produce a portrait pleasing to you and the subject. Since cameras often lie, please describe eye color and skin tone. Do you want additional items that symbolize something about the person included in the painting? If so send close up photos of them.

Save all digital photos as a jpeg 300 ppi for attaching to your portrait request email.

And if you’ve already have a favorite photo that was taken with a strong flash, or taken in sunlight, send it anyway. If I feel it’s workable, I’ll tell you before you commit to anything.