How to develop the photographer eye #2 – Portraits

I love to take portraits. It’s one of the funniest photo-experiences I have had. Have you ever wondered about how to take good portraits? There’s no answer for this, but we can follow some simple advices, specially if we start to focus on the main target: The subject.

The art of portraits is a game played by two people, the photographer and the model. The relationship between them is important and it’s the key point in the process to obtain the best expressions from our model. I remember that the first time I tried to take a portrait many feelings passed through my mind. I was nervous, I was shy and I was always afraid to make my model feel uncomfortable. The model as well perceived my feelings and at the end a whole uncomfortable environment got created. After that, I learned one important lesson: connect with your model.

Follow these recommendations and you will notice a huge difference in your portraits:

  1. Get in touch with your model. If you will prepare a long photoshot, it’s better to meet first, and take a coffee. In that way, you’ll know about your model’s personality and create a more comfortable environment for the photoshot’s day. If you cannot have any previous contact with the model, always try to understand her/his personality that day. It will help you a lot for capturing and anticipating expressions and angles related to each person.
  2. Talk to your model. Let her to be free to create by herself. Improvisation is the main source of unbelievable expressions and feelings. Ask things, feelings, try to put her in different situations like asking questions that she wouldn’t expect. Make her laugh. All of this will finally bring both to one point: get relaxed.
  3. Try always to think that the model is looking at a lens and probably a huge peace of gear moving around her. Try to imagine yourself in her place, posing in front of a camera with a stranger in front of you moving around, asking you to put in that position, move your head, touch your hair and so forth. Some people get literally blocked. So, it’s your work, as a photographer, to relax and make the model feel just fine. It’s like a game.
  4. Never and ever try to force your model to adopt a particular pose or to do something that she won’t feel comfortable doing. You want her to give to you the best of her talent. So always try to make her feel good.
  5. Don’t be in a hurry. Take your time even if you have few. It’s better to have few good shots than 500 crappy pictures.
  6. Don’t get stocked to some fixed ideas. Take different angles, different details of the face, the hands, everything. It’s a whole where each element plays a role in the final image. Relax about rules of photography and composition, try to brake them with harmony.


This is a fluid process, let it be. Portraits involve human communication and this is all about experience dealing with people. You can find a perfect portrait from a stranger in a street that accepts to pose for you. Even in that few seconds, try to imagine what kind of person she/he is. If you can, just exchange a few words. You will always learn something from others in this process.

Also remember that every person has a different color of skin, different shape. Some people are really expressive and others are just like a plain wall. Just try to adapt to them. At the end, they are the source of information for the stories in your picture. Try to catch it instead to force them to send the message that you want.
The art of portrait is like hunting feelings hidden in people faces and bodies. Everybody is unique and everybody has something to give. Print that in your film is your work :-)

Please share your experiences as a model or photographer.