Portrait Photography Fundamentals


Portrait Photography Fundamentals


Lesson Info

Headshots Poses with Male Model

So let's start off with a headshot. Like, what are some, like when you're shooting waist up, what are some tips when shooting a headshot? Okay, first thing, and I kinda demonstrated that, is that I like to shoot down on my subject, especially for a headshot. I dunno what it is, it just has a little bit more aesthetic feel to it. I have a feeling when you take a higher angle, it creates more V, maybe, because the head is a little bit closer to the camera, and that's why it kinda has that kind of feel to it. I'm not sure why, and a lot of photographers feel this way. Shooting down on your subject is very pleasing, so I try to get a higher angle, and so that's number one. I like to use soft, directional light most of the time. The softer the light, the bigger, which means a large light source. And if I don't have a... I mean, I'm going for natural light. Soft, natural light, because usually you can't beat that, or it's really hard to create that. But if I can't, I like using my umbrella t...

hrough a video light, and that's what I've been doing here. And you can see the kind of beautiful lighting that I'm getting with it, and it's just a very simple setup. And so, if I don't, soft light is really a key, and it's really flattering on the skin, too, using soft light. Use a 50-millimeter lens or greater, because you don't want to use a wide lens and distort the features of your subject. So I know that if I'm in sometimes, you know, I remember in the beginning of my career when you're using, like, you don't have a lot of money so you got, 'Okay, I'm just gonna use this 24 to 70 lens,' and you basically, that's all you got. And I remember shooting some portraits, I go, 'Why did I shoot that at 24 millimeters?' Because in the moment, you just kinda forget everything. And so then, I started literally switching to a prime lens when I was gonna do a portrait, because that forced be to be at 50 millimeters or greater. And so now, my typical setup is an 85 on one camera, and a 16 to 35 on the other camera, so when I shoot a portrait I'm for sure won't go to wide with it. But that's key, because that keeps your subject's facial features in proportion. And so, 50 millimeters greater. And also, I'm gonna mention, with that, you should have a shallow depth of field, too, because blurring out the background is really gonna help you. Okay, create subtle shadows to contour the face. And that's why I like using some directional light, because that way I can create some shadows on the face, subtly, which actually adds a lot of dimension, and you get to see the shape of the face. And especially if you're shooting somebody who has very petite features, like for example, some Asians, like myself. We have very petite features, and so like, if you are shooting a headshot with me, I would demand that you have a short-side shadow on my face because I don't have very distinct jawbones, or anything like that. And so, that shadow really helps a person who has very petite features to give some structure to their face. Okay, catch lights are a must. I feel like if you do a headshot without the catch light, it's like, you might as well have not even taken the shot. It's really the catch lights that kind of bring that soul of that person out, you know, through that catch light, and it just has some enduring quality to it that really, really draws you to that photo. Okay, using window light or natural light, that's what I prefer, and I usually put the subject right next to that window and point their nose in that direction. I like the opposite part of... Let's say they have a hair part. So when I shoot at a person, I don't want it such... Let's say my hair was hanging down this way, and the camera's here. I wouldn't turn my head this way, because then the hair is covering all the face, right? So, if the camera was here, right, then I would turn my head here so the hair would come down this way and I still can see the face. So, you have to keep in mind how a person's hair is parted, and where you're gonna shoot. Sometimes it doesn't matter, but sometimes it does. So just be aware of that. Okay, here's another important thing, is that the back of the camera, I'll demonstrate here... Is the back of the camera... I'm not sure how much room I got, I'm pretty good. The back of the camera should be at the face-plane of the person. So, let's say the person's face is like this. This should match it in general, because you have to keep the same perspective, and you don't want to distort the features of a person's face. Now you can, to your advantage, tweak it, right, and so let's say they have a large forehead. If I tilt my camera up like that, it's gonna make it even bigger, so maybe you might tweak it and pull your camera perspective down just so you can control those features a little bit. But just as a general rule, the plane of the face and the back of the camera should be kind of parallel, if that makes sense. Okay, back of the camera and the face angle should be the same. Portrait and landscape. So, it's very good to get, you've been seeing me do it, shoot portrait and landscape. Since you're there, you might as well go through a routine and shoot... I personally, I'm in love with landscape. And so, I shoot landscape a lot. And sometimes I have to tell myself, 'Oh, why don't you shoot a few portrait-style,' but I love shooting landscape. It just has a different look to it. But be sure to try to shoot both, because you're never gonna know which one you need to use. Now, here's another thing what I call finding the sweet spot. So generally, you can have your rules, and I'll get into techniques of what I use. But then, every face is different, and this is what the art of portraiture is. It's not the same for every person. So, when you look at a person, you kinda have to analyze where their sweet spot is. And so, you kind of do your general adjustments, and then I do some micro-adjustments between that. And so, I dunno if you saw me posing Elena here. I was telling her, 'Oh raise your chin up, raise it down, look down.' So what I was doing was kind of micro-adjusting to get that look, you know? And literally, it's a half an inch difference. I wish I could have showed it here, but literally I've taken shots, and I've lifted their chin up maybe just a half an inch, and it looks completely a lot better, or a lot worse. Depending on what I do. So just a slight tweak here, and here, and here, all around here. Just like, even this micro-adjustment, just kind of like here and around, is huge. And if you don't know where the sweet spot is, I suggest you just shoot a lot with those micro-adjustments in it, and then you can kind of analyze it when you get back at home. But that's huge, is the micro-adjustments. Just don't set it up, light it, and shoot it once. Even if you don't think it's gonna look as good, you still kinda go through the, 'Okay, raise your chin up, raise it down, 'turn your head a little bit to the left, 'turn it to the right.' Just do it anyways. And as you get more and more experience, you can kinda see it. But in the beginning, I didn't know, so I just, like, covered my bases. And it's kinda like bracketing the face, but you're bracketing it not with exposure, but you're bracketing it with a slight micro-adjustment. And you'll see me do it here. And I usually point to the subject, and I'll tell them to move with my hand. So, like I'll say, 'Okay, move over to the right,' and so they'll just follow it, and they'll know. So if I said, 'Hey, move your head to the right,' they could just do that on me, right? But if I go, 'Okay, move your head over to the right,' they stop where your hand stops, okay? And so that's a good way to micro-adjust somebody to get exactly the position that you want. Okay, so let's go in and analyze a typical, traditional headshot that I use that seems to work for a lot of people, and lemme share this with it. First of all, you turn the head so that you can define the line of the face. And that cuts them out of the background, is turning them. And so you can see when I turn their head, how I've got a defined line right there. And you turn it to the point where the edge of this eye is pretty close to this edge of this line here. Now, every face is different. Some people, they look better with their eye a little bit over here, or some a little bit more that way. But the one thing is, is that you don't want to cut the eye off. So you don't wanna turn it so far that part of that eye is not showing. So that's the key thing, is you gotta turn it, but make sure there's some space in between that line and the eye. But kind of get it close to that area. And then, you don't want to let that nose break that line either, okay? So, this line is kinda sacred. So you develop this line here, but nothing crosses it. And then, when you do that, and the nose is towards the light, you're gonna naturally get this beautiful, short-side shadow here, which is gonna define the face. And I guarantee you, there are people out there that have never had a portrait taken of them with short-side shadow. And, when you do it, and they look at it, and they're automatically ten pounds lighter, they're gonna think you're the best freaking photographer in the world. And so I use this technique, and people, 'Oh my gosh that looks so amazing." And the whole thing is just, they've never had a shot with short-side shadow on it. And that can do wonders of shaping a person's face. Now, when you're shooting models and they're rail-thin, and they have beautiful makeup, and that's really, what does makeup do? Makeup actually creates that short-side shadow on a person. But, you know, you can take somebody not wearing makeup and put that shadow on them, and they're gonna look great. Okay, so let's get in a few... So that's the traditional headshot. And I like starting off there, because that is my safe bet. Usually everybody looks good in that, so I'm gonna do that type of shot. Then for a guy, I think a strong look is if you kind of do a symmetrical, like, 'I'm strong, I'm standing here, 'I'm looking at you, I'm confident, 'and click.' Especially if they're wearing something that looks symmetrical, then that way if you shoot it straight on, it's gonna accentuate that strong feel because of what they're wearing too. And usually a lot of times, they're wearing a tie, they're wearing a jacket or a vest and it's very symmetrical, and so I just kind of go with that, and shoot a shot where they're showing some confidence. And a little bit of a tip on that, is maybe, sometimes you might have them lean forward towards you a bit. So, I know people kind of stand up straight and do this. But if you just have them lean forward, it kind of conveys that confidence too. Then, after that, once I've got that strong, symmetrical look, I'll kind of go... And what I like doing is a side light. I just think it's so unique, and I don't see it a lot where you're doing headshots with side light, and it's really easy to do. You just put that nose towards the light, and again, it's my general technique. The body is one way, the face is the other, the nose towards the light. And I love doing this, especially when you're shooting guys. Shadow looks great on guys. I don't know if you noticed that, but whenever you see a head... Oh let's go back to this one, when you're doing the straight-on symmetrical. A lot of times, when you see in the magazines, you'll see this type of pose. They'll use side light where half of the face is kind of covered in shadow. And so, there is something with shadows, and shooting males, that looks really strong. So the shadows really bring out the strength, and so that's why it's okay to shoot with side light, because it conveys that kind of masculinity that I really like. Okay, so what's my headshot workflow when I'm shooting guys? In general, I do more of a traditional approach, right, where the head is turned towards the light, and I'm getting some short-side shadow, and the body is one way, and the face is the other. Usually, in this I didn't do it, but usually I have them leaning forward on something, which works great. And then, I do something symmetrical, that's pretty strong, and then I use some side light. And then if time permits, I try to do something very... Lighting-wise, something very dramatic, or drama-filled. We're not gonna really do that now, because I'd have to set up lighting and whatever. But what we can do now is try to shoot these three things, and let's do it right now.

Class Description

Want to be able to go into any situation with your camera and have the confidence to know you’ll get the shot? Award-Winning photographer Scott Robert Lim goes in-depth on the four foundational elements you must conquer if you want to develop your creativity and style.

Scott will give you the guidelines you need to master:

  • Lighting
  • Posing
  • Composition
  • Post-Processing

Once you master these fundamentals of portraits, you free up your mind to get creative and ultimately get the shot.


1Class Introduction
25 Shots That WOW
3Four Fundamentals of Photography
4Create a Visual Impact with Composition
5Importance of Foreground and Background
6Create Depth in Landscape Images
7Photos Don't Always Follow the Rules
8Composition Practice Exercise
9Composition Critique of Student Images
10Keys to Posing
11Shoot: Classic Elegance Female Pose
12Shoot: Modern Female Pose
13Shoot: Rollover Female Pose
14Female Hands & Arms Poses Overview
15Shoot: Hands and Arms Poses for Female
16Seven Posing Guidelines
17Headshots Poses with Male Model
18Shoot: Headshot for Male Model
19Shoot: Sitting Poses for Male Model
20Shoot: Leaning Poses for Male Model
21Shoot: Standing Poses for Male Model
22Keys to Couples Posing
23Shoot: Couples Posing
24Couples Transitional Posing Overview
25Shoot: Transitional Posing
26Keys to Group Posing
27Accordion Technique with Groups
28Shoot: Accordion Technique
29Shoot: Best Buds Pose
30Shoot: Talk with Your Hands Pose
31Shoot: Lock Arms and Hold Hands Pose
32Run at the Camera and Dance in Your Seat Poses
33Shoot: Pod Method Pose
34Posing Critique of Student Images
35Introduction to Lighting
36Soft vs Hard Light
37Difficult Lighting Situations
38Bright Light Techniques
39Overcast Light Techniques
40Low Light Techniques
41Lighting Techniques Q&A
42Drama Queen Lighting
43Laundry Basket Lighting
44Make it Rain Lighting
45Smart Phone Painting with Light
46Mini LED Bokeh Lighting
47Choose the Right Lighting System
48Hybrid Flash System
49Innovative Accessories
50Gear Overview
51Theatrical Post-Processing
52Ten Keys to Post-Processing
53Essential Skills to Post-Processing
54Headshot Post-Processing
55Bright Light Post-Processing
56Flat Light Post-Processing
57Low Light Post-Processing
58Introduction to Fine Art Post-Processing
59Light & Airy Fine Art Post-Processing
60Dark & Moody Fine Art Post-Processing
61Post-Processing Critique of Student Images