Tips for portrait photography

 Questions: Is there anyone who is working on your own project with portrait concept/portrait photography? Could you please share your thoughts on which elements play important roles in portrait, from your point of view? I intend to change the approach for my current project and want to take only portrait series. I have less experiences in our group so I need to learn a lot and hear from all of you. Thanks to all you guys. 

(Vivian) For this project, all I have is portraits and it has been a bit hard to get more environment into the portraits. Since I am a bit limited to be outside their houses and not many activities going on due to COVID. When I think about portraits I think environment that reflects who they are and what you try to convey is very important.

Last November, I followed 6-7 women who are part of diminishing matriarchal society in China (diminishing due to the economic changes and more inter ethnic marriage). I like some of the environmental portraits I took on that trip better where I tried to show how strong they are physically, their household where they live and day to day life to care for the entire family. I like some of the portraits there where there are elements around the people you try to capture


(Mary Elan) Nhan, I agree with Vivan that placing the person you’re looking to photograph in their environment can add immeasurably to their portrait. It could be as simple as photographing your subject holding something that is important to her (for example, a child holding a toy, or a youth holding an instrument), or photographing your subject in his house or at his workplace. Wayne Simpson is a Canadian portrait photographer who has been photographing people who have gone through remarkably difficult times (he’s writing a book about the resilience of his subjects). Some of his portraits are not environmental but, as you can see, still give a very strong sense of the person who he photographed. In contrast, some of his portraits have a very strong sense of place. You might decide to try to do both types of portraits to see which works best for you – and it may vary which each subject.

Wayne Simpson’s website:


(Nhan Tran) From my point of view. When I think about portrait photography, I think of the subject’s personal characteristics first, of course if I have much time to know more deeply a person and try to find the middle point of their characteristic and what I try to convey to a photograph. I know, there is a long distance between what I see and what could be potential to express in each photo. I quite like BnW portrait photographs, it permits me to focus on the subject’s eyes or some other important details without being distracted by any colors. Including the environment around subjects which become a supportive element is also important. We (viewers) can feel more the atmosphere, emotion, sometimes just a small touching in hear. A bit of thought in my mind right now.


(Jeremy) I’m pretty new at portraits, but one thing I’ve picked up on is not being afraid to direct my subject down to the tiny details. We both want a beautiful photo, so let us collaborate and make that happen. The person I’m photographing doesn’t see what I’m seeing, so I need to guide them into a position that works. Standard “rules” apply like having good light to begin with, like I’ve asked people to stand in a shaded area, or just inside the doorway, or next to a window. After 20 portraits at the shop, I discovered that some people were more lively than others and made easier portraits. I’ve also spent a lot of time in front of my own camera with either the self timer or a remote shutter trying different looks, angles, light, etc.




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