Beth Jennings – The Journey Captured » I capture the journey of people in their personal and professional lives. I teach amateur photographers how to capture their life in beautiful photos. Photography, Melbourne Photographer, Photography Workshops, dSLR Camera Workshops, Creative Camera Course, Photo Course Melbourne, Camera Class Melbourne

How to build a portrait in six easy steps

I took my photo group this week to Herring Island in Melbourne. It’s a small island, very natural and largely untouched that is accessed by a little punt across the Yarra River. When I arrived we had about 60 attendees and I thought, it’s a cloudy day and not a lot to do on this island, maybe we can do an impromptu portrait lesson.

So we all congregated and I took the participants step by step through a free 30 minute lesson on how to build a portrait. We had the lovely Vanessa who volunteered as the guinea pig.

Follow this step by step sequence when you next try to photograph a portrait – observe the horizontal portrait of Vanessa below as you read through.

1. Find the background first – simple and aesthetically pleasing backgrounds are a winner

2. Check the lighting – smooth lighting out of full sun

3. Place your subject – choose where they will be positioned in relation to your background and lighting

4. Establish correct exposure – take a reading and test shot via your shoot flow

5. Connection with subject – what you give them is what they’ll give you so relax, chat and smile

6. Decisive moment – when they give you something beautiful, it’s worth the click

Canon Mark 2, 50mm L Series lens
ISO100 F1.2 1/2500 sec

Copyright Beth Jennings Photography 2014_Herring Island-8585
And finally, the difference between an OK portrait and a goodie, is remember to keep reminding your subject to relax.

See the difference between the two pictures below?

In the left one Vanessa is all psyched up to be ‘photographed’ – which means oh crap now I have to perform in front of the camera.

Er…no. Can you see the tension in her neck, jaw and forced smile in the left image below?

I want to make a beautiful capture of Vanessa, something that makes you go awwwww. Whilst her posing was perfect with the wonky shoulders, the off-centre feet and the feather in her hands, she just needed that reminder to relax in her body, which she did, and to lean towards the camera a little bit.

See the difference?

Suddenly we see something that’s really Vanessa, and has that lovely ‘moment held’ feel to it.

Copyright Beth Jennings Photography 2014_Herring Island-85855
Thank you Vanessa!!!!! You were wonderful – and love that hat too.

Outstanding effort, B



Gillian Jervis - March 5, 2014 - 8:08 pm

Great tips, thanks Beth. I have young kids & they (still) enjoy posing for me so that I can practice my skills.

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