One Photo, One Dozen Photography Tips

May 27, 2010

Learning, Portrait

Photograph © Rick Sammon. All rights reserved.

Here are some quick tips for portrait shooters. Enjoy!

  1. Make a photograph — don’t simply take one. Work with the subject, props, posing and lighting to create a unique image.
  2. The name of the game is to fill the frame. In other words, crop out the boring stuff in a scene so that the viewer’s attention is drawn to the main subject — immediately.
  3. Crop creatively. More often than not, a picture can be enhanced with basic cropping in the digital darkroom. Experiment with different crops. Also try to see pictures within a picture.
  4. Remember that light illuminates; shadows define. That is the first step to lighting a portrait.
  5. Carefully light the scene. In this case, I used a combination of available light and the light from a flash to create a well-lit portrait.
  6. Choose your lens wisely. Think about how the focal length and f-stop will affect the end result. Use at least a medium telephoto lens (85mm) for head and shoulder shot. Wider-angle lenses are okay for environmental portriats (like this one).
  7. Carefully pose your subject. Pay special attention to where the subject is looking (toward or away from the camera). Also pay attention to the hands.
  8. Shoot RAW files because they are more forgiving than JPEG files – and because you can rescue more from overexposed highlight areas than you can from JPEG files.
  9. Use the lowest possible ISO for the cleanest (little or no noise) possible shot.
  10. Don’t over saturate an image in Photoshop (or Aperture or Lightroom or anywhere.) When areas of an image are oversaturated, details can be softened and lost. If the reds here had been oversaturated, the detail and the folds in the dress could have been lost.
  11. Think selectively. Apply adjustments (especially sharpening) to select areas of an image rather than applying them globally (to the entire image).
  12. Always sharpen an image as the final step – before you save your file as a TIFF file or PSD files with all those adjustment layers (just in case you change your mind about how you enhanced your image.)

Explore the light,


This post was written by:

- who has written 171 posts on The Digital Photo Experience.

Canon Explorer of Light Rick Sammon has published 36 books, including Exploring the Light and Digital Photography Secrets.

When asked about his photo specialty, Rick says, “My specialty is not specializing.”

You can follow Rick on twitter at and visit his website at

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