194 of the best photography tips from professional photographers

40. Shape light, retain shadows

Image: Holly Wren

Image: Holly Wren

You can mimic natural light with flash by paying careful attention to how it falls on the face. Although you want to eliminate drop shadows under the eye, retaining shadows to the sides of the face where the natural light drops off keeps it looking authentic. 

41. Practice makes perfect

Photography happens in the moment. While we can’t always plan for these moments we can practise and become confident in our skill. Lose your fear of large-scale editorial productions by organising your own mini test shoots and use this as a practice run. 

42. Get creative with props 

A well-placed prop can be a way to introduce hands without making them look out of place. Make sure the prop fits into the story you’re trying to tell though. 

43. Get into the flow 

Once happy with the light and camera settings, find your flow. Don’t stop to look at the back of your camera after every image; give the model a chance to get into an uninterrupted rhythm of poses and expressions. 

44. Be creative with backgrounds 

There is so much more than plain background paper! Try introducing exciting patterns and textures by using wallpaper and fabric samples or nature’s own backdrops, like bushes and fields of flowers.

45. Gel the light

Light doesn’t just have to be cold and warm shades of white. Try adding some coloured gels and watch your images come to life! Have a play with colourful foils from craft stores before committing to the real thing. 

46. Communicate with your subject

Image: Tina Eisen

Image: Tina Eisen

No matter how experienced your subject might be, we all love feedback! Tell people what works well, give them previews of poses that looked particularly great and let them know the mood, expression and poses you’re after. 

47. Add movement 

Portraits can feel a bit static. Add some drama by introducing some movement: try blowing hair or throwing some garments to create extra excitement in your images. Even dramatic poses and expressions can add a feeling of motion to your portraits. 

48. Build rapport 

In order to create images the viewer can connect with, you need to connect with your subject! Before taking any images, get to know them, spend some time with them while they are getting hair and make-up done. A genuine human connection is very hard to fake, so spend some time creating a real one! 

49. Awkward hands

Rule number one: if the ‘emotion’ of the hand doesn’t match the emotion of the face, it won’t work. Not everyone has the ability to pose their hands well, so it might be better to leave the hands out than adding awkward fingers. 

50. Get creative with your lights

Image: Tina Eisen

Image: Tina Eisen

Flash versus constant light… it’s not just one or the other! 

Read more: The three lenses every portrait photographer needs to consider

Try mixing both of those in the same shot, capturing some sharp detail with the help of your flash and whimsical motion at the same time! 

51. Hail the reflector

It’s not all flashes and sunlight. Handheld reflectors (my favourite is silver) are a lightweight, cost-effective way to fill in shadows and create stunning catchlights in your model’s eyes. 

52. Complementary colour schemes

Image: Tina Eisen

Image: Tina Eisen

We’ve all heard of the colour wheel. Try to consider these aesthetic rules and use its theory to your advantage; try to match clothing, accessories or even hair colour with a complementary background colour and create a pleasant-to-the-eye atmosphere.

53. Demonstrate your vision

Have an idea in your head but unsure how to explain it to people and put it into words? Find visual aids! Print out images or show digital files of things that inspire you to help you communicate your ideas. 

54. Work for free… lots

Image: Tina Eisen

Image: Tina Eisen

Yes, I said it. Use your free time for free tests. Play with new gear, try out new lighting setups and most importantly, meet like-minded creatives! Build your portfolio the way you like it, not how your clients dictate it. 

55. Get inspired

Don’t just get inspired by others’ images. Open your mind to things around you. What shapes, colours, patterns do you get drawn to? Define what excites you as a human (not a photographer) and let this help you find inspiration. 

56. Change up the angles 

Free your mind from the front-facing, ‘look-straight-at-me’ attitude. Play around with angles, get low, get high, get right in there. Create some drama your viewers will love. 

57. Horses for courses

Image: Tina Eisen

Image: Tina Eisen

You’re a photographer, not a make-up artist, hair stylist or nail technician. These creatives are highly skilled in their fields and possess endless knowledge of upcoming trends. Listen to their ideas, appreciate their input. It will not only create amazing collaborative results, but will also give you space to concentrate on your own craft. 

58. Experiment with expressions

There’s more than just smiley and stern. Once I’m convinced I’ve got some safe poses and expressions in the bag I ask my models to “go wild for the next 20 images.” 

Read more: 10 top tips for shooting portraits

You will be treated to a range of mad laughs, scowls, messy hair and smudged make-up, and exciting expressions that will catch the viewer’s eye.

59. Study your goals

Know who and where you aspire to be. Maybe published in a certain magazine? Study its editorials, layouts, poses, crops. The more you surround yourself with images you’d like to take, the more it will become second nature to your own style. Besides that, knowing industry standards will help you choose the right images during your culling process. 

60. Get up close and personal 

Image: Tina Eisen

Image: Tina Eisen

Who says the whole face needs to be in the frame at all times? Aside from cropping out parts of it afterwards, try capturing only the details. Macro lenses are a great tool for creating stunning close-up images of eyes, lips or fingers. 

All words: Tina Eisen