Follow These 3 Tips for Beautiful Portraits Anywhere

Look, I'm gonna be real honest with you, I hadn't planned to take any photos at the shooting bays at the Palm Springs portrait conference back in September (*a shooting bay is a station set up up with a back drop and a model ready to be photographed). And I certainly didn't plan to photograph anyone without planning an actual shoot! My inner control freak rarely lets me act all spontaneous and carefree....because that means I don't know what the outcome might look like and let's be honest, THAT freaks me out! Are you nodding right now? know them feels. 

So what happened next was a little bit insane.... I asked a fellow photographer attending the conference if I could photograph her later that day. I followed a couple of principles to make sure we got what we wanted (gorgeous images) and thought that you could also benefit from knowing these couple of tips. Whether you shoot with a DSLR or phone, it doesn't really matter, the principles are the same (hello "to die for" flat lays for your IG feed/awesome selfies). 

Tip #1

Find even lighting - that means get out of the sun and look for a shaded area that is not too dark either. Why? Because the harsh sunlight will blow out your skin like fairy floss on fire. Ever see those crazy yellow/orange selfies where it looks like people have burnt their face off? Yep, that's why. 

Tip #2

Reflective Surfaces - I am going to assume you are only using available light and if that is the case, look for reflective, neutral coloured surfaces to help you bounce some light back into your eyes/face. Pavements, gravel and a plain neutral coloured ground are ideal surfaces. They may not be your first pick, I know, they are not that pretty BUT trust me on this one, you want to stay away from the green lawn or those orange mediterranean style tiles.....unless you are going for the green alien/80's orange fake tan look. No filter will ever fix that. In other words, light picks up the colour of whatever it touches. Be gone, nasty green skin tones. 

Tip #3

Declutter That Background - for a calm, easy on the eye portrait, pay attention to the background. Less is more. To take it a step further, colour coordinate your background (and anything in your frame) with your subject. Aaaahhh, it's like portrait meditation right there, tone on tone, harmony and inner peace. Scary colour combos and insanely or awkward backgrounds is like portrait anxiety...try and avoid that as much as possible. 

Below is a portrait of Katherina - I followed all of these principles to create it. 


One could argue that I could have tried to turn a bit more to the left to rid of the black gate in the background. I understand that but you know, I kind like it so I left it in. 


Katherina is also a photographer and you can see her beautiful work here

I hope you found these little tips useful - try them out the next time you are out taking portraits of friends, your family or even clients. The same tips also apply for things like flatlay and product photography so let me know how you go. I would love to know.

Comment below and share this post if you want to help out your friends too!