How To Get A Good Portrait


Let’s say it is time for you to update your profile and you want to get a good headshot. There is a problem though: you don’t feel you are photogenic at all. Every picture ever taken of you is horrible!  Half the time you blink or that chipped tooth is showing, or worse!  Imagine that you set an appointment with a photographer and OMG it’s a zit as large a Kansas and its right in the middle of your forehead! Nooo!!!!


First thing you want to do is go hide in a dark closet where night vision goggles set on high still can’t find you. Anything but be in front of a camera! Ick!


Well, the first thing you actually want to do is relax and take a deep breath. “But this zit…” you say?  Photoshop I say! Blemishes and imperfections are simple to remove from an image and any photographer worth their weight is going to fix those little things. In fact many photographers will ask you how much retouching you would like. If they are good at their craft they will not only make you look natural and look good, they can make you look 14 again if you want them too. However, for a good profile image you want to look natural.


This “model” feels she is not photogenic. I disagree, but then again I may be biased, I married her.


Many people think that if they have their images retouched they are going to look like some porcelain doll with skin as smooth as a lake on a still day. A good photographer and/or their retoucher is going to correct things like the ‘North Star Zit From Hell’ and make you look your best but not unnatural. After all the ideas is to look like you. What if you actually have to meet these people who view your profile?  You need to be recognizable, hence you have to look natural, that means you have to actually have pores and texture to your skin.


Once you have found a photographer take a little time to get to know them. You will naturally be nervous and if you get to know the person behind the camera chances are you won’t see the camera as much.  Also, talk to the photographer while you are in the studio; have a conversation during the shoot itself. This will further your ability to relax and increase the likelihood of a pleasing, if not fantastic, portrait.


Another thing that people worry about is wardrobe. There are a few things that can make that easy too. Stick to contrasting colors. Colors that match your skin tone will wash you out and make you look ill. By wearing colors that compliment you and contrast with your skin you become the subject of the image not your shirt or blouse.


Also, whenever possible, try to wear solid colors. Patterns, especially small print and busy patterns don’t photograph well by themselves let alone on you. If you only have clothes with prints stick to larger patterns so that they don’t distract too much.


When it comes to hair (not an issue this bald photographer usually worries about) men should not have a haircut the day of the photo shoot. Try to have one the week or at least a few days prior. This will allow the hair to lay in a more natural way and again, leaving the emphasis on you. Women can have their hair done the same day but it’s not a requirement.  The biggest thing is to have it natural. Women often have different regimes when it comes to the care of their hair and picking a time when you think your hair looks best will not only help you look good, but it will help you relax too.  The idea is to limit the ‘whispies’ and have your hair lie in a natural way not matter what your gender.


I have heard that some people think that studio lighting is not complimentary and that only natural light is the best way to get your portrait done. Poppycock! Good light is the key to a good image. It doesn’t have to be outdoors or at a window. In fact the sun is a very harsh and sharp light that can create strong shadows across your face. If you are having your partner or friend take your image they may not be educated in controlling light and that can lead to even more frustration trying to get that great shot.

If you just don’t think you can use a professional photographer, at least think about the following when lighting your image.


•                    Don’t allow harsh shadows to fall across your face, whether it is the sun or a bright light.

•                    Balance light on all sides of your face. This can be done with just a white sheet of paper or piece of poster board. Place it opposite the source of the light and let it bounce (hence the term ‘bounce card’) light onto the shadowy side of the subject.

•                    If you have two bounce cards, try to bounce some light directly into your face. Direct, but soft light will fill lines and blemishes on the face making you look younger naturally!

•                    If using a flash put a tissue over the flash to soften and defuse the light.


Remember to relax. Although it seems like the hardest part, especially if you feel you are not photogenic, it is the best thing you can do to create a good, if not fantastic, portrait. Tell the photographer the corniest joke you know, laughing helps not only you relax but your photographer as well. The more relaxed you are the more natural your image will be.


All of these ‘tricks’ are things that a good portrait photographer not only knows but has studied and practiced. (The art of light is what photography is all about.) By learning these things we have trained ourselves how to help you look your best in your portrait. It’s what we do!


Did I tell you the one about when two dogs walk into a bar…