View Full Version : Portrait help

07-02-07, 10:10
I have my 1st willing model - My 12 year old neice. She is coming round on Sat for a makeover and photo shoot, the only problem I have is that I'm not sure how to direct her and what props if any I should use.

I'm realy looking forward to this and she is also excited so obviously I want to make it fun for her and I really want to get some good shots so any advice or guidance would be greatly appreciated.


07-02-07, 14:25
Hi Fiona,

This is one for lesleyr, or tartin69 I think. Have a look at Lesley's gallery for some inspiration, I'm sure she'll be along later.


07-02-07, 14:30
Although I don't take portraits, the ones that I enjoy most are those that appear natural and unposed. Candid shots - especially close-ups work well.

07-02-07, 15:06
Lots of diffuse light, and removal of distracting bits and bobs.

The problem I find with kids is that they tend to pose, in many case it looks like they've got a broom stick stuck up them. I blame school photographers.

I used to take loads of dummy photos with the film camera. ie., I'd put a film in the camera but not actually have it connected to the winding mechanism, shoot lots of pictures so that they heard the shutter go and the flash fire, do a rewind and another dummy load, shoot again, until they were comfortable with camera to ignore it. Then the real shoot would take place. With a digital camera you sort of have to "show them the photo" every now and then so have a spare card.

Of course that might not be possible as your doing a makeover shoot, so it depends how quickly the "having my photo taken" thing wears off and she starts to behave naturally. I'd try to have someone else directing the makeover so that you aren't part of it but just there.

08-02-07, 00:17
Hi Fiona

My own personal thing when doing portraits is to have more than you and your niece there. Get her to bring a friend (or two) along. Get them all involved in the makeover part and then let them do what 12 year olds do. When they are quite involved with their own conversations, jokes etc. just take candid snaps. I prefer to do this outside in natural light but that might not be possible at this time of year. If not, get against a plain background as far as possible.

I personally shoot loads and loads of photos - the majority of which I will discard - but it is worth it for the few classic candid shots that you will get out of the shoot.

As you will see from my gallery, I like to get very close in on my portraits, as I love taking faces and their many expressions! This can make your "victim" quite self conscious but I always find that distractions (i.e. other people giggling, chatting, joking etc) will give you a much more relaxed atmosphere and a more natural photograph.

Just be aware that even outside, you may need flash to get that perfect shot.

Let me know how you get on Fiona - good luck!.

You'll do great.


08-02-07, 03:44
Thanks for all the sugestions. Unfortunately it's not posible this time to have some of her friends there, although she has suggested that we do that next time and has also asked that I shoot her 13th birthday party in a couple of months (I'll be looking for advice on that one nearer the time!).

I am unable to get someone else to do the make over but part of the idea was to make it a kinda fun girlie day for the 2 of us and also get some nice shots of her. My hubby will be about so he can help with the chat and mess around with her while I'm busy taking photo's.

She is also starting to develope an interest in photography so I might let her mess around with my point and shoot taking photo's of me or whatever as well. Do you think this would work or be too distracting?


08-02-07, 20:45
Hi again Fiona

Thanks for your response. I think it will be a great idea to get your hubby involved too. Anything you can do to make it more relaxed will be just great. I think you just keep your camera on your lap and take when she is speaking to your hubby or when she is speaking to you.

I did a shoot with a friend the other day, and all the while she was telling me the tale all about a ball she had been to that weekend - and I ended up with loads of candid shots of her with the most fantastic expressions on her face!! You could never replicate that in real life so you need to get her chatting about something she is interested in and just shoot. Take shots with her looking away, sideways, below, above and looking at you.

As I said, I like to get up close and personal - and that can take some getting used to for your subject.

If you wish to take shots of her smiling, make sure she shows her teeth, as a tight lipped smile (which most people do when they are feeling self conscious!) looks fairly odd on a photograph. I have photographed a few weddings of late, and my big thing is to keep saying "teeth"!!!! It becomes a bit of a joke between me and the bride and bridesmaids!!

And a 13th birthday party! Bliss. I dream of being able to photograph so many young people!! It would be great. Unfortunately, I have no youngsters in my family now, so I have to rely on friends children.

Have done a few parties, though, for friends children, all very young ones - mostly below 5. They are great fun. Take them individually and in groups - 13 year olds will be more than happy to pose, I am sure. It goes back to my first posting to you - they are much braver in gangs - and will forget you are there!!

If you want to discuss nearer the time, don't hesitate to put me a private message in and we can chat further.

Let me know how you get on, Fiona.

Good luck. You can't go wrong!!



09-02-07, 03:11
Thanks lesley. I had a look at your gallery and the up close personsal approach realy works. I'll be trying that myself. And yes I do want her to smile she has some gorgeous dimples & I know her big sister would love a photo of her with them on display so I'll probably take your lead and shout teeth at her - I'll get her giggling anyway.

I've managed to bag myself a fantastic opertunity as well. I have got talking to a professional photographer through a chance meeting and he's invited me along to help out at a wedding on sunday and to get some of my own shots. Even better is he's not seen any of my work so has no preconceptions of what my shots will turn out like.



10-02-07, 14:07
Ok Here is one of the shots I got. Turns out my neice is a natural in front of the camera.

10-02-07, 15:19
Hi Fiona - looks like you really got the hang of it quickly!!

Have been doing very much the same thing myself this morning - a young girl (Tammy - 14) from the village I live in came round this morning for a shoot. Will post you a few pics later when processed (still in camera(s) at mo) but I think your pic looks GREAT. She certainly doesn't look a bit shy, and nor was mine!! Both our subjects are naturals, I feel. And I can assure you its not always like that - with children AND adults.

So get some on the gallery and keep shooting.

As for your opportunity tomorrow to go out with a wedding photographer - that will be marvelous indeed. Its really intensive work at a wedding - you are solidly at it for hours - starting with the bride at home, the church, the reception - it is completely exhausting. I have done them alone, but prefer my hubby to help out, otherwise its so frantic!!!

Really enjoy your day, learn all you can, watch how he takes and how he interacts with his subjects, then TELL ME ALL ABOUT IT in the forum and how you felt about it.

Take care Fiona and ENJOY.


11-02-07, 00:22
Hi Fiona - 11.20 and have just edited a few of my shots today of Tammy.

Will put one or two in my gallery tonight for you to have a look at and see what you think. Will be probably after midnight before I put it in, though.

Let me know.


11-02-07, 10:14
Ok Here is one of the shots I got. Turns out my neice is a natural in front of the camera.

You're right about her being a natural.

I'm not sure what your lighting set up was here - natural light through a window or flash, but you need to watch your exposure to avoid burning out the highlights. When taking portraits, I always use manual exposure to give me the control I need. If that means reducing the exposure for the highlights to the extent that the face is in too much shaddow, try using either a reflector to bounce the light back, or fill in flash. In the case of the later I would suggest that it helps to bounce if off something to avoid sharp shadows.

To judge your overall exposure, try buying an 18% grey card from you local photographic shop (it shouldn't be too expensive - I got one from Jessops for 5.99). Take a test shot just of the card and look at the histogram. If the exposure is correct, you should have a spike right in the middle :D


11-02-07, 11:43
Thanks for the tip about the grey card Clive. I'll be getting one asap.

I have no specific studio lighting. It was Natural Light diffussed through a Neutral blind. I also had the ceiling light on and a desk lamp to try and fill in the shadow. I think next time I'll move her further away from the window and see if this helps.

Lesley I like the photos of Tammy. Very Nice. The wedding went good today and I learnt loads, your right about it being hard work!! I got some really nice shots and the Photographer asked if he could give them to the Bride and Groom. I'm well happy. My photo's aren't quite consistent enough to do a wedding myself and know that I'll get all the important ones but I've learnt so much today and for the most part know where I went wrong. I'll get some up in the next day or two.