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Tuesday, March 1, 2011

10 Keys To Unique Portraits

How to use location, lighting and creative thinking to improve your portraits

This Article Features Photo Zoom


Consider that your location can help create the overall mood and style of your shot. Putting your subject in the water may or may not be a good idea, but it’s always a possibility.

I once was with a couple who renewed their wedding vows on a beach in Baja. They asked me to shoot photos for them, and I suggested we do some portraits in the water. They agreed, and we created great images of the couple neck-deep in the ocean with the sun setting in the background. Never say never to an idea!

3. Include animals
Another icebreaker for working with subjects is having them pose with an animal. Imagine a cowboy portrait; more likely than not there’s a horse in the shot. Posing a veterinarian with an animal makes sense and adds a new dimension to the image. I’ve had subjects go from quiet and reserved to open and animated simply by suggesting we photograph them with an animal.

I was recently in the Dominican Republic photographing surfers. We met a local farmer on the beach who was shy at first. But when we suggested he ride his horse along the beach, his smile never quit. He rode his horse along the crashing surf in warm evening light, creating some fantastic shots.

One of my all-time favorite portraits is Richard Avedon’s model Dovima standing between two towering elephants. The tension between high fashion and animal instinct is striking.

4. Swing at the playground
Nothing brings out the joy in kids better than playtime at the local playground. Unique portrait locations are plentiful. How about photographing your subject hanging from the bars, soaring past in the swing or buried in sand?

One of my favorite playground rides is the spinning carousel. Try sitting across from your subject, with someone gently spinning the carousel, and shoot at 1/30 sec. You should have a joyous shot of your subject against a blurred kaleidoscopic background.

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