10 Top Portrait Tips

Since no single pose is perfect for every model, professional or otherwise, each person before your lens should be looked at individually to decide what to highlight and what to hide. That said, there are basic positions and compositional rules that are extremely helpful to have in mind when going into a photo shoot.

When it comes to photographing a “real” person (rather than a professional model) for an environmental portrait, you may want to capture an element that highlights that person’s uniqueness—even if it isn’t necessarily the most flattering part of that person. A famous photograph of Jimmy Durante, for instance, exaggerates his large nose. Artists who draw caricatures take advantage of these elements. Alfred Hitchcock had a distinctive body type best portrayed in profile. Jay Leno’s and Kirk Douglas’ chins also come to mind. Think about the desired end result—what you want to get across—and it will help you decide on the most appropriate pose for your subject.

My top 10 list of “Dos and Don’ts” comes from years of shooting fashion, beauty and celebrities, as well as interviewing many of the great names of photography, including Helmut Newton, Yousuf Karsh, Patrick Demarchelier, Annie Leibovitz and Peter Lindbergh.

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