5 Hacks to LEVEL UP Your Portrait Photography

5 Hacks to LEVEL UP Your Portrait Photography

In this video, I’m going to show you 5 hacks to take your portrait game to the next level.

When a lot of people start shooting portraits they fall into a series of traps or ruts that keep them from growing.  These five hacks will help you break out of creative ruts and 10x your portraits.

1. Use the Tone Curve to Edit Portraits

When most photographers edit portraits in Lightroom, they only use the sliders in the basic panel to make adjustments to their photos.  But if you wanna take your photos from basic to baller, then you need to use the tone curve editor.

The tone curve allows you to make finite adjustments to the brightness/darkness of various tones in your image.  You can make pretty radical adjustments just doing this.

For a punchy, contrasty look - try making an S curve.  Bring the shadows down, brighten the midtones and pull down the highlights slightly.  From there make subtle adjustments to fit your needs.

 Model - Bella @isaisa320

Model - Bella @isaisa320

2. Pick More Interesting Locations for Your Shoots

Lots of photographers shoot in public parks or even touristy locations filled with Instagrammers.  If you want to stand out, it helps to pick more interesting locations.

For instance, Jenna Martin was recently featured on Petapixel for her photo shoot in a Lowe’s hardware store.

So think outside the box for your locations.  Where are some places that are right in front of your eyes that other photographers aren’t shooting at?  I’ve done shoots in grocery stores, university buildings, and even a mall.

3. Use Mood Boards to Develop Photo Shoot Themes

Instead of just winging it on your shoots, take the time to create a mood board or develop a theme for your shoot.  Think about what types of poses, clothing styles, or colors you would like to use.  Styling the shoot in this way gives you focus and helps you create a more interesting story through your images.

For instance, I developed a sci-fi theme for a portrait shoot and got this photograph.

 Model: Hendrick

Model: Hendrick

4. Incorporate Props into Your Portraits

Including props in your photo shoot, when done well, can help you separate yourself from basic headshot photographers.  It’s important to be judicious and subtle with this, as it can get very cheesy very fast.

For starters, think about some everyday household items that you can use in a shoot.  Things like umbrellas, interesting sunglasses, and books can make good props for photos.

 Model - Lili @waterlilium

Model - Lili @waterlilium

You could also use have the model wear a flower crown or hold other gadgets like a Rubix cube or magic 8 ball.  Your use of props is only limited by your creativity.

5. Creatively Use Reflections in Your Portraits

Finding ways to incorporate reflections into your photography can help take it to the next level.

Creative use of windows, mirrors, puddles and prisms can make your photographs stand out from the mass of photographers shooting senior portraits in public parks.

(PS - I did a tutorial on how to shoot portraits with a prism.)

Hope you found these tips helpful.  Portrait photography has had such a huge impact on my life and it can for yours as well.  In the next post I’m going to share some of the life-changing magic of portrait photography.

What's your favorite portrait hack from this list?  Leave it in the comments below :)