3 Practical Tips for Getting Great Portraits

3 Practical Tips for Getting Great Portraits

Keren Chookaszian is a boutique wedding photographer based out of Chicago, IL.  When she's not shooting weddings or blogging she spends her days chasing around her two adorable little boys.  To see more of her portfolio visit www.kerensarai.com.

1. Move your subjects… don’t just pose them.

When I first started as a photographer all I wanted to do was memorize as many poses as I could because that’s how I thought I could get the best pictures.  The truth is the more you “pose” your subjects the more stiff they are going to look.  The biggest advice I can give you is to make your subjects move. 

When I’m working with my couples I might actually give them a pose but then also give them an action for moving them into that pose.  Sometimes they might do it over and over again so that I can get natural reactions.  Which also leads me to say, shoot for the in-between moments! Your subject might be laughing or giving the other a funny look.  That’s generally where I get the best shots!

Taken with a Nikon 50mm f/1.4 Lens


2. Find the right light!

This is probably the biggest mistake that I see beginning photographers make.  They don’t know very much about light and consequently end up taking pictures in harsh sunlight or poorly lit rooms. 

When shooting outside I try to stick to shooting during the hour or two before sunset or the hour or two after sunrise.  The reason for this is that the position of the sun is optimal during these times and allows for beautiful, even lit images that are also not flat.

Taken with a Nikon 50mm f/1.4 Lens


If you’re inside, a general rule of thumb is try to create a 45 degree angle between you, your subject, and your light source.

Taken with a Nikon 50mm f/1.4 Lens


3. Use different lenses.

This seems pretty simple but I’ll tell you I loved my 24-70mm lens and never thought I would really need to explore outside of this.  As I dug further into my craft, I started working with prime or “fixed” lenses.  It completely changed the way I shoot.  First, the glass in prime lenses is generally better than those in a normal zoom lens.  Prime lenses also force you to have to move closer or further away.  You do all the thinking with these lenses.

My very first portrait lens was the 50mm 1.4, I LOVE this lens.  It’s my “go to” lens and is almost always on my camera.  Aside from just being a fantastic lens, it also happens to be pretty light and generally a bit less money.  I highly recommend this lens to anyone who is wondering what their second or third lens should be.

Taken with a Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8G Lens


My second favorite lens is the 85mm 1.4 lens.  I rented this lens last year and it totally rocked my world!  The 85mm might just be THE perfect lens!  You can get real close to your subjects without having to be too physically close to them.  

Taken with a Nikon 85mm f/1.4G Lens


I could probably give you a hundred more tips on how to get amazing portraits but when I look back at how my pictures have changed I can say that these three things really made a world of a difference for me. 


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