20 Tips for Home Studio Portraits

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Post by Ann Marie DiLorenzo

 At the Canon booth at the 2018 Photo Plus show in NYC, Rick Sammon promised the audience that he’d give at least 10 tips during his presentation. Well, Rick actually gave 20 tips. Here they are!

1) When you think you need 2 lights, use 1 light. When you think you need 3, use 2. (A Frank Doorhof quote)

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2) Be aware of other lighting in the room; you want your speedites lights to be the main source of light.


3) Umbrella spreads light evenly; soft box allows you to control and shape the light. 

4) If you want an interesting portrait, don’t light the subject’s entire face. 

5) For a portrait with few shadows on your subject’s face, you want the subject’s nose to follow the light; have their nose face the lighting source.  

6) The size of a subject’s pupils affects our impression of the subject. The advantage of using a speed light is that the pupil doesn’t have time to close down, making the photo more inviting. 

7) Never touch the model. 

8) The larger the light source, the softer the light. The closer the light source is to the subject, the softer the light. 

9) In lighting, inches matter. 

10) Shadows are the souls of the picture. 

11) Never underestimate the value of a good model.  

12) Use your camera like a drone - move the camera up and down to effect the viewer’s perception of the subject. If you move the camera down lower, the model has you get a greater sense of power. 

13) When looking through the viewfinder or at your LCD monitor, use border patrol - look at the boundaries of the photo and make sure what you want is in, or not in, the 
frame. 

14) Don’t amputate the subjects at the joints.  

15) Name of the game is to fill the frame. Fill the frame with the subject.

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16) The background can make or break the shot. 

17) Most important thing in a photo is the mood/feeling. Backgrounds create moods. 

18) Dead center is deadly. If you place the subject in the center of the frame, the viewer’s eye gets stuck on the subject and doesn’t look at other things in the photo. 

19) Use gels over the light source (speed light)  - red or blue to create an effect. 

20) Focus on the subject’s eyes in a portrait.

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Want more tips on home studio portraits? Check out Rick’s KelbyOne on-line classes.