Photography Tutorial: Tips for Portrait Photography

Learn how to build a connection with your sitter and understand what people feel during a photo shoot

Nowadays, photography is more accessible than ever, but a good photographer must know how to connect with their subject. If you are shooting people, a good connection can bring out the best in yourself, your sitter, and, ultimately, your pictures.

Emilia Brandão (@emiliabrandao) is a LEICA ambassador who has worked for Vogue, GQ, Elle and Glamour. In this tutorial, she shares a few simple ways to make your sitter comfortable and create the best environment for a successful shoot.

1. Empathy

Put yourself in your sitter’s shoes. Emilia is the first to admit that a photo shoot can be an awkward situation to find yourself in.

Imagining how your sitter might be feeling will allow you to take the best steps to make sure their experience is as enjoyable as possible: it is almost always easier to take good pictures of a relaxed sitter.

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Emilia Brandão

2. Validation

Making someone feel comfortable does not mean denying their discomfort.

Instead of telling someone not to worry or encouraging them to think of something else, it is better to acknowledge how they are feeling and discuss openly how you can make them more comfortable.

3. Vulnerability

A great photo reveals something about its sitter. In order to see these hidden depths, our sitter must feel free to be vulnerable. In order to achieve that, you too must be prepared to reveal something of yourself.

Share yours plans and ideas for the shoot with your sitter so they can not only understand what you want to achieve but can get to know who you are and what you are about. By doing this, you can help them recognize your passion and personality so they can be more open and authentic with you too.

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Emilia Brandão

4. Visualization and direction

In many shoots, you will want your model to convey a particular emotion or expression. If you can see that your sitter is struggling to express what you need, there is one tool that Brandão likes to use.

In her words: "A thought triggers a feeling that triggers a behavior". One way of creating this initial thought is to ask your sitter to close their eyes and picture themselves in a situation that would make them feel the emotion you wish to capture with your camera. Then, ask them to open their eyes and hold onto that feeling as you start taking your pictures once again.

If you liked this tutorial, you can learn more from Emilia Brandão about capturing unforgettable images and experiences by understanding how to engage with individuals and their emotions on her online course, Directing People for Portrait Photography.

You may also like:

- The Art of Self-Portraits: Expressing Yourself through Photography, a course by Laura Zalenga
- Introduction to Narrative Photography, a course by Dara Scully
- Fine Art Self-Portrait Photography, a course by Danny Bittencourt


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