Secrets to a great portrait

Want to know how to take a great portrait? The best portraits aren't about clothes or a background.

They're relaxed, natural, and capture the essence of their subject. A good photographer makes it happen by following three rules:

  • know your subject
  • create a comfortable environment
  • keep it simple

Having your picture taken is intimidating for many people, so it's important to feel comfortable, both with the photographer and the setting in which your photo will be taken. Spend some time talking with your photographer. It will give him or her a chance to get to know you better, and it will help you feel more relaxed as well.

Once you're comfortable, you're off to a great start. But before you make an appointment, here are some pointers to help ensure you'll end up with a portrait you'll love.

Dress for success
Comfortable = confident. So choose an outfit that is flattering and comfortable to wear. Wearing clothes you feel great in will make you feel more relaxed and confident - and confidence makes for a fabulous portrait.

Concerned about colour? Well, stick to neutral tones, but if it's your favourite and it's flattering, go ahead and wear it. Just be conscious of your environment - wearing a white blouse against a white background, for instance, isn't the best idea.

Less is more
This goes for makeup and jewellery. Keep jewellery simple so it enhances rather than detracts. A simple chain necklace or a pair of diamond studs is always flattering. For makeup, try using light and natural makeup that enhances your features. Just remember - the brighter the lights, the more makeup you will need.

Use the right light
The right lighting can make all the difference in a portrait. Avoid overhead lighting, as it can cast shadows over your face and give the appearance of having bags under your eyes. The best light is afternoon light. The sun is softer and has a warmer colour, which creates great skin tones. Your photographer can create "afternoon light" in the studio, or you can take your photo shoot outside.

You don't have a "best side"
What you have is best features, and your photographer knows how to make the most of them. Photographers use light to their - and your - advantage, using it to slim a nose or brighten beautiful eyes.

There are two photo secrets that every celebrity and model knows. First, put one foot in front of the other with your front leg slightly bent. It's the most flattering pose for any figure, making your torso and legs appear slimmer. Second, tilt your chin slightly upward and you'll never have to worry about the camera giving you a double chin.

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