Learn Basic Photo Editing

Capturing Personality In Portrait Photography

By Rach DePaoli | Basic Photo Editing Photo Editor Tutorials

We’ve all been there; you take someone’s photo and it turns out looking nothing like what they look like in person - the pose is all wrong, their expression is flat, and they immediately exclaim, “delete that one!” Cue all the retakes. The thing is, without proper direction of your model, even the prettiest people can look unattractive in photos.

On the other side of the camera, getting your portrait taken can be an incredibly vulnerable situation. Whether you’re taking senior photos, headshots for LinkedIn, or casual portraits on an outing, even the most seemingly-confident people are insecure about something. For this reason alone, the first thing you should do as a photographer is genuinely compliment your model and make them feel safe in front of the camera. Breaking through their insecurities will help you discover the best facets of their personality with your camera lens and have them saying, “wow, I can’t believe you captured that!”

tips for portrait photography by BeFunky

Whether you’re serious about photography or just trying to get better at taking shots of your friends, we’re about to share some handy tips that will help take your portraits to the next level. We’ll show you how to capture your subject’s personality and create intriguing portraits, plus how to enhance them with BeFunky’s selection of Touch Up tools! Let’s get started.

Tips for Capturing Personality In Your Portraits

The key to taking good portraits, especially if you’re the one behind the camera, is directing! If you want to enhance personality and produce out-of-this-world portraits, you need natural movement, genuine laughter, and true facial expressions. As the photographer, the only way to achieve that is through calming your subject’s nerves, directing the photoshoot well, and using your camera lens to discover their best features. Simply telling your subject where to stand or sit will make your photos look just like that; posed and uninteresting.

If you have a vision of the end result, communicate that in the beginning of your photoshoot, then continue to talk to your subject as you capture them with your lens. You don’t need a bunch of lame jokes to loosen them up, but talking to them throughout the shoot will eventually have them feeling comfortable. Here are some of our favorite ways to break the ice, create compelling portraits, and above all, capture your subject’s personality:

Create Movement

You can start small, but get your subject moving. Give them a prompt like moving their arms above their head and back down to their waist or have them walk from one side of the frame to the other, taking photos the entire time. This way, you’ll be able to capture the in-between shots that add candid movement. Using this method will make your photos look natural, plus your subject will get more comfortable in front of the camera as they move around the frame.

how to create movement in portrait photography

To take things a step beyond, ask your model if they want to listen to some music. Before you arrive at your photoshoot, make a playlist of some tracks that fit the overall vibe you’re going for.  Playing some tunes on your phone can really help people loosen up - and with the right music they might even end up dancing!

Provoke Genuine Laughter

Capturing natural laughter is a tool you want in your toolbox. Nothing is worse than telling your subjects something like, “Okay, we are laughing. Pretend I am funny, Ha-Ha-Ha.” Perhaps you’ve experienced this yourself, but this is not the way to capture natural laughter.

Tell your subject to do something that’s actually funny, like whisper the name of a vegetable in their sexiest voice. If you have one, tell them about a funny situation that you had on a previous shoot with a similar shot or pose (just keep your previous client’s embarrassment confidential!), or something hilarious that recently happened to you. It’s the perfect way to break the barrier that cameras can often create between photographer and subject.

how to capture personality in photography

Most of the time you can get your subject laughing from the poses you ask them to do. Even saying things like, “I know this might feel really awkward, but I promise you don’t look like you’re actually washing your hands. I forgot to tell you these photos are going to be an add for antibacterial hand soap, you’re first modeling job!” The candid laughter you produce is exactly what you’re going for, so continue to take photos as they respond.

Read Up On Body Language

Even if you’re taking someone’s headshots, it’s important to find out a little bit about them and their personality. If they are someone who is very poised and preppy, you probably are not going to want them to take photos that are hunched over or look grungy. Make sure that the way you are posing them fits the message you’re trying to convey.

body language in portrait photography

Read up on different poses and body language in general. For example, crossing your arms in front of you with your chin propped up can make someone look more powerful, or loosely crossing your arms with both hands visible can make someone look relaxed. These small nuances can help your portraits come to life.

Discover Your Subject’s Best Angles

Everyone has good and bad angles, your job is to find them. Depending on how someone positions their body towards you, the person can look thinner or curvier. If you are trying to make someone look curvier, have them stick out their hips or sit with their thighs squished against a chair. If you are wanting them to look slimmer, have them separate their legs or stand on the balls of their feet and bend one knee.

For headshots, chin definition is key for both men and women. Finding defined angles helps create shadows and definition. Although it may feel weird to your model, telling them to stick their neck out or forward can dramatically change their posture for the better. Don’t be afraid to tell someone to tilt their chin up or down slightly a few times in a row. Be candid and communicate what is and isn’t working for them. That way, they’ll be educated on their best angles for future shoots.

finding your best angle in portrait photography

Tip: Be mindful of your own angles as well when shooting! Get lower to the ground and shoot up at your subject, stand on a stool and shoot down, bend at the waist if your subject is shorter. A good photographer will be moving around and getting right into the shoot with their subject.

Create A Scene

Tell your subject the emotion you want them to portray by creating a scene for them. If you want them to look happy, rather than say, “look happy,” tell them to imagine walking around an amusement park with their friends in the summertime. Paint the scene for them. Once you create the scene, you can then direct their body language.

portrait photography tips for beginners

Once you have your photo session complete, it is time for some editing! BeFunky’s Photo Editor makes it easy to tweak and fix your images. So many people will tell you up front that they have a giant blemish on their forehead or that they are looking really tired that day. Put them at ease during the shoot and assure them that they look good. Remind them that tweaks to blemishes and the like can be made possible during editing and to just have fun during the session.

Touch Up Tools For Editing Portrait Photography

Once you’ve nailed your photoshoot and have some personality-filled shots, upload one into BeFunky’s Photo Editor. You’ll find a huge library of editing tools and effects for everything about your photo, from the subject to the background. To enhance your subject, select the Touch Up tab from the menu on the left. Here you can find all the Touch Up tools you need to erase blemishes, whiten teeth, brighten eyes and more!

Create A Clear Complexion

One of the best tools to start with is the Perfect Skin Tool. It’s a really intuitive tool, as it erases blemishes while maintaining the skin’s natural texture. That means blemishes, wrinkles, scars, and dark circles are eliminated without making your model’s complexion look unnaturally airbrushed!

perfect skin retouch tool in BeFunky

You’ll find the Perfect Skin Tool at the top of the Touch Up tab. When you click on it, it will analyze your model’s skin before presenting you with a paintbrush. Simply click and drag to paint the Perfect Skin Tool over the model’s skin, making sure you avoid the finer details of the eyes, eyebrows, nose and mouth.

how to erase blemishes in photo with BeFunky

Pro Tip: Make sure you don’t remove aspects of the person’s skin that makes them unique. Unless they ask, don’t airbrush out freckles, moles, or birthmarks.

You can use the sliding scales on the left to adjust the strength, brush size, and brush hardness. Once the portrait is looking just right, click the blue checkmark to apply the changes. To see a quick before and after, press the ‘o’ button on your keyboard (‘o’ stands for original) to see how the Perfect Skin tool has enhanced your photo.

Enhance The Eyes

They say ‘it’s all in the eyes’ for a reason - having eyes that are in focus is one of the keys to taking great portraits. In the photo editing process, it’s important to make sure that your subjects eyes pop in a noticeable, yet subtle way.

The Eye Brighten tool does just what its name suggests; brightens the white part of the eyes and makes your subject look awake. You’ll find it in the Eyes section of the Touch Up tab, and once you click on it, you’ll be presented with a paint brush. Click and drag it over the eyeballs and be amazed at how it helps define your subject’s eyes!

how to brighten eyes in portrait photography with BeFunky

You can use the sliding scales on the left to adjust the brush size and hardness. If your subject has particularly discolored eyes, whether from staying up too late or otherwise, an increase in brush hardness should do just the trick. When you’re finished, click the blue checkmark to apply the effect.

Another great tool in the Eye department is the Mascara tool. Using it on your subject’s eyelashes will help add contrast to the eyes and make them look extra-intriguing.

how to add digital makeup to photo in BeFunky

The brush you’re presented with when you click on Mascara can be used to slightly darken and define eyelashes. Click and drag it over the eyelashes, using the sliding scales on the left to adjust brush size and hardness.

Make Teeth Look Whiter

Do your subject’s teeth look a little on the off-white (or yellow!) side? The Teeth Whiten tool is amazing for making teeth look naturally white and bright. You’ll find it in the Mouth section of the Touch Up tools, and once again will be presented with a brush to click and drag over the teeth in your photo.

teeth whiten tool in BeFunky Photo Editor

Use the sliders on the left to adjust the brush size and hardness. For teeth that need an extra dose of white, move the sliding scale to the left for more power.

Create Definition With Contouring

If you have heard anything online about contouring in the last few years, these same tricks apply when editing. Contouring describes the use of makeup to create highlights and shadows on the face to define cheekbones, slim the bridge of the nose, and so on. With the help of the Bronzer tool, you can create the same subtle definition in your portraits, which is super helpful if any of the previous edits caused your subject’s face to look flat and undefined.

portrait retouch tools in BeFunky Photo Editor

When you’re using the Bronzer tool, choose a color that is a shade or two darker than the subject’s skin tone and decrease the brush hardness. When you contour, you want to stay near the outer corners of the face, under the cheek bones, and on the side of the nose.

See how just a few Touch Up tools can enhance your portrait photography without going overboard?

how to edit portrait photography with BeFunky
tips for editing portrait photography



More Tips for Portrait Photography Success

Before you go out with a model or subject, it’s a great idea to get to know what their goals are for the shoot. Will you be shooting something casual for their Instagram account, or something more professional for a website? Knowing these things from the get-go will help you go above and beyond and avoid situations where you have shots that are completely irrelevant.

Make sure you know the best time of day to plan your shoot for optimal lighting and also how to manipulate the light with your camera settings. When starting out, choose a time of day where the light is diffused, such as early in the morning or right before the sun goes down, as these are the times when light isn’t so harsh and direct. Having harsh light can be a cool effect, but when starting out it can be a cruel monster to work around in the editing process.

how to photograph people

Always make sure that the part of your photo you want in focus, is in fact, in focus. The worst thing is when you come home from a shoot to find that you’ve focused on your subjects nose, cheek or hairline. This can make or break a session. Always focus on the eyes!

And lastly, practice makes perfect. Ask a friend or two to go out with you and let them know you are trying to practice shooting portrait photography. Pick out a special location and style your model(s) based on the look you want to go for. Choose a location you haven’t shot in yet, like a forest or on the top of a mountain.

The most important thing is to have fun with what you are doing and keep practicing! And trust that BeFunky’s Photo Editor will always be here to help you tweak your photos after your session.

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