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Top 5 Portrait tips to make anyone look good.

I often get asked to photograph portraits for the Times and what makes them a challenge is that you don't get much time, you don't get to choose where, you don't get to choose when and often you have to photograph someone who has just been asked a rather insensitive question by a journalist. Given the choice I will always opt to photograph the talent first before the journalist arrives but you guessed it you don't often get the choice. So why do it if it's so arduous? Because you need five things to make a great portrait and they are, Someone to photograph, somewhere to photograph, some light, a suitibly clothed person and the opportunity. People who are featured in the Times often have these in spades so despite the challenges it's always great fun.

So to recap the top five tips for a fantastic portrait are:

Someone to photograph

Chris Packham is a true professional who has done this hundreds of time and his pose is on point.

Somewhere to photograph

This location would have looked even better later in the year with the vine in bloom.

Choosing when is out of my control but once on location I can choose where to go and this door gives a wonderful texture to the image.

The background is crucial in a portrait, it needs to be plain enough not to overwhelm but interesting enough not to be boring.

The light

If it's natural you need to control it.

If it's atrificial you need to make it look natural, unless the brief calls for drama and then you can go nuts.

The above image has two lights one on the dog and one on Chris.


Chris has an interest in clothes and this outfit looks fantastic.

No stylist on this shoot this is all his own work.

Wardrobe cannot be under estimated though clothes really do maketh the man.


Opportunity is everything, sometimes you have the perfect model but the background is weak.

Othertimes you have a killer background but your model is just not feeling it.

Sometimes you just need a gold lame suit to pull it all together and you just don't have it.

You can make opportunity but mostly you just have to grab it when you see it and pretend it was your talent that put it all toghether and made it shine.

Philip Hartley is a full-time professional photographer with a degree in art photography and over 20 years experience working as a lifestyle, editorial and advertising photographer across the South of England. His unique style is highly sought after for editorial and commercial photography commissions.


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