Photographer Tyler Shields has made many fantastic portraits. In his latest video, he sums up the essentials of powerful portraits and everything you need to put in them. He discovers the secrets to powerful portraits in four and a half minutes, to help you level up your portrait photography.
Capture the emotion
Tyler admits it would take hours to explain everything that goes into a portrait. And indeed, it takes time and practice to master portrait photography (or any kind of photography for that matter). Still, the first thing to know is: any great portrait is all about emotion. It’s easy to take a photo of someone’s face, but to create an emotional portrait is something completely different. But how are you gonna do it? This leads us to the next tip: talk everything through.
Sit down and talk
The second piece of advice from Tyler is to sit down and talk. From your model to your makeup artists, talk to them about all aspects of the photo shoot and make it clear what you wish to achieve.
You’re in control
What Tyler emphasizes as the biggest problem at portrait photo shoots is the lack of direction. As the photographer, you need to tell your subjects everything. Pay attention to every little detail and direct them: where to put their hands or feet, where to look, how to act. Keep in mind that your subjects are completely in your control, so be prepared to take that control and don’t lose it.
Of course, this doesn’t mean you should act like a dictator. But, you have to be in control of the situation.
The person doesn’t need to look good
Of course, you may want to make your subject look good. They probably want to look good even more. However, sometimes the portrait needs to be “raw,” “dirty” and “mean.” It won’t make your subject look pretty, but it will tell the story you want to tell. And if the model understands your work and what you want to achieve, they will see the beauty of it.
Make people feel comfortable
I think all portrait photographers will advise you to talk to your subjects, get to know them, hear them out. Tyler advises it, too. When people are comfortable around you, “they’ll tell you their whole life story without saying a word.”
The fewer people, the better
Tyler’s tactics is to have as little people as possible on set when making the portrait. This helps him really focus on the subject(s) and the emotions he wants to capture.
Finally, Tyler adds that taking an iconic portrait of someone is one of the hardest things to do. You may keep chasing that “perfect portrait” and try it again and again. He calls it “the definition of insanity,” but I’d say that’s true passion and devotion. So, keep being passionate about your work, keep learning, and I’m sure you’ll get plenty of powerful portraits.