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Beginner Photography: Portraits

Hello friends, here goes my beginner photography training, week two. This week I’m working on portraits in preparation for our live show on Thursday with special guest Matt Granger!

So I should point out (for the sake of my vanity) that I am shooting with my phone. I have no other camera at this time, so I can pretend that I am limited by my gear and that is the reason I cannot create beautiful works of art. Really what it means is I can’t do the amount of editing I would like to do to my images to make them presentable.

I shot some pictures of my five year old daughter, Eloise, and of my husband Eric. I have to say, Eric’s came out better than Eloise’s, if only because he knows how to sit still. I chose our ivy-covered stone wall in the back yard as the backdrop, as that is really the only good option. Not to mention the natural light. So I shot them on two separate days, but both coming up on the golden hour of the evening. 

Eloise is hard to photograph. She wiggles a lot, has no concept of smiling normally in photos, and hunches her shoulders like Lurch. But she’s adorable, so I still got a few shots that I can live with. Unfortunately the focusing on my phone camera is not the best, so who knows what part of the image it focused on.


So, not great. Her hair is a bit of a mess, her dress is wrinkly, and I for sure missed focus on the eyes.


A bit better. I got a real smile, but the previous errors are still there.


This one I like just because it captures her spirit well. She’s a wild child and an animal lover. But the background is crowded and her dress is a mess.

Eric was easier to shoot, although he is terribly uncomfortable in front of the camera. I did some editing on my favorite photo of him, following the directions on how to add background blur in this tutorial. If I had more time, I’d do it to all of the shots I took. I might do some of Eloise’s later today.  Here’s the before and after:







Isn’t he handsome? The differences are subtle, but I removed the yellow cord at the bottom left of the frame and added just a bit of background blur to make him stand out. I had tried to crop so that his face was in the right third of the frame, but it felt too cramped, I didn’t leave enough space to do it properly. 

So all in all I think the background and lighting worked well, they both have catch lights in their eyes, the light is soft and flattering. Unfortunately the focusing isn’t too precise and my tiniest model needs some styling and posing help. I have a feeling they are going to be forced to grow as models as I grow as a photographer. What tips would you give me that I can apply within my limited resources?

As always, feel free to learn along with me and share your progress. I post images on Instagram with the hashtag #stunnersoninsta as many of our viewers do!

To learn more about shooting portraits, here are some great free tutorials on shooting portraits and here are some on editing.