Portraits, self portraits, or selfies and other types of portraits can all be made better with a few tips from us

Family gatherings make for great portrait opportunities. Here’s some tips for making those once-a-year shots into once-in-a-lifetime portraits.

1. Have couple of concepts in mind for the shot. Bring a few different props to the shoot so that you can experiment; even something simple but meaningful to the family. A musical instrument, for example. You never know what people are going to be willing to do, and often they surprise you.

2. Pay attention to your background. Choose something interesting and make it an part of your image. If there’s signage, it could be interesting to shoot your subject from below and get the signage floating above him or her, for example.

3. Choose an interesting angle. To make someone look tall and imposing, shoot from a low angle. Conversely, shooting from above will foreshorten the body and can make your subject look like a cartoon character.

4. Make your portrait into a story. If you’re shooting a little girl, consider giving her an interesting prop: a big piece of candy or a Santa hat. Even if you’re shooting a subject against a plain white background, the subject’s gesture can help create the story.

5. Keep it simple. One idea is plenty. You don’t need a girl eating candy in a playground with a dog and three parrots. Obviously, some people can pull complicated ideas off, but they know how to work the situation perfectly.

6. Find the moment that’s right for you and the subject. Timing is everything. Focus on the shoot and don’t miss out the essential moment. Don’t let distractions ruin the shot.

7. Consider using a wide-angle lens. This makes whatever is in the center of the frame get bigger, which can make a portrait look more animated. Be careful, though. Using wide-angle can also emphasize other less-desirable areas, so bring a standard lens or short telephoto/zoom lens.

8. Invest in a foldable round reflector. They usually cost between $20 to $80, depending on size. If you have a shadow on your subject, use the reflector to bounce light onto the subject. It makes for a more stylish look. And reflectors fold up easily, making them easy to tote to grandma’s house.

9. Be prepared to shoot a lot. Often, the subject is stiff at the beginning of the shoot, and loosens up progressively. Sometimes, you’ll get the best shot of all at the end of the shoot.

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