Common portrait mistakes and how to fix them


Discover how to fix portrait problems with this quick-fire guide

It’s easy to make mistakes with portraits when you’re under pressure and considering so many factors all at once. Below are some of the more common mistakes that we see come up in photos all the time, so take a look and try and recall these tips on your next shoot.

Incorrect white balance
Here the lighting is unflattering and the blue colour cast is really strong
Common mistakes fixed
By fixing a few common problems the image is now much stronger

Distorted facial features
Wide-angle focal lengths are best left for landscapes, as they tend to distort facial features when you’re shooting tight headshots. The best focal length for flattering portraits is usually considered to be around 70mm on a cropped sensor or 105mm on full frame sensors, but it really depends on the kind of result you are trying to achieve.

Soft eyes
Viewers are naturally drawn to eyes in a portrait, regardless of eye contact, so they must appear sharp. Ensure your focal point is positioned over the eyes.

Busy backgrounds
It’s great to add some context to your natural portrait shots by including their surroundings, but be mindful of busy backgrounds. Simply moving your model a few feet can make a world of difference, or try moving distracting objects out of the frame.

Unflattering angles
Shooting perspectives can have a big impact on how your subject is perceived. Low angles emphasise importance, but high angles are more flattering.

Bad lighting
It’s good to have some contrast in your portrait shots, but avoid heavy shadows that distort the face and mask details. Try positioning your model next to window light for a soft effect and use a reflector or flash to fill in the shadows. If you’re just using flash, bounce it off a ceiling for a more flattering result.

Incorrect white balance
Having the wrong white balance on your camera can cause skin tones to be really unflattering. Avoid your model looking orange or a washed out blue by setting a custom white balance before your start the shoot.

For more portrait tips, check out the Digital Photographer Masterclass: Portraits edition available for iOS.

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