Elements of a Great Portrait

There is no reason to wait to get your portrait taken.  We all have our own excuses. You may want to loose more weight, grow out your hair or get more sun.  In all honesty, none of us will ever feel perfect enough. The elements of a great portrait have nothing to do with how you look but rather how it all works together.  Embrace your natural beauty in whatever state it is is in right now and take the plunge. I have seen not so great portraits of beautiful people (by societies standard), and have seen amazingly gorgeous portraits of average looking people. What is the magic formula? There are several factors that need to be taken into consideration in order to create an exceptional portrait.

Below are 6 Key Elements of a Great Portrait:

Feeling Great & Confident

A good attitude about yourself and your objective is really important. Having good experiences in general starts when you’re balanced and relaxed. It is also very important to have confidence in the photographer and their team to accomplish what you hired them to do. This all relies on good communication prior to any photo session. A clear goal must be made and agreed upon by both you and the photographer as to what or whom the portraits are for. Only then, can a plan be set for the wardrobe, sets and/or location. Good communication takes all the pressure off you when the day of the session finally comes. You also need to be well informed of the process, including how to prepare yourself days before your scheduled session date. Simple tips such as getting a good nights sleep the evening before makes a big difference in the way you’ll look and feel.


You should wear makeup even if you don’t wear it on a daily basis. This includes foundation, contour, highlight, blush, shadow and some liner. This is essential to a great portrait because makeup will cover blemishes and give you color.  Also the right powder will eliminate shine due to harsh lighting such as flashes or reflectors. Have your makeup done by a professional, even if you ask for a natural look. This way all your best features will be enhanced and your less favorite features will be minimized. An artist will know how to contour and highlight your face in the most flattering way. Your makeup will be heavier than your normal makeup, so keep this in mind to avoid the shock of seeing yourself fully done up. When your artist is finished t is important that you like the makeup before you are photographed.  Make sure you check with the Makeup Artist and approve it before the first shot is taken.

Timing & Compatibility

A model must feel relaxed and at at ease.  Nothing ruins a portrait more than someone who feels uncomfortable when their portraits are taken. A photographer must give good direction as well as positive reinforcement. Plus, offer a fun and enlightening experience on top of it. All of those things are good attributes for having a nice flow during the session. When I photographing and I get excited over a pose I just shot, the client knows it. Plus, she knows I’m taking good portraits because I jump around and show them off to her during the session. Camera Angle & Lighting The wrong angle on a face and body can make you look wider, thinner, or longer than you really are. Bad lighting can create odd shadows that may be too hard or washed out skin tones.  Unless these are effects that go inline with your objective typically they don’t really represent a person in a natural way. An experienced photographer will know what angle will be most flattering on the body and face shape. Subtle distortions are okay to get the right effect but unless the objective of the photo shoot is meant to be funky or weird then most of the time the camera should be at or right above eye level with the right lens at the right distance. Posing & Editing Know approximately how many images you’ll be choosing from and if you’ll have a good variety of poses and camera angles. If there are a lot of photographs and many are redundant poses that look alike you can get really confused. If your last photo shoot left you so overwhelmed you got an instant headache they might have failed on the editing. Or maybe your photographer just didn’t have enough experience to give you the variety. My personal objective is to take enough shots of my favorite poses until I know I’ve gotten “the shot”. Only then do I feel confident enough to move on to the next wardrobe change. I may take duplicate poses and multiple expressions of one pose but inevitably I show the best of those and remove redundancies.

Post Processing and Retouching

Once all the favorite poses are picked out they need to be post processed. High end retouching includes color correcting them, finishing and retouching. Only then will the final images be Magazine Worthy. This shows you are serious about who you are and what you do but have the confidence to do it. If you would like to schedule your own Dream Photography shoot or simply ask us more about our services please CONTACT US
Gina Cinardo
Gina Cinardo
I'm Gina Cinardo, an enthusiastic portrait photographer specializing in helping driven professionals become branded online. Wether they want a fantastic headshot or just photographed being in the moment. I make people look polished and amazing in their portraits. With over 25 years’ experience as a photographer I understand the importance of the first impression. I get so much joy seeing people feel good about themselves and succeeding. IIf you’re ready for a portrait that showcases you as an expert at what you do call me today.
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