Fourth of July Photo Shoot and Tips for Portrait Photography

Happy Tuesday, y'all! Today I'm talking photo shoots. People photo shoots specifically. I've got a few tips and tricks for you on capturing great moments on camera. Since y'all loved my outdoor photography tips, I figured I'd share a few on portraits too. And I'm going to use our Fourth of July spontaneous photo shoot that I previewed in this post to help explain some of these tips. I know you've been dying to see a bunch of photos of me and the hubs, right? No? Well humor me anyway :).

Obligatory disclaimer: I know I always say this, but I feel like I have to mention it again...I do not claim to be a professional photographer. In fact, my mom took all these photos (she's got a great eye! I just chose the camera settings.). These are some helpful things I've learned along the way by simply practicing. Feel free to take or leave anything you read here!

If you're curious about what equipment I use, here's what's in my camera bag, but you don't need fancy equipment to use these tips!

Tip number 1: Blow dry your hair before a photo shoot. Just kidding. That's not actually the first tip. I just figured I'd throw it out there since my hair is soaking wet and in its all-natural wavy state in these photos - not what I'd do if we were having a "real" photo shoot, but this was for fun and completely spontaneous, so there you go. Imperfection's ok with us.

Actual tip number 1: Timing is key. Early morning and late afternoon have the best light for photos. Avoid the harsh middle-of-the-day sun. We took these when there was about 3 hours left of daylight and it was magnificent.

2. To blur your background and make your subjects pop, turn the aperture down to to a low f-stop. Most of these were taken on f/2.8.

3. Get the whole family involved, which for us included grabbing our dog, Jackson, for a few photos. He's the real star of the show.

4. Catch posed moments as well as candids. People appreciate having both.

5. Make sure the light source - ideally, the sun :) - is in front of your subjects so the light hits the front of their faces. If you imagine your subjects are at the center of a clock, with 12 straight ahead of them, keep the light source between 10 and 2. This helps avoid weird/harsh shadows. Also, if you want to avoid squinty eyes, don't point your subjects right at the sun (12 on the clock).

6. Experiment with angles. This can add some fun visual interest to a shot.

7. Coordinate clothing, but no matchy-matchy. The Fourth of July gave us a great excuse to put out our red, white and blue clothing, but you can see the colors don't match perfectly. Oh, and my personal preference is no all white outfits...but that's totally my own opinion.

8. Focus on your subject's eyes - especially if you're working in manual mode and have your aperture set on a LOW f-stop. On my camera, there are some red dots that light up in the viewfinder on what the camera is focusing on. Make sure one of those dots lights up near your subject's eyes. Some point-and-shoot cameras will have boxes that appear around subjects' faces when you press the shutter button halfway down. Use those to your advantage.

9. Change up the scenery. Take a few photos in one place, then move your subjects to another location. In our case, we took a few shots sitting on some steps, then moved down to the dock for others.

10. Have some fun with it! The more comfortable your subjects feel, the better the results. Help them let loose and enjoy having their photos taken!

Did I leave anything out? What are some of your best tips for shooting portrait photos?

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  1. Great photos! Such a fun idea to coordinate with red/white/blue. Thanks for the tips!

  2. Super cute photos! Great tips as well. I have always loved candid shots the best, those are the ones you remember (not the formal family portrait where everyone was uncomfortable).

  3. Beautiful pictures!! I love the last one, I laughed out loud! You used the sun to your advantage in a great way, the lighting is perfect.

  4. Thanks for the tips! I agree totally with you on not dressing too matchy-matchy. I've seen way too many cheesy shots with that problem.. haha!

    1. You're welcome! Thanks for stopping by. Let's all make a pact to nix the matchy outfits! Haha. :)

  5. This is so helpful for me....we're going to try and do some family photos soon so I'll be keeping these tips in mind! Pinning this now to my photography board in Pinterest. I'm stopping by from Inspire Me Please (#2 Budget Bathroom Makeover and 11 Inspiring Ideas)

  6. This post is so helpful! We're going to try and get some family photos taken soon so I'll have to keep these tips in mind. Pinning this to my photography board on Pintrest right now. I'm stopping by from Inspire Me Please (#2 Budget Bathroom Makeover and 11 Inspiring Ideas)

  7. Thanks for this!!! I can't wait to get my little girls outside and give them a try!

  8. Hi, found your blog through Suburbs Mama Party. I am so bad with a camera, these were very helpful! And what cute pics! Thanks for sharing!

  9. These are great tips AND great photos! So helpful! Pinning to my blog tips board. Thanks for sharing at All Things Pretty!

  10. You two are so stinking cute!! If and when I buy a nice camera (wanting to with the babe coming), I will definitely use these tips!

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