Quick Tips for Quick Portraits

Light Meter by Lisa K. Berton

Who wouldn’t want to be able to pull off a quick nice portrait while vacationing? Scott, that was rhetorical. There are those moments when you and your friends and family have stopped moving and you think, ooh, time for pictures!

Let’s examine this photograph closely. I’ll point out what you want to avoid and what can be approved upon. Today’s model is mild mannered reporter Clark Kent, oh wait, no, he was busy. Today’s model is well-mannered Disney fan Deb Wills*.


1. Always look to see if there are other humans, animals, polls, street lamps, etc… behind your subject. This woman is sticking out of Deb’s shoulder. That can’t be comfortable.

1 1/2. Part of a person doesn’t help either.

2. Lighting is extremely important. Racoon eyes and squiting isn’t attractive, unless you’re a racoon with glaucoma. Look out for harsh shadows.

3. Posing is another super duper important part of a great portrait or headshot. Facing straight on is OK but less desireable.

4. The background should be simple without much going on as to not distract from the subject. Snacks huts aren’t exactly picturesque even if they’re themed.


I moved Deb (not literally, she walked herself) several feet to the right of where we were and turned her back so that the sun was behind her left shoulder. The only background is the wall and the plantlife. This allows Deb to stand out without having distractive people and things behind her. The lighting is now more even and the sun is diffused by clouds, which I had no control over, try as I might. By turning Deb’s shoulders at an angle, it creates a more pleasant and complimentary look.

See, with just a few simple steps, you too can create portraits on the go and once you have that, you can have all sorts of fun with photo editing software.


Deb gets darker at night.

*For the purpose of these photos I had to ask Deb to remove her x-ray vision glasses.

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