3 Factors for Portfolio-Worthy Images

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We all have those images that we’re really, really proud of. They fill our portfolios and the home pages of our websites. But what is it about an image that makes us pause to look a little longer? What makes a photo stand out among the hundreds (over-shooter here) captured during a session? I’ve found that there are three factors that I can attribute to images I really love. Let’s dig into each one:


collage of family photos

Okay so maybe this one is obvious. After all, proper lighting and exposure are kind of the bare minimum for good photography. When I say light, I mean intense light that is controlled to create a stunning image. When we’re able to properly use the sun’s glow to illuminate our clients, it takes our work from good to incredible. Most often, this is accomplished through backlighting. Whether it’s a sunset in a field or the sun shining through the window of a studio, placing the subject in front of strong light source creates a photo that is visually pleasing.

Tip: Try shooting in the middle of the day. If you’re only used to shooting at sunset, I wouldn’t recommend doing this for a paying client. Rather, schedule a model call session (or swap with another photographer) and play around with light that isn’t during golden hour. While you may find that still prefer the look of golden hour light, this practice will help you sharpen your skills at controlling light. 



collage of newborn and family photo sessions

Another way to create a captivating image is to use the background of your photo to point to the subject. Simply put, composition refers to the way elements are arranged in an image. Take a closer look at each of the photos above and you’ll notice each ones has distinct lines that draw your eye to the subject of the photo. In an outdoor setting, you can use lines created by trees, fences or sidewalks to create beautiful composition. In my studio, I use things like baseboard lines, benches and even other family members who aren’t the main subject.

A second way to create visually appealing composition is to place something in the foreground. Intentionally shooting past something that’s in front of your subject (that will be out of focus) can draw the viewers eye to the place you want it. I’ve recently experimented with shooting through the sheer curtains at my studio to add visual interest to my indoor images.

Tip: The next time you’re location scouting for a session, look for creative things you can shoot through to add foreground to your photos. 


Emotion + Connection

Lastly, let’s talk about connection, which is my favorite of the three. Why? Because photography is story-telling. It’s capturing relationships between individual members of a family. I don’t know about you, but when I receive galleries back from my own family photos, the ones I love most are of my boys laughing hysterically at each other, or my husband with his arms wrapped around me. These are the moments we get to create during sessions. Sure, some families naturally show off their connection to one another, but often it’s up to us to prompt this type of close-ness and interaction. And when we achieve it, the images are stunning because they’re authentic and they tell a story.

Tip: For family sessions, make sure to have as many “connection points” as possible. If anyone has a free hand, have them use it to connect with someone else in the family (i.e. holding hand, hand around a waist, hand on a shoulder, etc.)


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