Welcome to portrait tips and techniques. In this post I’m talking about  how I approach “portrait home studies”. Along the way, I hope I can pass on some photography tips.

When a client asks me to create portraits of their family, I always enquire about their lifestyle. By finding out more about my clients, allows me to create a more personalised collection of portraits for them. In this particular study, I found out the following:

their sons are dirt bike enthusiasts

they live on acreage

have cows, horses and dogs

the boys have their own bike track

Wow, that’s the sort of things I love to include in my portraits. After the initial phone call, I made arrangements to visit the property to familiarise myself with the location and look for opportunities.

Sometimes new locations can be overwhelming, so first I like to check the light direction and the time and position of the setting sun. I had already established an afternoon shoot, so my visit was arranged in the same time period as the planned shoot.

Next I checked the various locations. The cow paddock was also the race track and had a stream flowing through the middle of it with a small bridge. This was a great spot for the boys with their bikes and no doubt they have crossed this bridge many times.

Another location was a fenced area surrounding some small trees, this provided some subtractive lighting technique opportunity. This is where I photographed the boys with their dogs.

On the day I started with the boys and the dogs in the fenced area (above), as the race track area was in direct sun at that time. I prefer softer light and in particular the setting sun (sweet light).

After various combinations in this area, the boys changed into their race gear and out came the bikes.

Portrait Tip I try to break the session up with some fun, so I let the boys ride around for a few minutes while we headed down to the cow paddock. This helps with co-operation and avoids boredom. I also took advantage of these moments and took some action images, which I was sure the boys would prefer.

Next I set the boys up at the bridge for an interactive portrait. I prefer a very low perspective  when photographing this style and it allows me to get  down into a child’s world. I also included some foreground close to camera, this creates some blur which helps the boys “pop” out. After I set them up, I simply asked them to talk about their bikes and I captured their reactions. The setting sun is from the left just behind the boys, which has created some rim light around their hair and has given modelling light to the face of the boy on the right. Note, this is weak/soft light not direct direct harsh sun. 

Portrait Tip Standing above and looking at down at kids, lacks impact and interest. Get down to “kid height” for more dynamic images.

This is the black and white version which I prefer and is what the client ordered. I included the colour image (at the top of the post) which has a nice colour balance, but the colour tones didn’t match the interior of the home. As I had previously photographed the boys in black and white four years earlier, the theme just carried on.

The last image is what I call a storytelling portrait. I see this image as a bonding moment between two brothers………Timeless and priceless.

Comments always welcome,

Until next time, happy shooting.


portrait tips and techniques


  1. Casey Says:

    Really great stuff here Wayne. I found you through Flipboard (your portraiture ebook). Thanks for the info. I think I’ll have to pick up a copy!

  2. Nick Says:

    Beautifully crafted article Wayne – much like your photography which I find really inspiring.
    Interesting that you reccy the location prior to a shoot as I always find it daunting arriving at a new location and having to plan shots ‘on the fly’ . Have purchased your ”Natural Light Portraiture’ ebook which is a real masterclass for anyone serious about developing their portrait style. Looking forward to following your blog.

  3. James Says:

    Wayne, I’ve purchased both of your ebooks and read them both several times. Both simply outstand! Clear, precise & filled with great information.

    Thank you/James

  4. wayne Says:

    Thanks James,
    I’m glad you enjoyed the books.

  5. Florin Says:


    Thank you for this great post.
    The images are amazing.

    Can you tell us what lens did you use? Was it a longer lens, like 200/2.8?

    Thank you,

  6. wayne Says:

    Thanks Florin,
    These were taken with a 70-200F2.8L IS Canon lens. The lens is usually set from F2.8 to F4 in most studies.

Leave a Reply