5 Quick Ways to Make People Who Are NOT Models Look GREAT in Portraits

All photos © Kesha Lambert

Beautiful people make for beautiful photographs. While that statement may be up for debate, we can widely agree that the majority of people in the world are not runway models or celebrities gracing the pages of Vogue or People magazines. So, what are some ways photographers can create fabulous portraits of their subjects, even if they aren’t fashion models?

Kesha Lambert is an award-winning wedding and portrait photographer who has built a reputation for presenting clients with photographs that capture their personality and individuality in a single image. In this column, Kesha will share five easy tips for creating fabulous portraits of everyday people. In other words, most of us.

Kesha Lambert will be an instructor at The Portrait Masters Conference, a 3-day online streaming conference for photographers. In addition to Kesha Lambert, dozens of world class photographers and educators will teach lighting techniques, posing, business, and other topics to hone your photography skills. Go to The Portrait Masters Live and use promo code TPMLIVE25 for $25 off either package $149 Photographer Pass/$299 Platinum Pass.

Kesha is a first-time presenter at The Portrait Masters Conference. “Ten years ago, my journey as a photographer and entrepreneur was just beginning,” shares Kesha. “In my talk, ‘A 2020 Conversation with 2010 Kesha,’ I’ll be sharing some of the insight that I’ve gained on the path to business ownership and becoming a better creative.”


#1 Gather Intel
It’s not just about posing for flattering angles and smoothing away blemishes in post. Looking great is subjective and everything starts with your subject's mindset before you even begin to click the shutter. With that in mind, learning about how the person you're going to photograph perceives themselves and what does and doesn’t make them feel great is key. This is the part where you ask probing questions and listen actively. Ask the person to share photos of themselves that they really love and ask open ended questions about why they love it. Ask them about their personal style and ask them to share photos that reflect this style. When you have the information about what makes your subject feel great about their look, you are uniquely positioned to offer relevant styling recommendations.

Do the homework. Find out what makes your client tick.


#2 Offer Styling Recommendations
The truth is you don’t have to be a stylist to offer general guidance about clothing that works well on camera, specifically for your subject and the location. Recommend, for example, that the person wear colors that will complement the session location. If the location is rich with detail, texture and color then recommend solid colors. If your location has a clean, simple setting, recommend a pop of color. If you'll be photographing your subject at a windy location recommend that they wear clothing with movement. Also recommend practical things like comfortable backup shoes because uncomfortable feet show up on the face and in body language.

A pop of color and a dress with movement to make them stand out.


#3 Be Attentive to Body Language
Nervous energy can be found in each and every part of the body. Sometimes you look at your subject and the scene in front of you and something just looks out of sorts. Tension in the body is sneaky that way; it shows up in the wrists or the ankles or neck or shoulders or even the tiny corners of the lips. When your subject looks tense or something just generally looks off, scan the most common areas of tension and provide art direction and guidance with positive phrasing. If you notice tension in the face or neck for example, ask your subject to close their eyes and exhale and slowly open their eyes; a quick breathing exercise is a great way to help the person relax and result in natural body language and facial expression.

Personality and chemistry make the image.


#4 Take the Wheel
Offer clear and detailed art direction. Give them prompts and tweak the small things and be attentive to details. Taking the lead confidently and providing clear direction will put nervous minds at ease.

Posed, right down to the fingertips.


#5 Get Them Moving
Movement in portraiture can captivate the viewer's eye. Movement is also a great way to get your subject to forget about the camera and immerse themselves in the experience. Use icebreakers and games; bring music and incorporate activity-based props like jump ropes, bikes, skateboards, or a beach ball. Make the session an experiential shoot at an activity-based location like an amusement park or museum.

Get them moving and they’ll forget about the camera.

Kesha Lambert is an international wedding and portrait photographer and speaker based in New York. A Fordham Law School graduate and Lawyer admitted to practice in New York, Kesha’s fascination with photography inspired a career change and a focus in weddings. Curious about life, love, people and art, Kesha has had the honor of personally documenting hundreds of weddings for couples from all over the globe.

Visit her website and social media channels below: