This Pro Recommends Underexposing Portrait Photos to “Keep Highlights in Check” (VIDEO)

Portraiture is a very subjective endeavor, with almost as many styles of shooting as there are portrait photographers. And this quick tutorial is sure to raise a few eyebrows, as Manny Ortiz explains why he often purposely underexposes his images.

Ortiz is a professional portrait photographer based in Chicago, who often shoots outdoors under natural light. In the four-minute video below, he explains how underexposing people pictures enables him to “keep highlights in check.”

In this behind-the-scenes shoot at his father’s Wisconsin farm, Ortiz demonstrates his technique while photographing his pretty wife and model Diana. He explains the philosophy behind this approach, and what it implies for shadow recovery during the editing process.

When using this method, Ortiz typically underexposes by either one or two stops—depending upon the situation. He notes that this style of photography isn’t appropriate for all forms of portraiture, and he explains when it works and when a more conventional technique is a better option. 

You’ll also learn why underexposing photos of all sorts provides more options and flexibility during post-processing. Bottom line: It’s easier to recover shadows than it is to fix blown-out highlights, and that’s why this technique works.

There are more helpful tips on Ortiz’ YouTube channel, and in his earlier tutorial, with five portrait photography mistakes you should avoid at all costs.