In the realm of portrait photography, there’s a timeless allure in capturing real authentic emotion. Authentic portraits not only reveal the external features of the individual but also provide a glimpse of their personality. Whether you’re a professional photographer or an aspiring photographer, mastering the art of capturing emotion can elevate your work. In this guide, we’ll explore five essential tips to help you capture authentic portraits that resonate with your subject and audience.

1: Build Trust 

Let’s be real, it’s very difficult to capture real emotion with your subject if they don’t trust you.  The foundation of authentic portraiture lies within the connection between the photographer and the subject. Before even focusing on the technical side of things on set, take the time to establish trust and rapport trust with the model.

I try to take around 5 minutes before the shoot to engage in genuine conversation, listen attentively, and make an effort to understand their personality, preferences, and backstory.

During the photoshoot, have a calm and friendly demeanor. By creating a relaxed and comfortable environment the model trusts you more. Remember, authentic portraits often occur from moments of genuine interaction and mutual understanding between the photographer and the subject.

2. Embrace Vulnerability

This can be difficult but the only way you can expect the subject to be authentic is if you show vulnerability yourself first. If you want the subjects to let their guard down and embrace their true selves in front of the camera, you have to lead by example.

Note, you have to find what works for you but here are some ways I show vulnerability that has worked well for me. 

1: Make an out-of-pocket joke or comment about something 

Note, this joke or comment cannot be about the model. That may come off as offensive which you definitely don’t want! The point of this is to make them smile/laugh about something the subject didn’t expect. If they laugh or smile, it’s a good sign they trust you more. 

2: Roast yourself

This is acceptable to an extent. If you make a mistake on set it’s a good opportunity to roast yourself. Keep it light-hearted though. Furthermore, you can also make an out-of-pocket joke or comment about yourself as well. This I find works very well if you’re good at this. 

3: Show them the pose

If you know the pose you want, don’t show them a Pinterest picture, go up and demonstrate the pose yourself. This can be funny sometimes although especially if you’re in a public setting, this takes some confidence to do. 

As a photographer, be willing to embrace vulnerability yourself. When both the photographer and the model are willing to be vulnerable, the resulting portraits are often more candid. 

@therealkassandrapoirrier headshot

3. Seek Authentic Environments

The environment plays a key role in shaping the authenticity of a portrait. When selecting locations for your photoshoot, go for locations that reflect the personality and interests of your subjects. Whether it’s in a city street, out in nature, or in the cozy confines of their own home. The environment should be in a place where they feel comfortable. Always ask them first, if they have a location in mind. 

Furthermore, pay attention to lighting, composition, and background elements to enhance your portraits. Natural light can infuse warmth and authenticity into your images, while composition can draw attention to key elements of the scene. Be mindful of distracting elements that may detract from the emotion of the photo.

4. Encourage Spontaneity

Some of the most authentic moments happen spontaneously. Encourage your subjects to let go of static poses and instead, improvise movements and gestures.

Increase your shutter speed to at least 1/200 and keep your camera ready to capture moments of authenticity as they occur. Anticipate subtle nuances in facial expressions, body language, and interactions that convey emotion. Remember, authenticity often occurs in unplanned and unscripted moments that unfold during a photoshoot.

Camille from @braveandhopeful black and white image

5. Focus on the theme

Every portrait has a story to tell. Consider the theme of your portrait session and strive to evoke emotion and empathy in your viewers. Look for visual cues and subtle details that add depth and context to the concept. Remember, portraits not only capture the physical likeness of the subject but also invite viewers to connect with the concept you’ve chosen.

In conclusion, authentic portraits are more than just images captured through a lens, they’re about the candid emotion of the model. By building trust, embracing vulnerability, seeking authentic environments, encouraging spontaneity, and focusing on the theme, you can capture portraits that have more emotional depth. We believe that the most compelling portraits are those that capture the true emotion of the model. 

Thank you for reading our blog. As an Ottawa-based portrait photography company, we’re dedicated to capturing the essence of who you are through stunning imagery. Whether it’s creative portraits, individual or group headshots, or a brand photoshoot, let’s craft unforgettable visuals together. Contact us today for inquiries.