Portrait Photography Tips for Your Summer Holiday

Holidays are all about switching off, kicking back, taking a break, I know! However, they also make for a great opportunity to create some fresh new content for your social media. All those palm trees, whitewashed houses, flower-filled streets and beach bar sunsets provide excellent Instagram portrait backgrounds! And, of course, it would be rude not to take advantage of your well-rested and sunkissed glow to get a gorgeous new profile picture. Here are a few tips for making the most of your next trip to snap some lovely new portraits of you for your business...

What to think about before you start setting up your photos

Have a look at your overall brand aesthetic and colour palette, including everything from your logo and website theme to your Instagram photos. What do they have in common? What sort of colours keep appearing across your content? The amount of contrast (the difference between light and dark areas of the image) and saturation (the intensity of the colours) in the images you want to share will impact what time of day is best to take your photos. Bright sun with no cloud coverage produces high contrast and highly saturated colours, so if your brand aligns more with a muted or neutral palette and softer shadows, you'll want to avoid shooting in full sun. The time just after the sun has set can be beautiful for softer, more calming images.

N.B. You can lighten shadows and reduce contrast and saturation in editing apps such as VSCO or SnapSeed, but this blog post is written for those of you who want to keep it simple and not require too much post-production on your holiday snaps! It's always best to get it right 'in camera' (or phone), so choosing your light wisely is the best way to do this!

The best light for flattering portraits

I love taking portraits on overcast days because the clouds act as one big diffuser for the sunlight, softening shadows and making skin look smooth and creamy. If it's bright sunshine out, as I'd hope it will be on your summer holiday, I run for cover! Full sun produces high contrast, highly saturated colours and dark shadows that don't always flatter in a natural portrait. So my personal favourite light for beautiful portraits on bright days is open shade. I'll look for coverage from a restaurant awning, beach umbrella or canopy of trees in the park or a botanical garden, and find natural reflectors to bounce sunlight back into the shade where my subject is standing or sitting.

Natural reflectors are pale surfaces that bounce light back towards you, like a gravel path, light grey pavement or the white or cream wall of a building. Although we want you in the shade to avoid harsh shadows under your eyes, nose and chin, we do want to make sure there's some nice light bouncing around the scene so you don't look like you're in the dark!

Hot tip: Watch out for colour casting. This is when the light bouncing off a surface takes on the colour of that surface and projects it onto your skin (you can see this in action when you look at Elizabeth's pink notebook above). For example, you might end up looking a bit green if you sit in the shade in a park and there's sun bouncing off a big patch of grass next to you (hence looking out for pale-coloured pathways in parks). Or shooting a portrait in a sheltered street with sunlight bouncing off a yellow house across the road might make you take on a warm glow, which could be lovely!

Posing 101

The number one tip I always share with my clients is to remember your posture. We can have a natural tendency to slump down and let our chest collapse inwards (I certainly do this without realising when sitting at my computer!) so we'll start off by rolling our shoulders back and down, tucking them away from our ears and creating space around the neck. This will not only be more flattering and help you come across as confident in your photos, but the act of opening up the chest and making yourself slightly wider and taller will also release testosterone (the dominance hormone) and reduce cortisol (the stress hormone), making you feel great! Check out this TED Talk by the brilliant Amy Cuddy if you're interested to know more about how our body language affects how we feel and behave.

Another simple tweak we can make is to avoid facing the camera completely straight and instead turn your body to 45 degrees in relation to the person taking the photo, as this breaks the line of your shoulders and makes for a more flattering portrait. Be careful not to turn too far around as your neck may look strained when you turn your head to face the camera/phone; it should feel natural and not forced.

If you're not sure what to do with your hands, use a prop that feels natural such as your sunglasses, handbag or a drink. Rather than holding your arms tight to the side of your body, loosen up and hold them slightly away from your torso as this space you create is flattering and makes for a more authentic portrait.

How to not fall out with your #instagramhusband (or whomever the lucky person is that gets to go on hols with you!)

Patience is key here! It will definitely take a few goes to get a shot you're happy with, so keep an open mind and don't take it too seriously. Once you've found a spot with an on-brand background and some nice even lighting, and let your photographer know what you'd like them to keep in or crop out, try lots of different angles and poses and laugh at yourself - that's pretty much the most important bit!

After they've taken a few photos, have a look at what they've captured so far and offer constructive criticism. If you don't quite get what you're looking for, don't sweat it. Go for a walk or a cocktail or an explore and try again later or tomorrow. Whatever you do, have a wonderful time on your holiday!