Work It! A Guide to Taking Astounding Portraits

People are beautiful, and as photographers we have the ability to show that in creative ways!

Photojojo reader and super talented portrait photographer, Hannah Arnzen, has put together her very best tips for snapping portraits.

Read her advice on what it takes before, during and even after a shoot to snap the perfect portrait.

Take it away Hannah…



beforeYou may think all of the work is done using your camera, but some of the most important steps to photographing portraits is actually prior to your shoot!

Whether you’re a new photographer or a professional, there are four portrait emergency tools that should be in your camera bag at all times:

1. Small Mirror – Models like to know how they look so you can’t go wrong with a small pocket mirror!

before2. Oil Absorbing Sheets – When you have a model with oily skin, you can save editing time later by grabbing a pack of oil absorbing sheets. Voilà, the oil is gone!

3. Bobbie Pins & Disposable Combs – Prevent pesky strands of hair from flying all over the place with a few handy bobby pins.

4. Extras – Batteries, memory cards, etc. Nothing is more awkward than running to the store in the middle of a session. Yikes!


beforePortraits are fun, but you want your model to feel as comfortable as possible. Here are a few tips to keep in mind during the shoot:

1. This may seem weird, but practice different poses in the mirror before your shoot. If you can demonstrate to your model how to pose, it makes it easier for them to follow directions.

2. If you notice your model tense up or raise their shoulders, just tell them to take a deep breath and relax. It works every time!

before3. Close ups are hard to master, but with the right technique your client will fall in love with how they look. Direct the model to slightly drop one shoulder and turn their head to the side about 45 degrees.

4. Use compliments! Point out features that will boost your model’s confidence. In seconds, your model will show more confidence than ever!


beforeEvery photographer has their own style, so the editing process will look different for everyone. But I won’t leave you hanging. Here are a few secrets I use to perfect each shot:

1. I suggest sharpening the eyes to draw the viewer’s attention.

2. Always use a soft brush at a low opacity to soften the skin. But be careful! It is easy to make a portrait look plastic.

3. There are an abundance of editing software out there, but the two I use the most are Adobe Lightroom and Adobe Photoshop CC.

before4. Post a sneak peak photo on social media within 24 hours of the shoot. Not only does it show that you’re excited to work on the images, but it gives the model a glimpse at what the final product will be. This also works as a way for others to see your work and book a session with you. Score!

Taking it Further


  • Get inspired. View lots more of Hannah’s portraits here!
  • Need practice? Why not throw a Profile Picture Party? We’ll tell you how.
  • For perfectly lit indoor portraits, pick up an LED ring light to surround the lens of your DSLR or phone cam.