Some Out-of-the-box Ideas From a Photographer With 100,000 Portraits Under His Belt

There are a lot of common rules about portrait photography, but rules are meant to be broken, and one photographer shares how he does that in a meaningful way after shooting more than 100,000 portraits.

In this video from Australian filmmaker and photographer Mitch Lally he shares insights that he's learned after years and thousands of portraits. While it's easy to take a "good" portrait or one that, as he explains, shows good lighting, composition, correct focal length, etc., it's not just about what's technically good.

As he shares with some of his examples, sometimes it pays to be different, such as using a low or high angle, or shooting with a wide angle lens and embracing the distortion. He plays with framing, composition, and patterns to produce images that are out of the ordinary and are more memorable this way.

Lally also talks about examining other photographers and realizing that the ones that stuck out to him the most were the ones that managed to capture emotion in their photos. He shares a few tips in the video about how to do some exercises to help you understand and capture emotion in your own portrait photos.

One universal technical tip that he shares is to watch for hotspots in your photos. Specifically, the human eye generally goes to the brightest part of a scene, and you don't want viewers being distracted from what they're supposed to be looking at by getting this part wrong.

Finally, he talks about simplicity. Often, it's about the lighting, posing, and background, and that's it. If you can nail these things, you can nail a portrait.

Lally offers a lot of ideas and exercises from his own experience to help you really develop your portrait muscles. Check out the video above, and give them a try.

Do you have some out-of-the-box portrait tips of your own? Share them in the comments below.

Wasim Ahmad's picture

Wasim Ahmad is an assistant teaching professor teaching journalism at Quinnipiac University. He's worked at newspapers in Minnesota, Florida and upstate New York, and has previously taught multimedia journalism at Stony Brook University and Syracuse University. He's also worked as a technical specialist at Canon USA for Still/Cinema EOS cameras.

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I think the title of this article and what the photographer notes in the video are two separate things. The photographer seems to note that he's taken "around 100,000 photos," which could mean 100-200 shoots in total, rather than 100,000 individually finished portraits.

Maybe lots of selfies/dick pics?

I don't know anything about this photographer but it is entirely possible that he spent several years working for some sort of high-yield portrait service that shoots dozens of people per day such as say a company that does school photos or a Walmart photo center shooter. Technically still portraits he could easily do 10s of thousands per year in such an environment.

If he has claimed he has done 100k studio portrait sessions, I agree, sounds farfetched but it isn't impossible to shoot 100,000 portraits even in a couple of years assuming the shooter is working long hours at a high volume location with no care for quality.

It's always fun, and revealing, to run the numbers. I used to own a tennis shop and strung a lot of raquets. I had a guy tell me he strung 10,000 in one year working at one of the premier tennis academies in Florida. So I ran the numbers. That meant that if he strung every day, he did 27 raquets a day. Sorry, no way. That also meant that he never took a day off. I was fairly fast and could string a raquet in 15 minutes. BUT, that doesn't count cutting out the strings, inspecting the frame, stenciling, labeling, etc.

Anyway, when I called him on it, there was no reply.

All I saw were a lot of cute models basically used as props. He even mentions the model/clothes are the third and 4th decisions he makes about a portrait shoot! For me, the purpose of portraiture is to tell the viewer a story about the subject, which is why I only make portraits of people I know and know very well. (But hey, I don't make a living shooting portraits of strangers!)

I do like what he says about the emotional content, and that has to do with the artist/model relationship.

I really like his point "different is better than good" So true.