Portrait photography: Things I learned from an 18th birthday shoot

I had another chance to do a photoshoot with Tyrone last week and this weekend. (I hope this is going to be a regular thing already – LOL!) After the pre-wedding shoot, our next gig was a session with Benette for her 18th birthday party (or debut, as it is called). We were tasked to take the official photos and videos of her to be shown in her party, which was held yesterday at Amora Hotel.

I must admit I’m not really good at portrait photography (I don’t even know how to naturally pose in front of the camera), but I was happy to assist Tyrone during this session. I got to pick up some tips and have refreshed my memory on this type of thing.

  • Quickly build rapport with your subject. It’s the first time I have met Benette (or Nette for short) that day. I had to learn about her interests, hobbies, or something we had in common to make her feel more comfortable and relaxed. Our subject was quite shy but I’m glad we were able to thresh out from her that she was into tramping (at least that’s what we both had in common). Making your subject comfortable allows her to portray genuine emotions and pose naturally.
  • Communication is key. Since Nette was not that familiar with posing for the camera, Tyrone had to resort to mimicking the poses that he wants from her. You have to clearly communicate and be specific what it is you want your ‘model’ to do. Tell them what direction they should be looking, where they should be placing their hands, or where they should be standing or sitting.
  • Make your subject confident by praising her. I noticed that Tyrone praised Nette repeatedly throughout the shoot. I even started saying her celebrity look-alikes. (She looked like Vanessa Hudgens and sometimes Cara Delivingne). We complimented her especially when we get a good shot from her or when she was doing exactly what we want her to do. Be sure to keep it professional ’cause it might make her awkward if it goes too much. Everybody likes compliments so it can make the working environment fun and creative.
  • Take a break. Give her some lollies or snack. That can shoot some sugar rush on the veins, right? If your subject is not a professional model, she can’t keep on going. You should allow her to cut herself from slack.
  • Change the setting. Keep your model moving by asking her to change clothing or transferring to a different location. Later you could show some of your nice shots and tell her that it shows who she is and her natural beauty. Hopefully she likes them and gets her inspired to pose for some more.
  • Improvise some props. I wish I brought some of my girly head bands and accessories ’cause it would look good on her. But anythow, Tyrone asked her to hold a twig from one of the trees. You could use whatever’s available around that could make the image fun, personal and interesting.

Here are some of the behind-the-scenes shots plus some of my own candid photos of Benette, the birthday girl.


Pretty, isn’t she? 🙂


The location was in Mount Victoria in Wellington and Whitireia Park in Porirua.

For those experts in portraits, what other tips can you add? Feel free to comment below. 🙂


3 Comments Add yours

  1. Very informative post and beautiful photographs! Will try to remember them the next time I shoot portraits, something I’m not really good at. Its ok do work with family members, but doing it with friends or strangers feels always akward.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. aliaslibby says:

      Thank you! It really takes practice so you can get used to it and start being good at it. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. jsebastian says:

    Great tips, and beautiful photos! If you’re interested, would love to invite you to share this article with our community on creators.co.


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