Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Creating Movement in Portraits

I'm so embarrassed to post these first two portraits, but these are from
my FIRST portrait shoot EVER!  I had been learning photography for about a year
and was bored with landscape and flower photos.

I longed to shoot portraits, but they seemed so complicated.

This was my first feeble attempt at posing my lovely daughter Lindsay.
We took the little bench prop to a nearby park and I had no idea how to pose her.

This is very typical of portraits I see online...the subject sits or stands
and smiles at the camera.

I knew these early portraits of mine were BORING!

I couldn't even think up any good poses!

I studied poses online,
but when we were out for a photo shoot,
I couldn't remember ANY!

I continued to photograph my daughter and continued to get
BORING portraits


One day, it was REAL WINDY!

Dang it, wind! STOP BLOWING!  I'm trying to practice here!


This windy day is when my portraits changed FOREVER!

These photos in the wind were ALIVE!

They were magical with movement and spunk!
 Lindsay wasn't just standing there smiling...she was moving
and reacting to the wind!

I still use this next photo on my business cards:

After this windy day...I made it my mission to
CREATE MOVEMENT in my portraits.

Yes, I still get a few of her sitting pretty...
but compare this shot, which IS lovely...

to the vitality of this next shot:

Her dress and hair fluttering shows




I actually look for clothing at thrift stores
that will MOVE.

When I found this yellow top...I KNEW it would flow
out like that when my subject jumped!

Seriously, the posed photo on the left is lovely...
but which one makes you stare and study every detail of the photo?
Which photo would you want hanging on your wall
because you would never get tired of looking at it???

Which one is ART and which is the snapshot?

I constantly challenge myself to

Running is a great way to create movement.

Any motion in the clothing or hair
will bring life to a portrait.

I did this photo shoot with six-year-old Bella this winter.
  She was just standing in this photo, but
I asked her to swirl a bit to give her coat some movement.

It was cold outside, but I still took the time
to set my camera for shooting MOVEMENT.

This may seem complicated, but once you take the time to
learn and understand how to set your will
LOVE photographing with movement!

This is how to set your DSLR camera to shoot motion.

First, you MUST learn and understand how to use Focus Points on your camera.
This is different for every camera, so take the time to sit
with your manual and learn how to use focus points.  It will tremendously
 improve your portrait work. 
 I rarely have a portrait out of focus using Focus Points!


Next, set your camera's auto focus (AF) mode on Al-Servo. Read your
own camera manual to learn how to do this with your camera.

As you aim your focus point at your subject's face, Al Servo
will refocus continuously as the subject moves.

This is a great mode to shoot sports!

Next, set your Drive Mode to High Speed Continuous.

In this mode, you can hold your finger down on the shutter
and it will rapidly take a burst of multiple photos in a row.
You may be limited by the size of your memory card
or amount of battery left.

I use a 16 GB memory card.

Of course, set your camera for proper exposure, also.

With my camera set...I had Bella stand with her back towards me.

I placed myself where I could get all of her body in the shot.

I clicked halfway down and using my focus point, I
grabbed focus on her head then had Bella twirl around.

As she began to twirl, I held down on the shutter and multiple shots
were fired capturing a variety of moments in her twirl:

Not all of them will be worthy.  Sometimes, I have the
subject repeat the twirl or run several times.

I always check to see if I got any that I like.

I usually hold these "movement" shots until the end of my
portrait shoot because they do require lots of battery and space on your
memory card...especially if you're shooting in RAW as I always do!

If you are new to photography...I know this sounds a bit overwhelming.
But it's worth it to push yourself beyond your comfort zone
to learn this particular technique.

After you have practiced several times, you will understand
how to do it.

This is the technique that changed my portrait work DRAMATICALLY!

Another form of movement is natural facial expression.

In other words, NOT a pose at all...just capturing what
is naturally happening.

When Bella scooped up her kitty, I snapped away
because her natural love was glowing!

A great big, natural laugh is better than a posed smile.

I just ask the person to "Laugh as big as you can!"

Challenge yourself to go beyond the boring people shots
and create some MEMORABLE portraits
with movement and PIZAZZ!


  1. Thank you Jill. There are quite a few things here that I haven't tried yet. I'll be sure to keep this article handy for my next shoot. The photos are awesome!

  2. Great article. Thank you so much. The natural instinct is to pose, but, wow!, what a difference movement makes. Off to study my dusty camera manual.