What are the 7 most common portrait photography mistakes when it comes to composition?

Share – Behind the scenes in the SIC recording studio (garage makeover)
Inspire – Body-boarder in an epic barrelling wave!
Create – How to avoid the 7 Portrait Photography Mistakes and why Brent almost got fired from his job!

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Video Highlights & Time Codes:
(00:50) Behind the scenes in the SIC recording studio
(01:28) Cheap but it does the job
(01:41) Recording straight to the camera
(02:31) Backup of our audio
(03:41) Surfers in their body boarders
(07:19) Environmental portraiture
(09:05) 7 Portrait Composition Mistakes
(09:30) Cutting off someone’s head
(10:15) Objects growing out of people’s head
(10:50) Space to ride, jump, or look into
(12:25) Framing your subjects
(12:55) Getting close and cropped right into the subject
(13:36) Use the rule of thirds

Show Notes:
Share Inspire Create

What are the 7 most common portrait photography mistakes when it comes to composition?

Share – Behind the scenes in the SIC recording studio (garage makeover)

  • screen with Ninja – recording straight to the camera
  • 5D Mark III with the HDMI cable
  • Zoom H5 (2 inputs for the lapel mics)
  • 2 big hot lights
  • SIC show backdrop (canvas print)

Inspire – Body-boarder in an epic barreling wave!

  • Box Beach
  • surfers in their body boarders
  • photographed on 400 mm lens
  • environmental portraiture

Create – How to avoid the 7 Portrait Photography Mistakes and why Brent almost got fired from his job!

  1. Cutting off someone’s head
  2. Objects growing out of people’s head
  3. Space to ride, jump, or look into
  4. Framing your subjects
  5. Getting close and cropped right into the subject
  6. Use the rule of thirds
  7. Use the rule of thirds






Johny: Hey guys what’s up? It’s Johny here and welcome to another episode of the SIC show. Man that was corky. And I’m here with my main man B. How are you buddy?

Brent: Man I’m getting a little bit warmer now in the studio. It’s awesome.

Johny:It’s good man. We’re sitting on a heater.

Brent: Yeah we are.

Johny: This week on the show we’re gonna give you a little sneak peek behind the scenes of how we created the studio here for the SIC show.

Brent: Yeah and I’m gonna inspire you with one of the images from the new local surf spot and then I’m gonna teach you the 7 most common mistakes when it comes to photographing portraits and composition.

Johny: Wicked man. Let’s get into it.

Brent: Enjoy.

Turning Your Garage to a Recording Studio

Johny: So guys as you probably will know from the last couple shows we are in our new studio. And we thought the Share this week and give you a sneak peek of behind the scenes.

Brent: Behind the scenes.

Johny: How I set up is.

Brent: Alright so I’m gonna unplugged from this and then I’ll plugged into that right?

Johny: That’s it, alright.

Brent: So Johny’s phone will start, audio is good. So here we are guys, here’s Johny. This is my desk.

Johny: Look at the desk. It’s so clean man.

Brent: You don’t wanna look under the desk. There’s coffee and all sorts of things there. That’s it guys. And then we got the camera over here.

Johny: Check out the rig man. So we’re actually in Brent’s garage so a bit of a made cheap studio. But it does the job buddy doesn’t it?

Brent: Yeah it does the job.

Johny: The screen there it’s got the ninja. Basically it’s got hard drive in it. And it records straight to the back of that out of the camera. And we’re also recording straight to the camera so the video is actually the back up there while we’re recording which is kind of cool. I love that man.

Brent: So that’s my 5D Mark III guys into the ninja with the HDMI cable. There we go. And in my garage over here and I’ll come a little bit further back. You can see the one light over there Johny. I’ll move a little bit behind the 2 big lights.

Johny: We actually got the 2 big hot lights. It seems to be hot here yeah 2 big hot lights and 2 umbrellas. A pretty cheap set up really wasn’t it Brent?

Brent: Yeah they’re from China.

Johny: So this is the desk we had made too. It’s pretty pippin. It’s all steel and glass.

Brent: Johny is sitting down because of the broken ankle. We got the heater down there.

Johny: And this thing, this is actually we put our audio. So this is the Zoom H5 and you can see at the bottom here there are 2 inputs for the lapel mics. And an output that goes straight to that other device call the Ninja there. And basically what this does is this is recording internally. It’s also sending high quality output audio straight to the camera.

Brent: Yeah all the way to the camera.

Johny: So we’re basically getting a backup of our audio as well which is really nice.

Brent: So into the side of the Ninja.

Johny: So there we go that’s our basic setup guys. It’s nothing flashy about it brother.

Brent: No, and I actually got this background too, a backdrop. The SIC show backdrop. So here we go.

Johny: Pretty cool.

Brent: It’s a canvass print.

Johny: So that’s it man. A little bit behind the scene. You can see there’s a bit of stuff going on. It’s pretty crazy man.

Brent: Alright, awesome.

Johny: it’s good man.

Surfing through a Barreling Wave

Johny: Alright brother, inspire with some of your images man. This is actually guys before we get started, this one’s actually very good location. It’s very close to Brent’s new studio so this is what we’re going to talk about, awesome man.

Brent: Definitely, and we’re also getting on the subject of portraits so portraits on the environment. So this is an image of a body boarder. I don’t know who it is exactly. Maybe he’ll contact me once he sees it on the SIC show. At my local beach which is about it’s basically ten or 9 minutes’ walk from where we are right now. So I’ve almost doubled my distance from the beach in the moved. We used to be about 4 minutes. Now in 9 minutes from the beach.

Johny: Oh no, and guys just as a tip this beach is called Box Beach. It’s one of my all-time favorite body boarding beaches. I actually grew up surfing this beach. My whole buddy, I just love it man.

Brent: So this image I photographed 2 days ago. We had some big swells coming through here and I want to get out and record it. So Box Beach you can actually get really close to those surfers in their body boarders because it’s a shore break. So it’s really close in getting close. Actually I photographed this on my 400 mm lens and actually I haven’t zoomed back to 300 mils.

Johny: That’s too close.

Brent: That’s’ too close. It’s the only time that I’ve ever photographed surfers this too close.

Johny: It’s crazy man.

Brent: So what I love about this image is the sun came out. This guy’s is pulling into these barrels just getting wiped out. I mean his pulling into these barrels and just get crunched on the shore break. It’s amazing. I love watching it.

Johny: Seriously at the bottom of that waves probably less than a full of water there. Man it’s right on the sand. I mean if you look at the bottom of that image is actually sand getting pulled up there. And that’s just show you how shallow it actually is.

Brent: Definitely, so I took from this image guys, is I photographed the body boarder right in the middle because I’m always using my middle point of focus. So the middle point of my camera is the best for focusing especially for moving subjects. And then what I do is afterwards I cropped the back half of it so the left part of this image I cropped a little bit off so that you got space for the body boarder to move into. And that’s gonna lead us into the next thing which is the 7 tips for or 7 biggest mistakes I see people make when it comes to photography and composition.

Johny: Yeah for sure man. It’s actually a great tip. You gotta remember DSLR cameras or even the new mirrorless ones, man it’s all the massive you know you got plenty rooms and crop down into. And sometimes I even moved my landscapes you know. This is a little tip too man. I shoot a bit wider you know. I’m just not sure about composition I’ll shoot a couple and a little bit wider than I probably would have you know. So it’s always great to get the right camera but if you’re just a little unsure you know there’s nothing wrong with shooting a little bit wider and cropping it in post. I mean it’s also part of the creative process mate.

Brent: And it’s still just making in composition more pleasing to the eye.

Johny: And not only that, it makes a hell of a lot easier photographing action like this too man. Like you’re shooting that a little bit wider and you got a dead center where your focus point is it makes so much easier for a newer camera man.

Brent: You know what guys? I’ll show you one more image. This one over here, you know I was photographing the surface. Now look over to the left there are no surfers and the waves smashing on the rocks. And I wanted to capture that with the dark background coz it becomes stormy. Occasionally the sun would go away then would come back and I just love that. What do they call that, “their risk to tale”.

Johny: Yes so the wind is blowing off shore there. So the wind is blowing from the sand out to the ocean. And it’s causing the salt spray of the back of the waves to be blown out. I love that man. It looks awesome. It actually adds a lot of mood to the image you know.

Brent: It does.

Johny: I think it’s great.

Brent: Yeah, love it. So you can actually be photographing people and landscapes at the same time. Or people in landscapes.

Johny: Yeah that’s it. And that brings up another point too. Often with portraits and you can certainly talk about this mate. Often with portraits we think about all the close ups, all the families but man it’s good to shoot a little bit wider and shoot people in a location. Environmental portrait, it just tells you so much more about what’s going on.

Brent: The story, tells the story better. I love environmental portraiture.

Johny: yeah it’s great. It’s often with genre when we talked about a portrait that gets forgotten I think you know shooting that a bit wider. And the recent photo shoots that I’ve done for National Parks that we’ll talk about in our upcoming show, it’s all about people in the landscape. It’s all about people but seeing the wide landscape as well. I mean that’s a lot of images that I wanted to use coz obviously you’re focusing and it’s all about getting people out of the National Park. You wanna see the beautiful National Park with the people in the National Park.

Brent: And that brings up a lot of challenges too because you’re maybe shooting with a wide angle lens and when you’re photographing people with the wide angle lens often people get a little bit wider than you want them to be.

Johny: Oh yeah.

Brent: And that’s not really appealing for people.

Johny: Honestly the whole time I was out there because I was shooting there, my 24-70 I wouldn’t shoot any wider than 24. A 24 seems to be pretty good. You get a little bit of distortion as they get closer to the side of the frame but man nothing you can’t fix you know easily with a bit of lens correction in Lightroom or something like that. But that seems to be my or what I found is my go to lens for shooting this environmental type especially shooting wider. I wouldn’t wanna go to much wider because the distortion just really starts to play. I mean even at 24 if they’re close and you shoot vertical you can see that. I mean it sort of the max you can go. That’s what I found.

Brent: Awesome.

Johny: Yeah cool man.

Avoiding the 7 Portrait Photography Mistakes

Johny: What do you got next man?

Brent: So next guys I’m gonna show you a little video that I recently created. And it’s the 7 common mistakes when you’re photographing portraits using well thinking about composition. What are the 7 composition failures that people often make and you know they’re pretty easy to fix. So here it is guys, enjoy.

Brent: Hey guys Brent here from brentmailphotography.com and today we’re gonna look at 7 things people do wrong when they are photographing portraits when it comes to composition and how they compose their images so let’s jump right into it. We’ll jump into the first area, the biggest problem I see people make when they’re photographing portraits. Alright this is it. This is cutting off someone’s head. So you noticed the horizon goes right thru my son Wesley’s head which isn’t the best for when you’re photographing portraits. He’s just right in the middle of the frame. Let’s have a look at better shots. There we go, I’ve actually just bent down you know bent my knees, got down lower. And now the horizon is not cutting his head off. So that‘s the first area I see a lot of people are making. Here’s another one. This is me and my family in San Francisco and asked the tourist to take a photo with my camera and this is what they took. You noticed the San Francisco, this Golden Gate Bridge going out of Wesley’s head, not a good thing. So that’s the second area I see a lot of people are making; objects growing out of people’s head. Not a good thing to do. Here’s one I took of the kids. Obviously they don’t look happy. It’s just a snap shot but you’ll notice I haven’t got anything out of their heads. And I’ve also got them below the horizon. So that’s the second area I see a lot of people are making. Here’s the third one, this is my friend Dave surfing at one of our local beaches. I was photographing with the Fuji XE 2 mirrorless camera and can you guys guess what’s the problem is over here? He doesn’t have enough space to ride into. See the front of his board here? So all I did is I cropped this image, and actually removed a few people. And now because I cropped in a little closer to the back I actually got a little space to move into. That’s much better image than the one before. So give people space to move into especially if they’re moving or there’s action. So this is the one I photographed in Vanuatu a couple of years ago. And you see the boy’s got a space to jump into. I’ve given him space in front of him. And here’s another one of a surfer. This is probably a better cropped than the one with my friend Dave because he’s got quite a bit of a big space to actually ride into. Then the next thing I see a lot of people or area a lot of people are making when it comes to portrait photography and composition is when you got someone looking, give them space to look into also. So Daniella over here our local model, I gave a little space to look into. So I’ve given her negative space on the left here. And this is Lara and she also got a space to look into. So there’s a bit of space around there to look into. So that’s another thing that you can think about when you’re photographing people. Do have space to look into and do have space to ride or run or jump into. Another area or maybe not so much of an error but it’s something that you can use to make more impactful portrait photos is framing your subjects. So here I framed this model with this door or doorway. I’ve got a framing that actually draws your eye into the image a little bit. Here’s another one, framing the model with flowers and foliage. So it actually draws your eye into the model the part where it’s actually not blurred. Alright, so what’s wrong with this image guys? Can you guess? Well how about we cropped in and we get in really close to show more of the image. So there I’ve cropped in to show the little girl’s eyes, and we can crop it even more if you like. That’s I think a more powerful image than the original image over there. So don’t be scared to crop in even if you’re chopping part of the head off. Here’s another one where I’ve cropped right in the model. And I’m only showing you know a few parts of her face; her eye, eyelashes and her lips and her nose. And I’m actually framing it with her hat there. So that’s more impactful then if I photographed wide angle. Alright, so here’s another image and can you guess what I did over here guys? I used the rule of thirds. So I’ve left a bunch of space from Joey’s right over here. And I used the rule of thirds which the rule of thirds is if you actually chopped your image into thirds from the top and from the sides, where the intersecting points intersect over here. Those are the focal points, the most interesting points of your image. And I wanted it on Joey’s face. So you’ll see with the original image that’s more powerful because I’ve got space on the right here. He’s in the area where eye would naturally go and it’s just more powerful image because of the rule of thirds. And then the final one is also the rule of thirds but here’s the original image that I photographed, a dancer in my studio. And you can see the studio light on top of the backdrop and the floor. So you don’t have much space to photograph in my studio but she’s right kind of almost in the middle if the image. And to make it more powerful I used the rule of thirds again. I added negative apace on the left here. I had a lot of negative space. You can see the original image, and there’s the image that I used for the rule if thirds, and actually out this into the Share Inspire Create Lounge, the community that Johny and I started because we actually got a rule of thirds assignment right now. And then people and all the other members are putting in images that revolved around you using the rule of thirds. That’s way more powerful image than the original. So there we go guys, I’ve showed you quite a few ways of making the images better. Let’s just run through it quickly again. Okay, not chopping heads off, that’s one. Not having things growing out of heads. That’s another one; leaving some space for people travel into especially if they are surfing or doing some kind of action sport. Having people or getting people face to look into. Here we go. Framing your subject; cropping in and getting in really close to have a more impactful image; and using the rule of thirds for better composition. There we go guys. Those are the 7 tips for making your images so much more powerful when you’re photographing portraits and you’re compositing them. What do you guys think? Please leave me comments below. This is Brent. Have an awesome day.

Johny: Okay Brent man that was an awesome video man. There’s so much information there and have you got anything you want to add to that?

Brent: Yeah well let’s just run through the one that’s kind of close to my heart because I’ll tell you guys a little story. But I’ll first show you this image. This is my son Wesley, and I purposely cut his head off like basically we got the horizon right thru his neckline.

Johny: Hey I know where it is. Is that the walk over to the mountain Kozusko? Kozusko National Park?

Brent: Yeah.

Johny: Beautiful, lovely.

Brent: Yes, so like one of the tallest mountains in Australia.

Johny: The tallest mountain.

Brent: Oh okay. So the story behind this is I did a little work. Basically I wanted to see if I would enjoy newspaper photography being a photojournalist for newspaper. And I got this job. It was unpaid but you know basically worked experience. And I almost got fired from an unpaid job because I did this. I photographed the portrait for the newspaper and I cut someone’s head off in the horizon. And I didn’t know I was doing something wrong. And then when I got back with the edited, come back and he says “What are you thinking? How can you cut the neck? How can you cut the head off on the horizon?” you know. “You better go back and shoot that gain.” So I had to go back and find the people, called them up again, go back to the location and re photographed it because all my images where cutting the neck of in the horizon.

Johny: Seriously, all it takes is to get a lot of perspective or a high perspective and the problem is fixed buddy. Yeah that’s great man. And probably another thing too is when you’re cropping your image and when you’re framing your image we’re not to cut people off.

Brent: Oh yes.

Johny: So the rule of thumb is not at the joints. So you don’t want to cut the waist.

Brent: Not on the elbows, not on the wrists, not in your ankle.

Johny: Yeah images of me usually come right off here so you can see this part.

Brent: Actually that’s better.

Johny: That’s the only time it’s better.

Brent: Oh there we go the bell. Awesome guys so that’s it. What do you think of my image of the surfer in Box Beach and also guys leave us comments. So what do you think of the behind the scenes or look at the studio there are creative minds. So you wanna know more about how we film this SIC shows? Because we can do a whole SIC show on how we make a SIC show.

Johny: A SIC show about a SIC show.

Brent: But you got to leave comments below coz we wanna know.

Johny: That’s a long ring is it? There we go.

Brent: Okay.

Johny: Been another fun show guys. We hope you enjoyed it. A little sneak peek behind the scene, you can realize why you got to work here. It’s tough man.

Brent: You know you do the best with what you can and what you got. And you know what? I bet everyone’s got their half the garage that they can use and I been using half the garage so there we go.

Johny: Perfect, it works fine. It works great man. The audio is fine. We’ve got these panels around and yeah man awesome. And those photos you showed were wicked. I just love that video; so many great tips for taking portraits. You know really common mistakes especially when you’re starting out. You don’t know.

Brent: you don’t know.

Johny: So awesome man. Thanks for sharing.

Brent: No worries guys. And we’ll catch you next week.

Johny: See you next week.

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