Celebrity Portraits: a Few Tips

Posted by Jerry Avenaim on February 1, 2009 – 6:54 am

My portrait of actress Halle Berry chosen as Picture of the Year by People Magazine

My portrait of actress Halle Berry chosen as Picture of the Year by People Magazine

Here are some tips and tricks you can use every day for photographing fashion, beauty and celebrity portraits.

Because society views celebrities and supermodels as larger than life subjects, I try and fulfill the viewers ‘perception’ by using a few simple formulas.

First, when creating a dynamic portrait I use a long lens. This will create three things:

1.) Compression – The natural compression created by using a long lens will immediately flatter the subjects’ features instead of distorting them.

2.) Comfort – The greater image magnification created by utilizing longer lenses forces you (the photographer) to move farther away from your subject. This increased distance gives your subject greater comfort by creating space between yourself and your subject. This will always put whomever you are photographing more at ease.

3.) Composition: When it comes to focal length of the lens choosing a longer lens will lessen the focal field. Therefore you will have more concentration on your subject than you will your background.

This celebrity portrait of actor James Caan appeared exclusively on the cover of Photo Insider

This celebrity portrait of actor James Caan appeared exclusively on the cover of Photo Insider

Next, using the chosen long lens, I place the camera at chest level with the subject so I am shooting up at them just a bit (if we were using a short focal lens I would be shooting up their nose and distorting their features – not a pretty picture). This upward P.O.V. gives the image the perception that the subject has been placed on a pedestal, and by doing that it can render a beautiful and regal look, or on the opposite, a tough, even menacing look to the portrait.

Lastly, a very simple rule. No matter what the composition I almost always keep the eyes of the person I’m photographing in the upper third of the frame, this is because it’s were we are naturally drawn when viewing the photograph.

The only exception to the above rule is when I’m shooting unusual compositions and utilizing negative space for my desired composition.

In the end I think of it like this; learn the rules so you can understand how to break them properly!

Jerry Avenaim

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16 Responds so far- Add one»

  1. 1. Lynette Penick Said:

    What an awesome blog Jerry, with such valuable info. for models and photographers! Thanks so much for sharing with us. ~Lynette Penick


  2. 2. Angelo Said:

    Thank you so much for the selfless act of sharing some of your trade secrets with us on your blog. Photography I love most is that which has a touch of Art. Your work is truly an inspiration, of which has inspired. I wish you all the best and thank you kindly. Have a great 2009!



  3. 3. Jason Christopher Said:

    I really enjoyed your lecture last week. The place was packed and everyone asked some great questions. Again, great job !


  4. 4. Deb Fujiwara Said:

    Awesome blog! These are basic tips anyone can use to make their subjects look like rockstars.


  5. 5. Adam Said:

    So what’s your suggestion for a long lens on a Nikon crop sensor D50?


  6. 6. EricS Said:

    Awesome tips. Thanks


  7. 7. GrishaNYC Said:

    Kicking the tripod when the shutter is actuated can also help smooth a celeb’s skin…something they often like…

    Always been a fan Jerry. Have a great day.



  8. 8. Jerry Avenaim Said:

    Kicking the Tripod? While I appreciate the comment – I’m not so sure about that one 😀


  9. 9. Kas Said:

    Hi Jerry, I just discovered your blog and am finding it very interesting. Thanks for all the info.

    Just wondering – when you say long lens, how long do you mean? For instance on the image of James Caan or of Dr Phil which lens did you use?



    Jerry Avenaim Reply:

    Kas, as you can tell, I have been terrible about my responding. but I am trying to now clean that up. In my opinion (full frame or crop sensor) I like a 70~200 zoom with an IS feature. Can you tell I’m a Canon shooter now?


  10. 10. Sara Mellander Said:

    Great information! Thank you for sharing and let me know if you ever need a second shooter.. 😛


  11. 11. Kevin H. Stecyk Said:

    Thank you for sharing your knowledge and experience.

    And my compliments on your gorgeous photograph of Halle Berry.


  12. 12. Erez Avraham Said:

    thanks for the great info, its so valuable for photographers trying to break into the fashion market


  13. 13. Ashley Smith Said:

    Hi Jerry..I too just came across your blog and will be bookmarking it. Thank you for the great tips. When will you hold a class in Hawaii? Keoki and I will definitely attend:)


  14. 14. Angela Said:

    Thank you for sharing this! I really appreciate it.


  15. 15. Jackie Lund Said:

    Thank you for these helpful tips. I will be trying these out on my next shoot.


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