How a portrait photo comes about…


I’ve just finished a portrait photo shoot with some lovely customers of mine and wanted to show you how I take the raw images and create something a bit more special like this.

I did their wedding a few years ago and they kindly came back to me to get some photos of them with their daughter and other family members for their Grandma’s birthday. So we went to a local park and did some nice group photos but I think it’s fair to say that Clara wasn’t all that enthusiastic about standing still and having her photo taken. Cue much crying and fidgeting. What she did enjoy was her Dad chasing her round the big field we were in. So never letting a good opportunity go to waste, I just let them get on with it and took some shots of the now completely oblivious Clara as she ran away giggling.

Here’s the original as it came out of the camera with no editing at all.


Which is nice enough. I could see the bones of a good shot there. I like the composition, she’s nicely framed just to the left of centre so it gives the feel of her running into space, her arms and legs are in nice action poses, so you really get a feel of her moving. The dark hedge in the background means that your eye is automatically drawn to the best part, that joyful, carefree expression on her face.

But the colours are all a bit flat. So in Lightroom I adjusted them to give the picture a bit of pop. Not too much I hope, but just bring a bit more life to the image. I also added a vignette, the darkness round the corners of the image, again just to really draw your eye to the middle of the frame. And we end up with this…

So the same image but with a bit of extra contrast and vibrance. I also increased the white balance slightly to warm the colours up a bit to make it feel a bit more ‘sunny’. The only other thing I did was darken the blacks down a bit, which you can see if you look at the hedge, again just to draw your eye to the star of the show.

So we end up with a nice image which I’m sure is good enough to give to my customers but I don’t do just good enough! It was missing the feeling of unbound excitement that Clara showed on the day. That feeling of speed which had me panning as fast as I could with my 70-200mm lens zoomed all the way out, just trying to keep her in the frame. So it needed a little something extra.

So a little bit of Photoshop wizardry to give it some motion blur and we’ve got the finished picture. I tried to be quite subtle so that she didn’t look like she was about to overtake Usain Bolt, but still wanted to convey that feeling of speed.
So that’s the story behind this particular photo, which my customers loved by the way, and hopefully a little insight into the hard work that goes on once the photo shoot has ended.