A Bright Idea for Subject Placement in Portrait Photos

With careful composition and editing techniques, you can take your portrait game to the next level. In this video, I’ll show how you can level up your portraits with this one simple tip. Before we begin, be sure to download the exercise file here and follow along as I edit. What is the Tip? The […]

A Bright Idea for Subject Placement in Portrait Photos

With careful composition and editing techniques, you can take your portrait game to the next level. In this video, I’ll show how you can level up your portraits with this one simple tip.

Before we begin, be sure to download the exercise file here and follow along as I edit.

What is the Tip?

The tip is quite simple: Place your subject in the brightest part of the frame.

I have two reasons for this: First, the eyes are naturally drawn to the brightest part of the frame. Second, doing this will give you more flexibility when you edit. I’ll demonstrate the second point shortly. First, let’s begin with how to apply this technique when shooting.

Composing the Shot In-Camera

I found this beautiful location just off the side of a hotel and a major highway. I began with a test shot of my couple and the first thing I noticed was the patch of open sky in the middle of the frame.

Since our eyes are naturally drawn to the brightest part of an image, it’s usually a bad idea to place your subjects away from it. Our goal is to draw the attention to the couple so I placed them right over the patch of open sky. Notice that in the second photo, we’re naturally drawn to the couple.

Here’s another example of this tip. With this open sky behind my couple, I simply placed them right in front of the sun. The natural vignette helps draw the attention right to them.

In the second example, we were shooting right next to a large open door. The light was pouring in from the side and I placed my subject directly in the light which my assistant was diffusing with a large scrim. Pairing that with a darker background helped draw the focus directly to her.
In this example, there are no direct highlights like the first two. Instead, we have a dark background and light pouring in from the side. I placed my subject right in the light which my assistant was diffusing with a large scrim. With most of the light falling on my subject, she becomes the main point of focus in the photo.

Enhancing the Images in Post-Production

Let’s see how powerful this tip can be when you take your portraits to post-production. I began by applying the Modern > Soft Light preset from VF Presets.

Simply add a radial filter to darken the areas around your subject. When our subjects are placed in the brightest part of the image, we can essentially modify the light while still looking natural. Notice that in the edited image, it looks as though the couple was lit by a soft-box when it was actually just ambient daylight.

The same principle applies here. After applying a preset, I added a radial burn around the couple. I’m essentially enhancing the natural vignette to pull more focus onto my subjects.

For my last example, I took a different approach. Instead of a radial filter, I began by lowering the overall exposure. Then, I used the “Dodge Highlights” brush from the Retouching Toolkit to paint light back onto my subject. The brush selectively lifts the highlights and makes my subject pop from the background.

All Images provided by Lin & Jirsa

I added a subtle radial burn and arrived at this final image.

Conclusion

I hope you enjoyed this article/video. Give this tip a try next time you’re out shooting portraits. All you have to do is look out for the brightest spot in your frame and place your subject there. Then, you’ll see how it can transform your image as well as the editing flexibility it will provide once you take it into post-production.


For a full course on editing, be sure to check out the Mastering Lightroom over on SLR Lounge Premium. You can also find intuitive lighting based presets like the Modern Pack as well as the Retouching Toolkit at Visual Flow.

Don’t miss our next episode of Mastering Your Craft on Adorama’s YouTube channel next week! If you want to catch up on all the episodes, make sure you check out our playlist!


About the author: Pye Jirsa is a wedding photographer based in Southern California and the co-founder of SLR Lounge. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. You can find more of Jirsa’s work on Instagram.

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Microsoft May Have Innovated Itself into a Box with the Surface Duo 2

Microsoft’s first Surface Duo looked promising, but loud complaints about poor photo quality, bugs, and old hardware saw it flop in sales. The Surface Duo 2 directly addresses all the complaints, but the device may be too flawed to fix. The Surface Duo as a concept seems compelling: it’s a foldable that doesn’t require a […]

Microsoft May Have Innovated Itself into a Box with the Surface Duo 2

Microsoft’s first Surface Duo looked promising, but loud complaints about poor photo quality, bugs, and old hardware saw it flop in sales. The Surface Duo 2 directly addresses all the complaints, but the device may be too flawed to fix.

The Surface Duo as a concept seems compelling: it’s a foldable that doesn’t require a bending LCD like what is found on the Samsung folding smartphone and instead embraces a seam and is held together by what was universally praised as an outstanding hinge mechanism.

The first iteration had some outdated hardware, annoying software bugs, and a pretty terrible camera. But looking at reviews from the few experts who have gotten their hands on the Surface Duo 2, Microsoft is still stuck in the doldrums despite specifically addressing just about everything that was viewed as “wrong” with the original handheld.

found that despite still finding a lot to like about the idea of the Surface Duo 2, the actual practicality of the device left a lot to be desired. it has a great design, excellent multitasking support, and is very usable with a pen, but it is still hobbled by bugs in the operating system, and the form factor that at first looks cool is apparently actually frustrating to use.

came to many of the same conclusions, again praising the build quality and the excellent hinge, but hating the inconsistent and buggy software as well as the higher than even last time price of $1,300. It also, apparently, runs too warm for the publication’s liking.

Both outlets also found the camera to be “lousy.” That’s actually the word both publications used to describe the cameras and the camera app, which is particularly unfortunate given how much emphasis Microsoft put into making the cameras better than in the original Surface Duo. Rather than relying on just the one selfie camera to do it all, the Duo 2 has a dedicated camera bump made up of three cameras: a 12-megapixel 27mm f/1.7 that features dual pixel phase detection autofocus and optical image stabilization, a 12-megapixel 51mm f/2.4 telephoto that also features optical image stabilization and adds normal phase detection autofocus, and a 16-megapixel 13mm f/2.2 ultra-wide that features a 110-degree diagonal field of view with distortion correction.

In the video above, Marques Brownlee points out that while the cameras are better, they are not great and have an additional downside that makes using the device worse than the last iteration. The bump means that only one side of the Duo 2 can be set on a table without wobbling and prevents the phone from opening fully and laying flush against itself. That bump, added specifically to address a loud customer complaint, comes up both short in that regard and also introduces an entirely new problem.

Usability-wise, even though Microsoft added a waterfall-like curve to the interior of the two screens that is slightly visible when the device is closed, the lack of a screen on the exterior of the device really impedes its usability. But not having screens on the exterior is kind of a hallmark design choice Microsoft specifically went after.

Brownlee makes a rather solid point when thinking about the Duo overall: it might not be possible to salvage this idea. Microsoft may have designed and innovated itself into a box with the Surface Duo 2, and without dramatic changes, it might not ever be able to get out of its own way.

Another way to look at this might be that Microsoft paid too much attention to its critics and gave them everything they wanted at the cost of its own vision. Sometimes, and this is especially the case in tech, the customer doesn’t actually know what they want; giving them everything they ask for might doom the success of a product.

It’s unclear if Microsoft will try a third swing at the Surface Duo, because right now two strikes might prove too costly to warrant continued effort into the smartphone market it has never really been able to crack.

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