10 common portrait photography cliches and how to avoid them

Photography guide books used to list all sorts of rules for portrait photography, but many of them are now considered a bit too old school and unfashionable. In this post we take a look at some of the most popular portrait photography clichés and give some advice about how to avoid them.

10 common portrait photography cliches and how to avoid them

1. Never shooting from below

The danger of shooting from below is that you’ll produce an unflattering up-the-nose shot and no mercy shown to a double chin, but when it’s done right it can result in dramatic, dynamic portraits. It can also inject a heightened sense of scale and power that often goes down well with businessmen and women. It’s an angle often favoured by rock stars who, to the point of cliché, like to take on domineering poses.

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2. Photographing women from above

One cliché that has certainly had its day is shooting women from above with their eyes rolled up to the camera to create ‘white canoes’ (the whites of their eyes beneath the iris). The thinking was that it made them look feminine, vulnerable and appealing…or doe-eyed. Naturally this look would often be accompanied by soft focus (we’ll come on to that later) and maybe a fuzzy pink glow. Not surprisingly, most portraits of women now have more powerful, or fun and natural poses.

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