January 2021 // The Beauty Edition

5 Tips for Creating Fine Art Portraits | Barbara MacFerrin


I’ve known photographers who want to create a “painterly” look to their images but they complicate the process by using too many lights, and in the process “killing” all the shadows. It’s important to preserve the shadows to keep depth and dimension in the image. Start with one light or even just window light. The old masters used the light coming in from a window in many of the portrait paintings you see. Soften the light by using a larger modifier and diffusing it. Use a white wall or white bounce card on the opposite side to subtly fill in your shadows if they’re too dark and lacking detail. Again, be careful not to “kill” the shadows, but carefully fill them just enough to keep all the detail in those shadows. Make sure the face is the most prominently lit part of the image. This is where you want the eye to go. Everything else is secondary. Observe your image: are there areas that are brighter than the subject’s face? If so, make adjustments.

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