Professional Portrait Advice

It’s normally this time of the year that you might start thinking about updating your professional portrait picture. But just why is it so important? Can you get by without having one? In our opinion ‘No’. A big reason for a bride hiring you is if they relate to you, they have to feel a bond and we all know pictures tell a thousand words. But it’s not just a bride and groom that will look at the picture. Journalists and blog publishers will also want a picture to accompany a piece you have contributed to.  We talked with UKAWP favourite Lloyd Dobbie to get some professional tips on a good portrait.

Smiling or Serious

Imagine you have just walked into a client meeting and you are introducing yourself for the first time. The aim is to capture that confident and friendly looking person; to show somebody who is approachable and professional. However, there are times when a more ‘serious’ looking photograph may be apt; for instance if a magazine or blog have asked you to comment on serious issues where a portrait of you grinning away might look a little inappropriate. I would always capture a few of these expressions in my sittings to add to the ‘happy’ ones. (member Erika has a small smile below)


What background should you choose?

The background to a portrait should not be distracting or take the viewers eye away from the subject of the portrait. A plain coloured or toned background can work well as can one with a little more detail, as long as it is out of focus and not intrusive (see my photograph of hairdresser Severin Hubert).


An exception to this could be where showing more background adds ‘context’ as with my portraits of cake maker, Zoe Clark, or florist, Mary Jane Vaughn.

Zoe Clar & Mary Vaughan

Glamour or Natural

When it comes to clothes and make-up it’s important to remember that you want to create a portrait that lets clients see you in your professional capacity. Once again, think of a client meeting or work environment rather than ‘glamming up’ for a night out. It isn’t always necessary to have professional hair and make-up but if the budget is available it might give the camera shy a little more confidence. However, if you’re happy applying your own just remember to avoid anything too glossy or shiny as this will be emphasised by the lighting. Remember, too, that a good foundation will help produce an even skin tone.

It’s usually better to select clothes that have muted or neutral colours although be aware of colours too close to your own skin tone (usually peaches, dark browns or beiges) as they can make you look a pale or ‘washed out’.

Keep it muted

A real ‘no, no’ is wearing distinctive or bold patterns and certainly avoid displaying logos or brand names! Jewellery should be simple and complimentary to the overall look. Avoid plunging necklines and showing too much cleavage unless the top is discreet as with this one worn by Siobhan Craven-Robins. You want people to be looking into your eyes!


Black & white or colour?

Well it’s really up to you but I always supply my portrait clients with both. A black & white image tends to be a more complimentary medium for portraits and also has the advantage that, wherever it is a placed on a magazine/web page, it won’t be clashing with other colours.

However, quite often publishers will prefer (and ask for) a colour profile shot as it suits their house style etc.

Also, on occasion, colour will enhance or lift the image my photograph of make-up artist Lina Cameron; Lina wore her fabulous red gloss heels to our session and I felt that they deserved to be seen in all their glory. Also the colour of the shoes tones nicely with the wood of the chair and provides a counterpoint to the white of her dress and the ‘high key’ background.


You can contact Lloyd via his website or

Leave a Comment