Portrait photography tips from Tom Oldham
Tom Oldham is an award winning photographer with 26-years of experience and soon he’ll be sitting down with Karl in studio for another exciting live show, where he’ll be discussing the highs, the lows and what it takes to crack it in the industry.
He has been nutmegged by Cesc Fabregas, had a door slammed in his face by Ginger Baker and photographed Usain Bolt on multiple occasions. Throughout it all, he’s kept his dry sense of humor and quick wit and now has endless stories of remarkable encounters.
“I have photographed a lot of celebrities but more I’ve photographed very talented and driven people from many walks of life — sport, music, business, art and so on.”
We caught up with the London-based photographer ahead of his appearance to find out his top five tips for taking better portraits.
Research, he said, was key to creating a comfortable environment for a subject.
“I find it fairly straightforward to lock into most people with only a little knowledge of who and what they are. Doing your research and creating a harmonious environment where subjects will happily give you their portrait is the key to how this happens and this reduces the pressure of the situation as they are at ease quickly, because hopefully you have shown them you’re as professional as they are and that they are in the hands of someone experienced."
“It’ll only help, being on top of your everything. Know your kit, be ready, practice beforehand and test. All this enables you to just focus on creating connection.”
1. Know the technical
Get on top of the technical so ideas can just flow. Know your kit so well that you feel 100 per cent confident and able. Experiment, test and practice with it continually. It’s always a good idea to bring one extra of everything to ensure you’re covered if things don’t go according to plan on the day. All this enables you to just focus on creating a connection and helps ensure you look as professional as the subjects you’re photographing.
2. Create the right environment
Jane Bown said portraits are given not taken. Only when you’ve created an environment where your subject is completely relaxed and comfortable can that exchange be allowed to occur. You’re in charge of that little bit of time and space and it starts with your own state of being, so inspire that atmosphere by setting the right tone — have drinks ready, create the right mood, get the music right, be happy and positive and let your team be too.
3. Mutual respect
Work with the best people and treat them like Gods. Inspire loyalty. You’ll look to them when something untoward happens and if they’re under-prepared, not on-brief or just not that into you they could leave your ass hanging in the wind.
4. Know where you’re going and enjoy the journey
Use clear direction and show examples so there’s no frustration when it doesn’t look how you want it to. Demonstrate it yourself. Be generous with praise and only share what the digital operator can see when the portrait is looking amazing. Shoots are won and lost in this early moment. Be seen to be enjoying the shoot and the work.