Travel Photography Masterclass: Portraits


Pro photographer TYRONE BRADLEY provides some insights and tips on shooting people. With a camera.

There are so many ways to approach portrait photography; mine is mostly about letting the situation dictate the direction I take. Sometimes it flows and sometimes you need to get involved and direct. I try not to direct too much and rather let things happen as organically as possible.

I’m usually after intimacy, an expression or moment that brings you as the viewer closer to feeling a personality. Portraits by nature are archival and I often enjoy revisiting portraits later on when you can see how time has moved passed.

Have fun and experiment, let the portrait be an experience you enjoy and have it be a collaboration, that’s where the magic happens.



Photography is all about capturing light. Finding interesting or unexpected light sources can really offer a moody portrait. Pay attention to light reflections off buildings, mottled light through trees, skylights in roofs etc., and then place your subjects within such environments.


As they say, the eyes are the window to the soul. If a subject is looking into camera, try and have highlights visible in their eyes, or at least bring out the colour or definition in them. Catchlights – the highlight of a light source reflected off the surface of the eye – will bring their character to life, whereas dark eyes can have a very sinister tone.



When shooting with bright, natural light, try converting your image to black and white and see how the harsh shadows and highlights transform into texture and shape. Black and white photography also works very well where you have a small light source that yields really hard shadows. Use it to your advantage.



If you’re shooting at midday and the light is harsh, take your subject into the shade and have them face the direction that the most amount of ambient light is coming from. It is a great soft light that will be flattering on their skin. The larger the light source, the softer the texture of skin.



When composing your images try shoot at right angles to the background, applying the rule of thirds principal. (Divide the an image into thirds using two horizontal lines and two vertical lines so that you have nine parts. Position key elements along the lines and the intersections) This is pleasing and balanced to the eye, and makes the image feel two dimensional with a much more graphic feel to it. This is very much the style filmmaker Wes Anderson shoots in his films (The Royal Tenenbaums, Moonrise Kingdom, The Grand Budapest Hotel).



If you know the subject and aspects about their personality that stand, hone in on that characteristic. Two-time bodyboarding world champion Andre Botha has a very unorthodox approach to life and fashion. I wanted to convey this in a raw, fresh, unexpected way by using direct flash and having his wife throw the most vital compound in his life, water, over him. This was an ingredient-type approach to building up an image. Bodyboard, check; fins, check; crazy style, check; bind it all together with water, check.



South Africa based photographer Tyrone Bradley moved into photography after a career as a freestyle BMX rider. Armed with a detailed knowledge of timing and a BTEC in graphic design, he set about building his distinctive photographic style. His influences come from the world of photojournalism and he strives to capture images with a strong sense of narrative


Words and Images: Tyrone Bradley

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