As a photographer, it can be really difficult to distinguish yourself in an industry with stiff competition and abundant talent. How can we create images that demand attention? How can we stand out from the crowd? In this article I will outline several ways to grab attention and make an impression on your viewer.

1. Go Extreme with Aperture
When shooting a portrait outdoors, busy backgrounds can be distracting and pull focus away from your subject. You can combat this by opening your camera up to a wide-open f-stop like f1.4, f1.8, or f2. Shooting with a large aperture will allow your subject to be in focus while your background falls out-of-focus with a beautiful bokeh effect. This is a great way to disguise parked cars, traffic cones and other clutter in the background.

Keep in mind that the wider you go with your f-stop, the more soft and ethereal your bokeh background will look. Consider using a tripod to ensure that you get tack-sharp focus on your subject’s eyes when shooting wide-open.

2. Change Your Composition
How you frame a photo as well as how you direct your subject will communicate to the viewer what type of image it is. Using posing, lighting and composition, you can lead the viewer down a specific path by telling a visual story.

In the example above the same subject has been shot in two different ways. On the left, the subject is looking into the camera and smiling, focusing the viewer on them. This is perfect for shooting senior portraits and headshots as the image is all about the subject and the location and wardrobe are secondary.

The photo on the right is shot more like a commercial image or something you would see in a fashion magazine. Having the subject look off-camera and pose in a less predictable way shifts the focus from them, making the image more about the clothing, or the location (or something else entirely) than about the subject themselves. What you choose to focus on depends on the needs of you and your client.

3. Add Off-Camera Flash
When shooting outdoors, it can be challenging to work with direct sunlight as shadows can be harsh and overhead light can be very unflattering. In the example above, the sunlight was coming in and out of clouds as we were shooting in a large courtyard and it was impossible to use the sun as a consistent key light. To make things easier on myself, I set up an off-camera flash with a small softbox and placed it directly in front of my subject. I metered the ambient light and then set the light output to match.

While the image with natural light only isn’t bad, in the image on the right that uses flash, you can see that shadows under the eyes and brow bone are reduced and pretty catch lights are added to the eyes. The complexion overall is brightened and the overall effect more flattering.

I hope these techniques give you the confidence to get out there and create some images that will stand out and demand attention. Happy shooting!

Born and raised on the West Coast, Laura Tillinghast began making art at a young age. She explored many mediums until finally discovering photography when she was 17 years old. From that point on, she knew she had found the tool she was looking for to bring her imagination to life. Shooting primarily advertising and editorial content, you never know what you will find in front of Laura's lens. Whether it is a gorgeous model, a rock band or a bowl of oatmeal, she shoots with the same goal in mind; make it beautiful. See more of Laura’s work at her website: