Tamara Lackey Shares Her Tips for Taking Well-Lit & Properly Posed Romantic Photos

As one of the best-known and respected portrait photographers in the business, Tamara Lackey certainly knows her stuff when it comes to capturing life’s most intimate moments. In this video, part of her series in collaboration with Nikon, Lackey shows you how to shoot a quality romantic portrait session.


She starts off by combining ambient light with a stripbank to capture the ‘must have’ photos, then decides to shake things up, experimenting with various elements to get the most out of the session. Her workflow alone is worth taking note of, but along the way she shares plenty of tips and advice for anybody who would like to improve their couples photography skills.

The video comes in at three and a half minutes, both concise and informative. If you have time now, give it a watch. If not, bookmark it and spend some time getting ejimacated this weekend.

(via SLR Lounge)

  • OtterMatt

    I expected that it would be mostly an ad, but I dunno. I guess I didn’t really get much out of it. Seems to me like a rookie would be left mostly saying “yes, but how do you DO that” or “but WHY are you doing that” when most of what we get is just a list of what she’s using.

  • C Schel

    This is just dumb. I’m sure Tamara has a great personality and is terrific with her subjects, but technically this doesn’t amount to anything. I know this is an ad, but it makes me crazy when photographers lead people to believe they need expensive equipment. Do I really need a D800 + 35mm 1.4 + 85 1.4 + 70-200 2.8? No, I don’t.

  • Adam Cross

    “one of the best-known and respected portrait photographers in the business” I love it when I read this on here all the time, I’ve never heard of anyone PP goes on about 99% of the time.

  • Vlad Dusil


  • Randy Dowell

    really? your going to put a speedlight on camera, and point it diagonally at the ceiling? right, you’re plan is to shoot the light so it hits above their head and bounces down. of course. oh, except thats not how light works. hahahaha shoot it straight up if you want to bounce off the ceiling. you think she would understand light a little better seeing as how she’s a photographer. i mean, unless she wants that on camera flash look. in which case, i wouldn’t consider you a professional haha

  • Scott Madrigal

    Some nice photos on here, but where was the “properly posed” section? I also have to agree with the other comment about how much amazing light is coming through those windows and yet she’s blasting them with an on-camera…

  • mdsjhawk

    Yes. This times a billion.

  • EdytaHusseinmuo

    like Jacqueline implied I’m
    taken by surprise that a mom can earn $8130 in 1 month on the computer . see
    post F­i­s­c­a­l­p­o­s­t­.­C­O­M­

  • docholliday666

    She’s not that good of a shooter. Actually, she’s never been that good. Horrible studio technique, poor understanding of lighting, and horrible camera technique all rolled into one sponsored ad.

  • docholliday666

    When done properly, the fill flash should be used to put a catchlight in the eyes. The windows would make a great main light and that tiny stripbank should give a good fill light. Oh, wait. That’s assuming one knows how to light. Not spray and pray all close-ups. Waste of space, waste of light, waste of time.

  • docholliday666

    No, one doesn’t need all the gear, but what’s worse is when they’ve got the gear and don’t understand how to use it at all.

  • Monteraz

    I like you man

  • Timothy Nguyen

    Can someone explain to me why they’re at ISO 2200 while using flash and in daylight?! (1:12)

    I couldn’t make it through the whole video, I’m sorry, I tried.

  • Oscar

    The flash is bounced because it is used as a master in the CLS mode (just for nikon)…
    Anyway, it is an AD, so everything here is just focused on publicity:
    “Look at this camera, look at this amazing lens, look at that Flash” and so on.
    But the thing is i dont know why sometimes this respected blog publishes propaganda like this trying to pass it as real video from a real “well known and respected portrait photographer”, when 99% of the people who so this video thought… “Wait a minute, i can do that better, at all, with a shoe-box”.
    Cause we all know (maybe not everyone) the expensive-gear of the CaNikon makers doesnt do the job, the job is done by the photographer, and it should be the mean subject of this ad, but it´s not.
    But even when the pictures are shown… Come on, really? That´s what you are paid for? I bet you dont ask for much… Or at least, i wouldn´t pay you for much, before seeing the work and after seeing the results, if they are like these pictures.

  • Don Tusk

    Learn from the true masters of photography !

  • Matt Rennells

    In my opinion — this is what’s wrong with photography these days. You have a lot of people, who really don’t have any technical skill who are now photographers (and some of them even get fairly famous from it).

    So, from what I can tell, she’s not using the strip light at all for these photos. No trigger on the camera, shooting above 1/250th of a second for most of the shots she’s showing — but it’s obviously a non-speedlight as it has a power cord going to it (in fact I can’t even see what the head is) so she’s not using high speed sync. She could have easily backed her ISO down from 1800 to get the shutter under sync speed. Then the seated on the floor ones, she’s shooting at 1/500th at ISO 6400. Wouldn’t it make more sense to back that shutter down to 1/250th or even 1/125th at shoot at 3200 or 1600? My D800 looks pretty good at 6400, but even better at 3200 or 1600. She’s not using a a long lens for that shot so camera shake shouldn’t be an issue.

    In all honesty, if I watched this and was the subject of the photos — I would have rather had the videographer shoot the stills — there’s someone who understands lighting moreso than the photographer in this video.

  • Endurance Magazine

    Love that Nikon is producing these segments – just a short 3 min example of Tamara’s teaching style gives us an idea of how she connects with her subjects and students. No where near enough time to see all she has to offer in both her technical experience and subject connection expertise,  but enough to make us want to seek out all the ways she strives to educate and engage (just google her and you’ll see so many useful examples).  Thanks Tamara and Nikon! Love the images too :)

  • Timothy Nguyen

    I remember watching one of the creativeLIVE videos from a boudoir photographer who said she shot on auto for four years before deciding to learn creative controls and equivalent exposures. My heart was broken.

  • Binoy Mishra

    The only thing I liked about the video is the way she connects to her subject and make them comfortable. A cheerful and bubbly nature sure helps to ease up the client. But it stops right there. I mean, come on, you have got this gorgeous place and beautiful light coming through large window and what you do is to take tight crops of the couple? You can do that right in a studio with studio strobes and that will look better. Why shoot at an amazing place if you are not going to exploit it? Frankly speaking, I am a bit disappointed to see this from “Best known and respected photographer in the business”

  • NatalieNorton

    This is great! I love how clear and direct Tamara is when directing her clients. We think that in order to get natural looking portraits we have to just let our clients go, but clear direction seems to put them at ease. It’s like, “yes! She knows what she’s doing. We’re not going to look stupid.” And they let their guard down and loosen up. THAT’s when you get images that really sing. Loves this! And re all the blabber in the comments here, you know, there are a nearly infinite number of ways to create good lighting…Tamara highlighted one (of the dozen or so I’m sure she has in her arsenal). Let’s all keep that in perspective. ;)

  • Josh Solar

    Thanks for the lovely video Tamara! Photography is an art, I love that you’re showing me other ways to work in this situation than I normally would. Beautiful shots, too. Keep these coming.

    ps. I’m sorry there’s so much negativity in the comments thread. I think people think their way is the only way to do it.

  • rosemarygustin

    I think the video was very helpful for me. I’m still new to photography, so I love to see how other photographers shoot. Even if she didn’t tell us exactly how to pose people, there were plenty of examples of her posing them during the shoot. I also like seeing different lighting techniques even with plenty of natural light. I don’t normally shoot indoors, so I enjoy watching videos like this for ideas.

    Even if you didn’t like the video, all the negativity is disheartening! :( Tamara is a person with feelings. It makes me sad to think of her reading all the hurtful comments!

  • Chelsea Prince

    WOW! I really loved this video. It was really helpful for me as a beginner photographer. Thank you so much. What a beautiful spot with great light too.

  • Stephanie

    I LOVED this!! I loved how sweet she was making her subjects feel comfortable. I appreciated this video! Thanks!

  • Brendon Salzer

    Is this real life? Proof that even with top notch gear you can still take shabby pics, perhaps that is the point of the video. Seems anybody can be an ambassador for Nikon these days, maybe I should give them a call :D

  • docholliday666

    I don’t see one here…

  • Brendon Salzer

    This is awful beyond words. You would think such a massive company would have better taste in ambassadors.. I Can only wonder what the videographer thought when he saw those squashed noses :P Damn I feel like a snob but seriously thats unreal.

  • Trevor Dennis

    I’ll add a big AOL ‘Me Too’ to Adam’s comment. I came away thoroughly underwhelmed, thinking that the Emperor has yet another set of New Clothes. The shoot was obvious, and lacked imagination. Respected? Not by me.

    I was going to hit the post button after typing the above paragraph, but I’m going to add that I am never impressed by one trick photographers. People like Joe McNally, and David Hobby can approach just about any photographic gig, and come away with winning images. What I love about photographers like Joe and David is their lateral use of technique and equipment. I remember David blogging about photographing his parents on Hawaii (I think) and turning the camera upside down to make use of faster than sync speed, and have the flash fire at just the right moment as the shutter blinds passed over the sensor. Would the young lady above come up with a workaround like that? Not in her lifetime!!!!

  • Joy Bianchi Brown

    If you have not heard of Tamara Lackey, “one of the most respected photographers in the industry,” it doesn’t mean she ISN’T a well known, respected, and very talented photographer. It just means you haven’t paid much attention. However, to become a Nikon Ambassador means you must know your stuff AND be talented AND be a good teacher AND stay on top of the latest trend AND keep up with the industry….

    I appreciate photographers sharing their style and how they interact with their client… I think the most difficult thing in a photo shoot is the personal aspect. It is assumed you know the technical aspect, or you shouldn’t be shooting. But to make your client feel at ease, to direct them without feeling overpowering or awkward, and to get those clean beautiful shots where they feel beautiful and their affection for each other really shows, that is talent.

    Keep up the good work, Tamara! You are always an inspiration to me.

  • NatalieNorton

    You should feel like a snob. You sound like one. ;)

  • NatalieNorton


  • Aguest

    Probably shouldn’t have posted the settings. Looked like she was set on shutter priority and AutoISO. I mean, f2.5 on the 85 f1.4 with ISO ranging from 3200 and above? With good light? Am I missing something?

  • Annie Link

    What the crap? What is up with all the negative comments here? I really enjoyed the video and thought this photographer had some great insights. Are all these ‘bashers’ simply annoyed that Nikon didn’t recognize them and their work? Sorry guys. You’ve got to EARN credibility (as this photog has) instead of bashing your way into it by tearing others down.

  • docholliday666

    Actually, no, to be an ambassador/spokesperson/preacher, all you have to do is be willing to use their stuff, jabber loudly about it to everybody, and be willing to go to seminars/trade shows to soap box how good the stuff is. It doesn’t take talent and/or knowing your craft thoroughly, as long as you are good at one thing/trick. It’s more about being able to get people to feel like the stuff is the best and “used by everyone”. It’s called marketing. Canon has their Explorers of Light, Sony has their Pros, even Tamron has sponsored shooters. Hell, Hasselblad used to show true talent in their Masters program and now it’s pretty much no more than a sponsorship.

  • docholliday666

    Spoken like a true sheep. How many Apple product do YOU own?

  • Matt Rennells

    Annie- Those of us that have had technical training in the exposure triangle, equivalent exposures, and basically the technical side of photography know that the settings she used were no where near “optimal” for what she was shooting. I wasn’t saying that the end result pictures were not nice and that she is a bad photographer, just that in the video, she appears to have no “technical skill” towards photography. There are tons of successful photographers out there that wouldn’t know whether f/4 1/250th and ISO 100 was brighter or darker than f/2.8 1/1000th and ISO 200 without taking the pictures and finding out. What most of us have an issue with is that she’s a Nikon “Brand Ambassador” but yet (as far as this video goes), clearly doesn’t know how to properly set up her camera for various shooting conditions.

  • Joy Bianchi Brown

    actually, yes. it is damn hard to be appointed as an ambassador for Nikon. Let’s go ahead and see you try it.

  • Joy Bianchi Brown

    you have too much time on your hands.

  • Jen Bebb

    One of the most interesting things about photography, at least to me, is that there are so many different ways someone can approach a scene. Put twenty photographers into that space and you will see twenty different ways to work with the light, the location and the couple.

    It doesn’t matter what your personal style/approach may be, there is always something to learn from watching how others choose to work in a space. Tamara made different images than I would have made, which is what makes this kind of thing so beneficial – it gives me a new perspective to consider next time I’m on a shoot.

  • docholliday666

    Well, it’d be kinda hard for me…seeing how I shoot Hasselblad and Phase One.