City Photo Blog – Portrait Photography with Mark Massey

Chelmsford City Photography Competition is back and accepting entries until August 31st. To help you capture that perfect shot the competition is collaborating with professional photographers to bring you a wealth of resources and tips across the summer.

Find out more about the competition here.

Portrait Photography with Mark Massey

In this edition of the City Photo Comp blog Southend-based photographer and graphic designer Mark Massey shares his tips and advice for portrait photography.

Mark has used images from his current project ‘Essexism’ in which he challenges the stereotypical portrayal of ‘Essex Girls’. You can take a look at the full project.

If you want to have a go at the advice and tips in this article, you can also download City Photo Top Tips.

Here are Mark’s tips, in his own words.


I was taught that there are four essential ingredients to a good portrait:

  • aperture
  • composition
  • light
  • connection

Connection is probably the most important and if you have a rapport, it will show in the portrait. 

A portrait phot of Pippa. She stands with her fists in a defensive pose.

For example, you can see the connection between subject and photographer in my portrait of Pippa. She is an actress, specially trained for combat scenes such as sword fighting and martial arts (hence the pose).

Acting Naturally

Try to get the subject to act naturally. Smiling for the camera often looks contrived so you could get those shots out of the way first.

By then they will be more relaxed, and you can look for candid or off-guard moments which look more natural. They don’t necessarily need to be looking at the camera either, for example my portrait of triathlete Lucy with her bike.

Capturing Persona

Try to convey something about the person by including subtle clues, or by thinking carefully about the location and surroundings. 

For example, for my portrait of Juliet and her dog Reggie, we chose some woodland where she walks regularly for her mental and physical health.


Always keep an eye on what is going on the background. Sometimes if you’re concentrating too much on the subject, you can miss what’s going on behind them and end up with unnecessary mess or clutter. Always be observant.

You can see more of Mark’s work via his website or follow him on Twitter and Instagram.

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Remember, you have until midnight on 31 August to enter your best snap and be in with the chance of winning some fantastic prizes. Up for grabs are exclusive aluminium prints from Blue Sky Printing and training with Unshaken Digital Photography Training, where you’ll gain invaluable photography and industry insight.

Part of Essex 2020, the competition is proudly sponsored by Meadows Shopping Centre, Blue Sky Printing, Unshaken Digital Photography Training and partnered with Essex Chronicle Community.