Portrait Photography Tips

Portrait Photography Tips

Almost anyone that can point a camera and take a picture can take a portrait picture. There are a few things to learn about when it comes to this type of photography that will help you understand the basics of what makes a good portrait. In reality, you do not need a studio or some special equipment and technical resources to take an outstanding portrait photograph.

A portrait is taken to define the likeness of a person or people and even more so, it is a picture of someone’s face. However, in general the word has a deeper meaning when it is shown in a photo. Portrait photography is understood to be of good quality and not only does it capture a person’s physical look on film, but will also show a characteristic in the manner that is pleasant to the eye, attractive and a unique mannerism of the subject. A very well done portrait will at least contain one element that reveals what the subject’s personality and attitude or any other traits or features that is natural to the person.

One of the benefits of doing portrait photography is the conversation that will take place. It takes an understanding and skill of human nature to be able to take a good portrait. It will require engaging in a conversation with the subject you are working with, find a suitable topic that will spark and interest and a reaction. Common ground is a great way to start when building a rapport with the person, the more you know about the person you photograph, the easier it will be to take a great quality shot. It is important for the subject to be at ease with you so their natural characteristics will show through and appear natural on film.

Keep it Simple —The more complex your scene is the more unlikely you are to get a shot  that is the X factor. Keep your backgrounds (and foregrounds) uncluttered, work with natural light where you can, if you have to use artificial light keep it simple and use as few lights as possible.

Set up the Shot before Introducing Your Subject to it – Be as prepared as possible before your subject arrives. If you’re shooting in a studio have your lighting ready and camera set up and ready to go. If you’re shooting on location know where you want to shoot. Have your camera’s settings ready to go and even do a few test shots before your subject arrives.

Shoot into the Light – Back lighting is great, particularly when shooting outdoors as it adds interest, depth and sometimes color into an image. Lens hoods are a must if you’re doing this outside in bright environments though.

 Experiment with Lighting – Another element of randomness that you can introduce to your portraits is the way that you light them. Side-lighting can create mood, backlighting and silhouetting your subject to hide their features can be powerful. There are almost unlimited possibilities when it comes to using light in portraits.

Shoot from Slightly Below Your Subject’s Eyeline – bending your knees slightly and shooting from slightly (and only a tiny bit) below a person’s eye line is something that is quite flattering for most people,  using this technique both with shots where a subject is standing or sitting. Similarly lighting from slightly below rather than above a subject is also recommended. 

Alter Your Perspective  – Most portraits are taken with the camera at (or around) the eye level of the subject. While this is good common sense – completely changing the angle that you shoot from can give your portrait a real WOW factor. Shooting  down on your subject or getting as close to the ground as you can and shooting up, you’ll be seeing your subject from an angle that is bound to create interest.

Women and Baby

Move Your Subject Out of their Comfort Zone – Create something ‘special’ and out of the box .Try some ‘jumping’ shots for example. While this might all sound a little ‘silly’ the shots sometimes end up great!

Looking off camera – have your subject focus their attention on something unseen and outside the field of view of your camera creates a feeling of candidness and also create a little intrigue and interest as the viewer of the shot wonders what they are looking at. Just be aware that when you have a subject looking out of frame that you can also draw the eye of the viewer of the shot to the edge of the image also – taking them away from the point of interest in your shot – the subject.

Looking within the frame – alternatively you could have your subject looking at something (or someone) within the frame.  When you give your subject something to look at that is inside the frame you create a second point of interest and a relationship between it and your primary subject. It also helps create ‘story’ within the image.

Shoot Candidly – Sometimes posed shots can look somewhat…. posed.  Photograph your subject at work, with family or doing something that they love will put them more at ease and  them reacting naturally to the situation that they are in, you end up getting some special shots. 

Introduce a Prop – Add a prop of some kind into your shots and you create another point of interest that can enhance your shot. Yes you might run the risk of taking too much focus away from your main subject but you could also really add a sense of story and place to the image that takes it in a new direction and gives the person you’re photographing an extra layer of depth that they wouldn’t have had without the prop. 

Focus Upon One Body Part – Get Close Up.  What is left out of an image that says more than what is included. Photographing a person’s eyes, mouth, hands , feet or even just their lower body sometimes  leave  a lot to the imagination of the viewer of an image. 

Obscure Part of your Subject – You can do this with all kinds of objects, their hands or just by framing part of them out of the image. Doing this means that you leave a little to the imagination of the image’s viewer but also focus their attention on parts of your subject that you want them to be focused upon.

Womens face sideways

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