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Portrait Photography - 10 Best Tips
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. Get up high and shoot down on your subject or get as close to the ground as you can and shoot up. Either way you’ll be seeing your subject from an angle that is bound to create interest.
Break the Rules of Composition
There are a lot of ‘rules’ out there when it comes to composition and I’ve always had a love hate relationship with them. My theory is that while they are useful to know and employ that they are also useful to know so you can purposely break them – as this can lead to eye catching results. The Rule of Thirds is one that can be effective to break – placing your subject either dead centre can sometimes create a powerful image – or even creative placement with your subject right on the edge of a shot can sometimes create interesting images.
Experiment with Lighting
Another element of randomness that you can introduce to your portraits is the way that you light them. There are almost unlimited possibilities when it comes to using light in portraits.
Side-lighting can create mood, backlighting and silhouetting your subject to hide their features can be powerful.
Sometimes posed shots can look somewhat…. posed. Some people don’t look good in a posed environment and so switching to a candid type approach can work.
Photograph your subject at work, with family or doing something that they love. This will put them more at ease and you can end up getting some special shots with them reacting naturally to the situation that they are in. You might even want to grab a longer zoom lens to take you out of their immediate zone and get really paparazzi with them.
I find that this can particularly work when photographing children.
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
Get a lens with a long focal length attached to your camera – or get right in close so that you can just photograph a part of your subject. Photographing a person’s hands, eyes, mouth or even just their lower body… can leave a lot to the imagination of the viewer of an image.
Sometimes it’s what is left out of an image that says more than what is included.
Obscure Part of your Subject
A variation on the idea of zooming in on one part of the body is to obscure parts of your portrait subject’s face or body. You can do this with clothing, 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.
Take a Series of Shots
Switch your camera into ‘burst’ or ‘continuous shooting’ mode and fire off more than one shot at a time.
In doing this you create a series of images that could be presented together instead of just one static image.
This technique can work very well when you’re photographing children – or really any active subject that is changing their position or pose in quick succession.
Frame Your Subject
Framing is a technique where by you draw attention to one element of an image by framing it with another element of the image. Framing gives an image depth and draws the eye to a point of interest in the image. You could do it by placing your subject in a window or doorway, have them look through a small gap or even use their hands around their face.
Go with a Wide Angle
Shooting with a wide angle lens attached to your camera can help create some memorable shots when you’re doing portrait photography.
At very wide focal lengths you can create some wonderful distortion. It might not be the type of shot you take of your wife or girlfriend (unless she’s in a playful mood) but using these focal lengths will enlarge parts of the face or body that are on the edge of the frame more than what is in the centre.
It can also give a wide open and dramatic impact when your subject is in an impressive setting.