Tips and Tricks for Better Portrait Photography

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tips for better portraits

Photo captured by Daniel L (Click Image to See More From Daniel)

We love to look at stunning portraits. The subject may be our friend, family member, a model, or a perfect stranger. A well taken portrait tells us stories, creates some mystery or brings out some memories. Good portraits also reveal the true personality of someone. So how does a photographer capture a good portrait? Below are some tips and tricks.

1. Background factor: Background plays a vital role to a portrait. As you know, portrait is all about someone’s face. So it is important to have a background which is not interfacing with the subject. On the other hand, simpler and less cluttered background works better for portrait. However, sometimes surroundings may need to be considered to bring out the personality of the subject.

For example, if you are taking the photo of a Lawyer, you may like to do it in his office where you may see stacks of legal books or references. Including them in the background will be a good idea. However, it may not have to be prominent. Make them blurred or dimmed by focusing on the object itself. Same applies to almost all sorts of portraits. In most of the cases, it is a good idea to blur or dim the background. This can be accomplished by using a zoom lens and shooting from a short distance or with a wide aperture manual setting. If you don’t carry an SLR, then use Photoshop or some software to blur the background.

2. Light factor: If you have the chance to take the portrait in natural light, you have the best chance to get the great natural look with the natural colors’ and skin tones. However shooting outdoor may be tricky as you may not be able to control the light in most of the situations. Make sure that you don’t keep the object right in front of the Sun or don’t keep the Sun right in front of the object. These may cause unwanted brightness or deep shadow. Shooting in mid day also may be avoided as much as possible. For best results, position the object such a way that Sun light falls on it from the side. You may also use reflectors or external flash to light up some parts of the face. If you are shooting indoor, make sure that you use soft and evenly distributed light source to light up the subject. You may use highlighters sparingly in certain occasions. For example if you want to make the hair glow or something.

3. Aperture: Try different apertures. A wide open aperture (with a lower number) will blur the background and make the subject stand out. A smaller aperture (with a higher number) will make the whole scene come into better focus. Typically f/2.0 – 5.0 is good for Portraits.

4. Focus: As it is said, ‘Eyes are the mirrors of mind.’ it is true for Portraits too. When taking portraits, your focus should be your model’s eyes. Every eye has lot of stories to tell and as a good Portrait photographer; you should be able to bring those out to your photograph. And it’s not always a smiling face which makes a good portrait. Try different expressions on face while keeping focus on eyes.

portrait photography tricks

"Julianna and Ilya" captured by Olesia Kliots (Click Image to See More From Olesia Kliots)

5. Getting the right angle and pose: Pose and angel of body and face plays a key role too. Looking straight to the Camera with motion less expression can be boring. Try to flare up the portraits with some twist. May be it is an inviting smile, a sexy expression, a flamboyant look, tilting the chin down or up, turning the head back while walking forward, sitting and looking up etc. Experiment with poses and you will get some great portraits.

6. Make the model comfortable: In order for the Portrait to look natural and in order to bring out the true personality of your subject, you must make the subject (your model) comfortable and easy. He or she must feel at home in order to be free and spontaneous. Make sure you spend some time with your model before starting the shoot in order to know him/her better and also make him/her comfortable. Also don’t forget to smile and make some jokes or talk about something which interests the model.

7. Take lot of shots: It’s the digital age. Unlike the conventional film shooting, your digital photos cost nothing. So why not shoot as many as you can with as many angles, poses and expressions from your model as you can. Shoot inside, go out, walk around and shoot, sit in the park and shoot, change outfits, change makeup apply all the creativity and options. Keep shooting. It will not only give you chances to shortlist some great portraits out of the lot but it will make your model more comfortable and get used to your shooting and it will bring out his/her true personality and portraits will look more natural.

8. Get high or get low: Taking portrait is not always shooting at the eye level. Positioning the camera high or low while keeping the focus on eyes brings out interesting features and add different flavors to the portraits. So make the model sit, stand up, climb up to the stool or ladder or stairs and shoot. Or you go high, climb up or position your camera high and shoot. You will have more and more interesting options.

9. Make up factor: Makeup is an essential element for most of the Portrait shots. Makeup not only covers up the dark sides of a face, it may also make a face glow and look even. Some creative makeup also can be done to give your model sophisticated or trendy or different type of look based on the personality. It also will make your model more confident and happy.

portrait photos

Photo captured by Alexei Jurchenko (Click Image to See More From Alexei Jurchenko)

10. Get a helping hand: Getting a helping hand to hold the reflector or help your model to change the outfits etc., is always a good idea. You may ask your model to bring a friend or family member with him or her who can give a helping hand and also will make the model more comfortable with their presence. You may also hire someone who is experienced for the job. An intern from a local Photography school may come handy.

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One Comment

  1. Shawn says:

    Thanks for sharing this valuable post over here. All the tips and tricks help to capture a stunning photographs. But Background, lighting, pose and angles are the major things those helps.

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