5 Hacks to Improve Your Portrait Photography

When working as a photographer, it is essential that you put in that extra effort to make your images, and yourself, stand out from the crowd. And no, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to spend extra on your gears, or use some extraordinary photography techniques. As photographer Sawyer Hartman demonstrates, you can use some simple techniques to make your images stand out. Here are his 5 tips to improve your portrait photography:

1. Pay Attention to Subject’s Clothing

Make sure that the clothes that your subject is wearing contrasts well with the background. This makes the colors pop and draws more attention to the subject. Colors like red, orange, and yellow stand out from the background brilliantly.

clothing for portrait photography

Notice how the image on the rights pops more

2. Create a Scene

“Nobody wants a photograph that looks posed, uncomfortable, and unnatural.”

Photos that are posed can sometimes seem really awkward. If the subject is not comfortable with posing, have them perform some activities that are relevant to the surrounding.

As Hartman demonstrates, he has his friend play with a snowball to create a scene.

subject playing with snowball for portrait

3. Add Depth

Natural photos shot straight-on are too mainstream. They lack depth. You can add depth to your images by adding elements in the foreground and background. Shoot through trees, branches, and bushes to frame your subject. This will draw more attention to your subject and make your image stand out from the rest.

portrait shot through branches to add depth

4. Pay Attention to Catchlight

Simply speaking, catchlight is a splash of light that you can see in the eyes of your subject. Catchlight helps in drawing the viewers straight to the eyes of the subject, and also adds life to the image.

There are two simple ways to have catchlight in the subject’s eyes:

  • Position the subject in a way the sun (or the light source) gets reflected in the subject’s eyes.
  • Use a reflector to bounce some light on the subject’s face and eyes within comfortable limits.
portraits with and without catchlight

Portrait with catchlight (right) makes the image pop and feel livelier

5. Have the Subject Feel Relaxed

For the photos to come out looking great, it is essential that your subject feels relaxed. If the subject feels uncomfortable, Hartman suggests that you ask them to close their eyes. When you are ready to take the shot, count to three and ask them to open their eyes. Click the photo the moment they open their eyes.

“That is the most naturally relaxed their face will ever be. This is a lifesaver when you’re shooting with people who aren’t true professionals.”

Pretty simple hacks to improve your portrait photography, right? What tricks do you use to make your portraits come out amazing? Be sure to let us know.

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