10 Tips for Taking Great Portraits
Would you like to take great portraits? This post is for those of you who would like to learn a few very simple tips on how to take better portraits.
1. Background: Be mindful of what is in the background before you take your shot. Try to avoid lampposts sicking out of people’s heads, clutter, rubbish on the ground, and any other distractions. If your background is too busy, you can always throw it out of focus by using a shallow depth of filed (i.e. small f stop number).
2. Get Down: When photographing subjects shorter than you, lower yourself and have your camera at their eye level. This is particularly the case when photographing children. Get down to their eye level and your photos will be more appealing. (If you’re very tall (like me), you may have to bend your knees when shooting portraits of adults.
3. Do Not Leave Too Much Empty Space: Fill Your Frame. You can do this by zooming in on your subject, coming closer or cropping your image after you took it. It’s also important to remember to leave space for your subjects to look into.
4. Change Perspective: It is also a good idea to change your perspective. If you shoot from up high, from ground level, etc., you could capture some really interesting shots. In the example below I’m standing on a step ladder a few feet above the model in the lake.
5. Composition: A lot of composition techniques that I have covered in my previous post on composition would also apply to portraits. Placing your subject off-centre as well as using frame within a frame, as in the below example, are just a few techniques that are great to use when shooting portraits.
6. Props: Sometimes it can be fun to introduce a prop. It may also make your subject less nervous if there is a prop to hold/play with. Props do not have to be complicated. Flowers, scarves, hats, chairs, or even balloons can all act as props in a shot.
7. Introduce movement: I love photographs that capture movement. Movement of hair in the breeze or even skirts/dresses makes photos more alive. Why not try it (use high shutter speeds to freeze movement).
8. Lighting: Experiment with lighting. Side-lighting creates mood, backlighting and silhouetting the subject to conceal their features are great to try too. Also, be mindful of hard shadows when taking portraits at midday. When the sun is low (1-2 hours before sunset or after sunrise), lights is very soft and more flattering for portraits. I’ve covered this subject in my earlier post which you can read about here.
9. Eyes: Most of the time, portraits are all about your subjects eyes. When taking portraits, make sure that eyes are in focus and ideally in the top part of your frame. This does not mean that your subject should be always looking at the camera. The viewer is likely to be drawn to the eyes, no matter if the model is ‘looking’ at the viewer.