Photo by Dmitriy Ilkevich on Unsplash
Portrait photography can feel overwhelming because it’s so personal. If you’re being hired to shoot someone’s portrait it’s probably because this person has a way they want to present themselves to the world, and it’s your job to do it for them.
However, portrait photography is also empowering. I hate it when photographers are so worried about entering portrait photography because they wrongly believe they don’t know enough about it.
So, here are a few easy portrait photography tips to get you started.
Use a Frame Within a Frame
photo by Milkos via iStock
An easy way to begin portrait photography is to frame your subject’s face. You can use a window, a fence, or get the subject to frame their own face with their hands or even a literal frame!
Sometimes portrait photography ideas are as easy as remembering the basics of any kind of photography. Framing serves a few purposes in photography, like calling the viewer’s attention to specific traits you want them to see, but it also serves a few additional purposes in portrait photography.
photo by claudio.arnese via iStock
By giving your subject something to play with, like a picture frame, you’re probably going to get a more natural look from them. They will be able to relax during the shoot. This really helps if you’re photographing someone who isn’t used to being in front of a camera.
Shoot in Landscape Format
photo by Liderina via iStock
Many portrait photographers fall into a rut and forget to experiment with different portrait photography techniques. The one cliche I see most often is always shooting a vertical shot.
Just because your camera’s “portrait mode” is vertical, does not mean you can’t take portraits in landscape mode.
photo by ferlistockphoto via iStock
Sometimes, depending on what you’re trying to convey, it works better. I use landscape format on my portraits when the background is almost as important as the subject, like with graduations. I also shoot in landscape when the portrait will be used on the subject’s website.
Those portraits of authors you see on the back of books, the ones that are always vertical and super close (too close) to the subjects face, don’t translate well into an online medium. Usually, your subject will want to convey something interesting about themselves (like where they’re from) in their portraits and this all but requires landscape mode.
Capture Subjects on the Move
photo by StockPlanets via iStock
Subjects don’t just need to stand perfectly still during your shoot. Allowing your subjects to move is the answer on how to take better portraits.
You can do this a few ways, by either allowing your subject the room to move naturally while snapping photos of them or by shooting your subject in front of movement.
photo bylechatnoir via iStock
One cliche version is the portrait of a person standing in front of a speeding train, but you don’t need to follow the status quo. Instead, hit the streets and photograph your subject as they walk. Take a portrait of a child while they’re picking up bugs. Head to the soccer field and take portraits of your soccer-loving subject as they dribble the ball.
There are so many ways to include diversity into your portrait photography, so get creative!
Blur on Purpose
photo by Aaron Hawkins via iStock
Use selective focus and depth of field to bring attention to key details about your subject and thier interests.
If your child found a particularly interesting (to them) caterpillar, make the caterpillar the star of the show. It brings your subject’s interests to the forefront of the portrait, which is sometimes even more important than how your subject looks.
Invest in a Quality Print
There’s no use going through all the trouble of making your subject look as good as they can look if the finished product doesn’t.
A good print allows your subject to see themselves as something concrete. Plus, it looks good on you as a professional photographer when you can show something physical to your client.
I use CanvasHQ for my prints because of their service model. I’ve had their photo experts catch issues with my photos more than once, very fortunately.
They will double and triple check your photos before printing them, and reach out to you immediately if they think some edit may have went wrong or if your photo is off center.
They then hand build your canvas frame. Their photo experts also ensure the stretching process goes smoothly. An issue I’ve had with other companies before is that they improperly stretch the canvas around the frame and it begins to warp over the years, leaving bubbles in the canvas.
Those companies then frequently tell me it’s been too long and the warranty has expired. CanvasHQ stands behind their product in a way those other companies don’t, so you know you’re getting a solid, well-built canvas on which your portraits will look good for years to come.
What’s not to like about that?
“Easy Portrait Photography Tips” Boil Down to This: Get Up Close
Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash
It’s the one thing nobody wants to do at first and the one thing you need to throw yourself into wholeheartedly.
Getting close to your subject allows you to build a bond with them and to capture small details no other pictures of them do.
photo by alvarez via iStock
There is a very real possibility that your subject will never have their photo taken in such a manner again, so do them justice.
Capture the golden speck in their left eye and their mole in their right eyebrow. It shows that they’re unique and it may just make them see themselves in a new light.