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Amber Fite Photography
Creating a great portrait certainly has a lot to do with a lot of factors.
On the one hand, you rely on the model's "performance," as it were, to help create the mood in the image.
You're also dependent upon things like having great lighting, a good background, and having command of your camera's controls.
There are other factors, though, that impact the quality of a portrait. Here's a quick review of a few things you might not have thought of, but that can help elevate your images to another level.
Keep It Simple
I have a friend that's a realtor, and "keep it simple" is her mantra for her clients.
She wants the homes she shows to be devoid of clutter because it helps the home show better.
The same principle applies to portrait photography as well - the more stuff there is in the shot, the more difficult it will be for viewers to engage with the subject.
In looking at the image above, you can see the value of its simplicity.
The muted colors of the blurry background provide enough tonal range to make it more interesting than a traditional studio backdrop, yet without overpowering the image.
Likewise, the girl has struck a very simple, yet sweet pose.
Though her gown is bright yellow, its design is simple and straightforward, yet with the addition of the crown, there's an elegance about the wardrobe at the same time.
Rachelina Marshall Photography
Simplicity can be applied to portraits of adults, too.
In this shot, we again see a background that provides interest but without overtaking the shot. The tree trunk frames the shot nicely while adding some texture, and it's low-hanging branches help shield the elements further back from view.
And with a predominantly green scene, the woman's vibrant, pink lace gown draws immediate attention.
But again, because the shot is otherwise so simple, the color of the gown doesn't overwhelm the viewer's eye.
Offer a Distraction
Jax Creations Photography
Perhaps one of the hardest parts of taking someone's portrait is to get them to relax in front of the camera.
It seems like as soon as you raise your camera to your eye, an otherwise relaxed and carefree portrait subject stiffens up and strikes a pose and a smile that both look incredibly forced.
But an easy way to get around that is to offer a distraction to the subject to keep their mind off of you and your camera.
This can be something as simple as asking them to move around like the girl is doing in the image above.
A simple "twirl your dress a little" can result in a shot like this, in which the little girl looks completely relaxed and as though she's in her own world, exploring the garden around her.
The floral crown she's wearing helps create a whimsical scene as well, no doubt helping the girl to feel like a princess in an enchanted garden.
Another easy trick to get your portrait subject to relax is to add another person to the shot.
There's nothing quite like having a loved one in a portrait to help ease the mood and get everyone relaxed.
In this image above, the photographer was able to capture a sweet moment of the little girl loving on her soon-to-be baby brother or sister.
It very well might have been a planned shot, but if it was, it doesn't look like it.
And that's the whole point of adding another person to the portrait - you can get more realistic and genuine looking shots because both people in the photo are relaxed and distracted from thinking about being in front of the camera.
Overshoot - A Lot
Back in the day, we were bound by the limits of how many rolls of film we had. That meant being selective in terms of when we took a shot.
Today, though, there's really no limit to how many images you can take, assuming you have plenty of memory cards and batteries.
That's helpful for a portrait photographer because it means you can take a lot of pictures. And I mean a lot.
The value of overshooting is that you get that many more frames to get "the shot." After all, you never know when your subject might have just the right look to get a truly impressive image.
In the image above, for example, it's doubtful that the photographer snapped this image on the first take. Instead, shooting continuously would help capture this little girl in the ideal moment for such an eye-catching shot.
The concept of overshooting is particularly important when there's more than one person in the portrait.
By continuing to shoot, you increase your chances of capturing genuine moments between the subjects, as seen in the image above.
The candid moment of them kissing, along with the gorgeous lace gown that the mom-to-be is wearing adds tons of drama to this shot that makes it stand out.
Bear in mind as well that even the most reluctant of portrait subjects is bound to relax at some point, and you will be better able to capture those moments if you put your camera in continuous shooting mode and fire away!
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