Taking portraits isn't as simple as pointing your camera at a person and pressing the shutter button.
Instead, if you want to take high-quality portraits, there are considerations to be made regarding gear, composition, and what you do with the photo after you process it.
With that in mind, here are a few advanced portrait photography tips that will help you improve the quality of your photos.
Editor's Tip: Not sure how to make your portraits really stand out? Having them printed can give your photos tons of impact. See what your photos look like as fine art.
When It Comes to Lenses, Err on the Side of Longer Focal Lengths
I primarily shoot landscapes, so I have a whole host of wide-angle and ultra-wide-angle lenses for capturing sweeping scenes.
But while those lenses are great for landscapes, they're not so great for portraits.
That's because shorter focal lengths distort the shape of a person's face, often making things like their forehead and nose appear larger and wider than they are.
For that reason, I have a few standard length and telephoto lenses specifically for portraits.
Longer focal lengths, like an 85mm prime lens, are ideal for portraiture because they tend to flatten the features of a person's face slightly, which results in a very pleasing photo.
And don't worry about portraits taken with a longer lens looking unnatural - that flattening effect is minor.
What's more, a longer lens allows you to step back a little bit from your portrait subject.
With a little more room between the two of you, the model will likely feel more comfortable because you won't have your lens right in their face.
So, when picking a lens to use for portraits, consider something like a 50mm f/1.8 or an 85mm f/1.4. These lenses are among the favorites of many portrait photographers.
How to Take Portraits: Think About How Your Subject Can Interact With the Shoot Location
I feel like many landscape photographers believe that they have to travel to some gorgeous spot to get a great photo. That's just not the case - there are gorgeous vistas everywhere you look.
The same holds true for portrait photography. There's simply no need to spend all day trying to find the ideal photo shoot location because a great portrait can be taken anywhere.
One of the keys to finding a good spot for a portrait is to think about how the subject can interact with the location.
Is there a step to sit on? A wall to lean against?
How does the color of the background work with the subject's skin tone or wardrobe?
In addition to those questions, also think about how you can interact with the shoot location as well.
By that, I mean, how many different perspectives can you shoot from? What are the angles like for getting unique shots?
When choosing a location for a portrait shoot, think in terms of how much you can get out of one location, that way you minimize travel time and maximize the time you have behind the lens, working the angles for different photos.
As far as learning how to shoot portraits go, this is one of the best tips you can live by!
Editor's Tip: Not all photo prints are made alike. Learn more about what makes a great print.
Be Careful With the Wardrobe
When you take a portrait, you want to create an image that has long-lasting impact, something that the subject can look at in 20 years and still be happy with.
One thing that can ruin the longevity of a portrait is the wardrobe selection.
If the subject is wearing prints or flashy patterns, for example, the portrait will be dated much faster than it otherwise might be.
The same holds true for clothing that has logo or markings on it.
Instead, encourage your subject to wear clothes that fit well and are comfortable, but are stylish in a classic way. Avoid patterns and flashy colors in favor of something more muted.
If you feel like the wardrobe is too simple, you can always add impact by playing with lighting, the setting in which the photo is taken, the angle from which you shoot, and so forth.
Often, the difference between a good portrait and a great portrait are the little details like those outlined above.
Using the right lens, finding a good location to use for the photo shoot, and ensuring the subject has proper attire can go a long way in helping you create a better portrait.
And once you create that portrait and process it, another thing you can do to take it another step is get a high-quality print made.
I especially like canvas prints because of their timeless look, and because I've found CanvasHQ, I have a printer I trust to get my photos just right each and every time.
If you want to elevate the quality of your portraits to an entirely other level, see what CanvasHQ can do for you.
Take it from me - I have dozens of prints from these guys, and their commitment to quality has hands-down been one of the biggest factors in me creating awesome portraits!