- Portrait Photography: From Snapshots to Great Shots
- Direction & Quality of Light: Your Key to Better Portrait Photography Anywhere
- Essential Elements of Portrait Photography: Lighting and Posing Techniques to Make Everyone Look Their Best
Although portrait photography is one of the most popular genres, it doesn’t mean it’s easy to take a compelling, powerful photograph of someone. If it was just about telling your subject what to do and pointing a camera at them, guys like Martin Schoeller would be out of a job.
With that said, here are 10 strategies for taking powerful portraits.
1. The Comfort Zone Strategy
When you work with a model, be it a professional one or not, there are a few things that you need to take care of right way. First of all, you have to gain their trust. Do that by having a professional, polite attitude. Second, you need to make your model feel comfortable. The way to do that is to create a relaxed environment and mood during the shoot. After you make your model comfortable and they trust you, it’s time to take them out of that comfort zone. Sounds weird, I know. Have your model do something out of the ordinary. Try starting with jumps (just be careful not to be a Halssman copycat) and take it from there. Ideally, your model will join in and come up with some cool ideas that will make the session and the results something to remember.
2. The Ninja Strategy
I like to call it that because it involves firing your camera when the subject isn’t paying attention. The way to do it is to start a conversation and move it to a point where you find a topic that is of major interest to your subject. With an athlete for example, it shouldn’t be too hard. Then, watch their facial expressions changing as they talk and when you see what you want, release the shutter. Your subject will be confused, so it’s a good idea to explain what you’re doing, but make sure to steer the conversation back to the interesting stuff.
(Success Tip:Master photography with a simple deck of cards here)
3. The Prop Strategy
Props can do wonders in a portrait shoot. The possibilities are countless. The idea is to find something your subject can relate to, or at least something that he or she will not look ridiculously while handling.
4.The Close-up Strategy
One of the less conventional approaches to taking portraits is to focus on a body part, something other than the face. Hands are great for this strategy, but so are lips.
5. The Unconventional Composition strategy
We all know the rule of thirds and the golden ratio; at least I hope everyone reading this knows them. They are a fail-safe way to shoot portraits. But how about going a little crazy and breaking the rules of composition? How about taking a portrait of only half the face of someone, or shooting only from eyes up? Let your creativity flow and frame your portraits in a more unconventional manner.
6. The Lighting Strategy
Lighting will make the difference between an average portrait and a powerful one. If you don't have access to a studio or some flashes, find ingenious ways of using window lighting. Try not to avoid shadows either, because if you use them right, you can add a great sense of drama.
7. The Awkward Perspective Strategy
Most photographers shoot the portrait from the model’s eyes perspective. Try something else for a change. Get higher or lower than your model or wherever the location allows a different perspective than what the viewer would normally expect.
8. The Cover-up Strategy
Try covering a part of your model’s face or body with a cloth or a hood. For example if you cover most of the face and leave only the eyes, it will help the viewer connect with the person in the picture.
9. The Connection to Location Strategy
This strategy involves photographing your model in a special location, not a studio, and not outside with a blurred background. I’m basically talking about an environmental portrait, one where the subject interacts with his surroundings or has a connection with that space. Think about a musician being photographed in an opera hall.
10. The Series Strategy
Shoot a series of pictures of your model with different expressions and poses. Stitch them all together and present them as a single image.