I love a good portrait. Who doesn’t?
Of course, the hard part of taking a portrait is taking a good portrait. There are a lot of elements involved, and if one thing is off - be it the lighting, the posing, or the settings on your camera - the portrait could suffer.
Improving your portraits doesn’t have to be a long, laborious struggle. In this tutorial, I’ve got four quick and easy tips that will help you create portraits that have all the right impact.
Let’s get to it!
Pro Tips for Better Portraits: Eye Direction
photo by MStudioImages via iStock
Not every portrait needs to have the model looking right down the barrel of your lens. That would be boring!
Instead, switch things up from time to time and have the model look off-camera.
But there’s a trick to making the eye direction work, regardless of where the model is looking - their eyes should follow their nose.
By aligning the eye direction with the direction the model’s face is pointing, you get a much more cohesive look. When the eyes are looking in a different direction than the face is pointed, it can look a little haphazard, as though the photo was taken while the model was in the middle of moving his or her head.
Pro Tips for Better Portraits: Use a Longer Focal Length
photo by wundervisuals via iStock
Many budding portrait photographers simply use the lenses they have to take portraits, and that’s totally okay.
But the difference between a portrait taken at 35mm and one taken at 85mm is quite significant.
Wider angle lenses make portrait subjects look wider (as shown above), and that’s usually not something you want in a portrait! Conversely, longer focal lengths compress the scene and make the model appear thinner.
If you have a crop sensor camera, 50mm is a perfect focal length for portraits because the effective focal length will be somewhere in the neighborhood of 75-80mm. If you have a full frame camera, an 85mm lens is great for portraits.
You can go even longer, though. A 135mm lens on a full frame camera or an 85mm lens on a crop sensor camera will get you even more compression. On top of that, the focal length of the lens is one of the factors that influence depth of field, so the longer you go, the blurrier the background will be.
That’s just what you want in a portrait!
Pro Tips for Better Portraits: Avoid a Double Chin
Just like you don’t want to accentuate a model’s size by using a wide-angle lens, you also don’t want to pose them in a way that creates a double chin.
Fortunately, the fix for this problem is simple…
Have the subject bring their head forward slightly by extending their neck up and out. Then have them tilt their jaw downward.
That dual action of bringing the head up and out while also extending the jaw downward will help stretch out the muscles and skin under the chin for a more svelte look.
Pro Tips for Better Portraits: Learn How to Showcase Your Work
As you learn and progress as a photographer, it’s critical that you showcase your work. This is important not just as a means of recognizing your talent, but having prints on the wall and showing your work to other people will generate feedback that will help you improve that much more.
You can opt to have cheap prints made, but after all your hard work, what’s the point of a having a tiny paper print made?
Instead, go big and get a large format canvas print made of your favorite photos!
Canvas has a timeless look with a faint texture that will give your portraits more character and depth.
What’s more, canvas is incredibly durable, so it’s something you can enjoy for generations. That’s especially true if you get prints from CanvasHQ (as I do!) because they use archival-quality canvas and high-grade inks that ensure long-lasting durability.
But when shopping for a canvas print, it isn’t just what’s on the front that’s important.
Instead, be sure to read about how the company creates their frames.
In the case of CanvasHQ, they use kiln-dried wood and hand make the frames to ensure they’re perfectly square. By hand wrapping the canvas around the frame, these guys are able to craft something that won’t bend or warp. There’s a guarantee to back that quality, too!
Elevating the quality of your portraits requires attention to everything from posing and camera settings to the gear you use and how you present your final product.
For my money, there’s no better way to present my portraits than as a canvas print. I’ve used CanvasHQ for dozens and dozens of prints and have been nothing but satisfied each and every time. I have no doubt you will be happy with your canvas prints as well!