Portrait Photography

6 Tips for Better Portraits

Capturing a perfect portrait of an individual or group can be a challenge. You want the image to be interesting, have great composition and show off the subject’s personality. That’s a tall order for what might seem like a very basic photo set up. But if you’re venturing into the art of portrait photos, here are some tips that can help you take stunning and intriguing photos of just about any individual.

1. Lighting

When photographing for portrait sessions, lighting is critical if you want to avoid unwanted shadows or washing out your subject. If possible, shoot in natural light outdoors or via large windows. The sun is more forgiving at times like dusk and dawn when the light is softer, which can provide a beautiful glow for your subject. If all else fails, just be sure to stay out of areas where harsh halogen lights are beamed directly at your subject and play with different set ups and locations until you find the perfect balance.

2. Rule of Thirds

The composition of a photo is important no matter what type of picture you’re taking. For an interesting take on portraits, you can use the rule of thirds, which states that you should divide a picture, both vertically and horizontally, into three equal zones. You can then place your subjects in various thirds of the photo, perhaps only on the right side while capturing a beautiful beach scene in the additional space, or in the lower third, with a brilliant sunset behind them.

3. Conversation

Comfort is key when it comes to snapping portraits. For hesitant subjects or those who aren’t used to being in front of the camera, striking up a conversation or having them engage in an activity may help break the ice and produce better pictures. Keep the chatter light and fun and start snapping photos as your subject talks. Soon enough you’ll be able to ask for more specific poses without them clamming up, giving you more natural and interesting photos.

4. Get Close

A portrait of a person or group of people, so make sure to get some close-up shots of your subjects. You want the composition of the photo to make it clear that the person is the main focus, not a secondary part of the photo. Getting up close, either physically or utilizing zoom will also allow you to capture a more detailed picture of your subject.

5. Pay Attention to Eye Contact

They say eyes are the window to the soul, so it makes sense that you should be cognizant of eye contact during a portrait photo shoot. An intense stare into the camera can provide a more intriguing or intimate photo, while pictures of your subject looking off to the side or at other objects can give a pensive or nostalgic feeling to your photo. For each iteration be sure that you know where your subject’s eyes are focusing and what type of mood it creates within the photo.

6. Shift the Focus

Though the people in your pictures should be the stars of the photo, that doesn’t mean that they have to be perfectly in focus in order to have a beautiful portrait. Focusing your camera on a secondary object can create a photo where your main subject is slightly out-of-focus, creating a more mysterious or casual vibe. You can also utilize various shutter speeds to make the subjects of your photo ultra-clear while blurring lights or scenery behind them to create a more romantic portrait.

As you can see from the above tips, taking high-quality portraits doesn’t require a ton equipment or professional experience, just an interest and willing subjects. And don’t forget that practice makes perfect, so get out and start snapping shots as soon as possible. Not only will you improve your portrait skills but you’ll also capture beautiful images that people will cherish for a lifetime.

Will Moneymaker is a freelance photographer, family historian, a husband of twenty-five years and devoted father of four. The arts have always been a part of his life. Join Will as he shares his thoughts and adventures in photography. Subscribe to his weekly newsletter.

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