5 handy portrait photography tips

Getting great portrait photos isn’t just a matter of chance. It requires a thoughtful process to end up with a professional looking photograph. The following five tips can help you through the process.

1. Consider your position

In portrait photography, your position as the photographer is paramount. Your position allows you to decide what kind of backdrop you wish to use. It’s also generally a good idea to position yourself at your subject’s eye-level. This means if you’re taller than your subject then consider crouching lower. This will make sure your subject doesn’t appear too short or unnaturally tall, which can happen when shooting from too low a position. Of course, if that is the desired effect then go for it, but do keep in mind that the result might not be as appealing as a portrait. You can learn more about the effects of different angles by heading here.
Portraiture photography tip 2: As you can see from the above example, the photographer lies on the ground to reach her subject’s eye-level. You might have to bear with some uncomfortable to get in the right position, but the end result will be worth it.

2. Be creative with composition

A portrait is not a passport or driving license photo: face dead center, hair tucked neatly behind each ear and their shoulders visible – that isn’t the way to go. In fact, being more creative is not only preferable, it’s the secret to taking more professional portrait photos. The more creative you are with composition, the more surprising the results will be. For instance, you might discover that placing your subject off centre creates a more interesting portraiture. Don’t be afraid to take it further. Allow your subject’s hair to conceal their features or photograph just a part of their face. By leaving something to the imagination, you’ll create a more dramatic image that stimulates the mind of the viewer!
Portraiture photography tip 1: Above you can clearly see what a little creativity can do. Although the photo on the left is a portrait, it offers little excitement. The creative composition of the picture on the right however, sparks the viewers imagination. Enjoy experimenting with different composition, positions and angles and see what happens!

3. Always remain alert

Always be observant of your subject, the mood and your surroundings. This will allow you to sense the right moment to capture shots spontaneously, i.e. without forcing your subject to pose for you. The spontaneous laughter or a carefree expression makes for the perfect portrait moment. So chat with them and make an effort to put him/her at ease. This will provide you with a wealth of natural expressions to capture.
Portraiture photography tip 3: In the above example the subject is fully at ease while looking straight into the camera without discomfort. This is a good example of a spontaneous shot that captures a natural look of the subject.

4. Use flash when it’s sunny

Surprise, surprise! The best time to use flash is not just when it’s dark but in broad daylight as well! Yes, a good time to use flash is around midday, on a bright, sunny day. This is because sunlight creates unattractive shadows across your subject’s face, particularly under their eyes. Using a photographic technique known as ‘fill flash’ (which ‘fills’ dark areas with flash) will reduce these dark shadows.
Portraiture photography tip 4: With the photo on the left you can clearly see the harsh shadows across the subject’s face by sunlight. Avoid this by using flash on your camera.

5. Play with sharpness

Altering sharpness to create different effects is the last, and perhaps most fun, tip for creating professional portraits. Vary the aperture of your camera to sharpen the image of your subject while blurring the background. With a high aperture you can create more depth in your photo. The higher your aperture, the sharper some certain areas will appear. To capture a nice blurred background while keeping your subject sharp, use a small aperture, focus on your subject, recompose and you’ll find the background thrown out of focus. If have a compact camera and you can not adjust the aperture manually, then use ‘Portrait mode’ setting and your camera will automatically adjust its setting for optimal results.
Portraiture photography tip 5: The above is a perfect example that shows what you can achieve by photographing with little depth, or a small aperture. By focusing specifically on the subject, you’ll create a blurry background while keeping your subject and parts of your foreground sharp.
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