Quick and Easy Portrait Photography Tips

26th Sep 2016

Are you growing your business as a portrait photographer? There are still plenty of opportunities to learn new things as you build your clientele. Here are some tips from experienced portrait photographers, tips that you may already know but may still benefit from by being reminded.

  • Switch your perspective. As a general rule, the photographer takes the picture with the camera approximately at the subject’s eye level. This provides a nice shot of the face and profile. However, you can make things more interesting by taking a portrait from a different angle. This change in perspective can add that extra oomph to your portraits. You can shoot up to take a portrait from below. You can also get on a chair or a ladder and shoot down on your subject as he looks up to you.
  • Use the right background. That is, the subject’s native environment. Portraits usually make use of simple backgrounds so that the focus of the eye is on the subject’s face. However, you can also add personality and tell the story with a well-chosen background. For example, if your subject is a teacher, photograph her inside her classroom, with the blackboard, books and children’s drawings as the background. You can blur the background so that it is not too distracting but can still provide a good context for the portrait.
  • Get down to your subject’s level. Baby and kiddie photo shots need you to get down to your subjects’ eye level. This way, you can get a well-composed shot, not the view of the top of the child’s head. For a playful shoot that exudes a sense of fun, you can shoot from a diagonal angle as well.
  • Choose your lighting carefully. When taking portraits, using the on-camera flash is a definite no-no. You will get flat light that falls on the subject in an unflattering manner. If you opt to use flash, you should have external flash that is placed at the sides to create evenly distributed light. For out-of-studio shots, you can use light coming from the window. This kind of soft light will produce naturally warm skin tones and colors. In addition, when you are shooting outdoors, you should ensure that the light is falling on the subject’s face and not coming from behind.
  • Make the subject feel comfortable. Not all subjects feel comfortable in front of the camera. Most of the time, the subjects feel shy, awkward and tentative of themselves. As a photographer, it is your job to make your subjects feel comfortable. Give them sincere compliments – about their outfit, their hair or how they smile. Never say that they look awkward and stiff – this is a self-fulfilling prophecy. The moment you say this, the subject will actually exude awkwardness and stiffness. Provide clear instructions that will help result in relaxed poses. You can also use visual aids such as sample photos of similar poses. Once they get the hang of it, though, you can encourage them to feel free to make their own poses.
  • Always be professional. This means coming to the shoot prepared – with the necessary equipment and props on hand. You should also discuss the shoot with the subjects so that both of you have an idea of what is expected even before you start. Of course, you should also come on time.
  • Don’t be afraid to try new things. There are a lot of things that have been tried when it comes to portraits. You can try mixing your shots with other media (paintings, cartoon drawings or pencil sketches). You can have your subject pose unconventionally or in unconventional environments. For instance, you can mix up a business portrait by having the serious executive have a go at the trampoline or posing at the garden fountain with pant legs folded up while eating an ice cream.
  • Check that the background and clothing contrast with each other. Avoid having the subject sink into the background – which will happen when the subject’s clothes are similar to the background. To achieve a visually attractive portrait, bright colors should be paired with muted backgrounds. Thus, if the subjects wear bright blue, a muted grey background will provide a good contrast.
  • Place the finished portrait on a well-selected frame. Help the client get the total package by choosing the right picture frame for the portrait. You can go by theme. For instance, a vintage theme may call for convex glass in an oval picture frame – which was the popular framing option during the 70’s. When placing portrait photos inside round photo frames, make sure that the photo is placed in proportion to the roundness of the frame, with the face predominantly at the center.