15 Ways To Improve Your Portrait Photography
By EyeEm Team - 5 min read
Challenge yourself with these methods!
Smile, place a hand here, turn your face 45 degrees to the left, and tilt your chin down. Photographers know the tried and true tricks of the portrait trade, but what if you’re looking for something more than a studio headshot? You’re looking to shoot the kind of photo that doesn’t just wow your model, but anyone who sets their eyes on it. Here are 15 portrait photography ideas to take a step outside the box, and shoot photos that stand out.
1. Use natural light through a window or screen
Taking a photo in direct sunlight can be unforgiving on skin. Natural lighting through a screen, shutter blinds or windows can soften the harshness of the light and assist in an awesome portrait shot. Not to mention the fact that it’s inexpensive versus studio portrait lighting.
2. Shoot from the right height
To capture your subject eye-to-eye, take the extra step. Use equipment or physically get down to elevate or lower your camera for the best shot possible.
3. Shoot flash from an angle
On-camera flash gives a deer-in-the-headlights look, and while flat lighting might be a look you’re going for, it’s more likely than not not the look you always want. Try flash from an angle by using a set-up with a light stand or having a friend hold it. Find lessons on off-camera flash at The Strobist.
4. Experiment with overexposure
Generally speaking, overexposure is something that photographers try to avoid. But unique to portrait photography, an overexposed image can actually help achieve a clean and polished look. This is because in an overexposure, some details, such as flaws, are lost. The trick here is to use it with moderation, so you don’t overdo it.
5. Use unordinary angles to tell a story
For example, you can make a person seem more powerful by shooting from a lower angle upwards, a child not appear so small by photographing them face-on, or shooting from afar to emphasize solitude or insignificance.
6. Shoot candidly
Sure, you’re standing in front of your subject with a camera in hand, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get a candid photo. Try distracting your subject with conversation either with you or a friend of theirs. You can also give them a task or photograph from afar.
7. Use a prop
A prop has all kind of power over changing up your image. It can introduce a pop of color, create a story, or simply add something of visual interest. Think something as simple as an umbrella or a stepstool to something more unusual.
8. Use a wide angle lens
Traditionally, a wide angle lens isn’t the lens most portrait photographers choose – the reason being that it distorts whatever you place in front of it. While most photographers use a 50mm standard lens, shooting with a wide angle lens (something under 50mm) will challenge you to get creative. Find examples in this on wide-angle portraits, on using fisheye lenses!
9. Focus on who or what’s closest
When taking a portrait of a group, focus on the closest person to the camera while shooting with a larger aperture. If you don’t, the front person will be out of focus–even with a large aperture.
10. Don’t make your model the center of the photo
11. Use color for mood
Color or the lack thereof has plenty of power over the feeling in your photo. Consider asking your model to wear a particular color or scout a location ahead of time to get the scheme you’re looking for. Familiarize yourself with the color wheel to understand what colors complement each other and which clash.
12. Check your background
Can you imagine anything worse than taking a stunning portrait only to find out that a cat awkwardly propped itself on a fence in the distance. A cat can make for a great portrait subjects, but just make sure you know what’s going on in the background, so your excellent shot isn’t ruined.
13. Prep your lens
Know what conditions you’ll be shooting in ahead of time. Are you experimenting with a wide-angle a la #8? Maybe you’re shooting from afar like in #6. Think about the kind of shot you want first, and be prepared.
14. Know how to use your equipment like the back of your hand
If you have to fumble to change a setting then you may lose second, and in photography, seconds can be the difference between a good shot and an excellent shot. Being able to quickly change the settings on your camera or make edits to your equipment will allow you to actively get better photos!
15. Stay committed, keep shooting
The best way to improve is by getting as much experience as you can. If you’re new to the game, invite friends over for photo shoots. Ask your friends, family or colleague, get the camera in your hand and offer it for free until you’re phenomenal.
Header image by @sunchildrendontdie