Portrait photography can bring to life some of the most powerful emotions within a picture. Portraits have long been staples of our society. They hang in our government buildings, art galleries, coffee tables, and even in our homes. Shooting the perfect portrait can bring to life a side of someone you never knew existed. Taking a good portrait requires a little studying up beforehand. While the selfie is becoming a quicker way to take a pseudo-portrait, there’s no mistaking the real thing when you see it. That’s why brushing up on how to take a portrait photo is a good idea for any photographer, professional or journeyman, to quickly review before their next shoot. It might surprise you just how much you’ll learn from a quick few tips.
If you flip through an old book of portraits of check out some of the galleries where historical paintings hang then you’ll notice something intriguing about most of them. Most of the portraits are done with the model looking straight at the camera – or artist. In paintings it was the norm. For some it was a show of power to be painted looking directly at the artist. The reasons are varied when it comes to eye contact in portraits. While it’s still a popular way to shoot someone, eye contact isn’t always the best way. Mixing it up with eye contact can give a whole new dimension to your portrait. Have your model look away and in the distance to create a candid shot. It will give the portrait a more intimate feeling.
There are some tried-and-true rules that photographers follow for good reason. It can make life and work much, much easier if you’re able to have a steady foundation to build upon. But every now and again it might make sense to throw some of those rules out of the window and start from scratch. It depends on who you’re shooting, what you want to reveal, and if you think the shot will work out. A rule of composition loves to center your model in the middle of a shot. It’s a shot you’ll see over and over again. Why not mix it up a little? Have someone move to the edge of your shot or sit low in it. Playing around with where your model is in frame can be a fun way to create a unique portrait.
It’s a big one on the list. Lighting can evoke so many different emotions in a portrait that it might be hard to choose which you like the best. There’s backlighting, side lighting, and fun techniques like a slow sync flash to wrap your head around. Using lighting to your advantage is an excellent way to bring a completely different vision to the portrait. Always remember that lighting is one of your best tools to work with. Try out different techniques to bring your ideas to life. The result could be a truly magical portrait.
Scouting a location for the portrait can be the trickiest part of the whole event. Picking a location with the right surroundings might take both you and your model time to work out. If they have a specific place in mind which would be suitable to shoot at, go with their lead. Think outside of the box when you get to a location. Are there stairs your model can sit on? Could they lean up against a wall or a building? Does the background interfere with the picture you want to take? Giving your model props can also help to focus the shot more. There’s nothing wrong with bringing a little frenetic energy to the shoot by catching a shot in a busy part of town. Whatever your surroundings, use them to your advantage.