Portrait photography is the primary roll of a studio photographer. The aim is to show the personality and the mood of the subject. There are so many different tricks, tips and ideas out there I (Scott) thought we could start gathering a few these ideas together.
This blog thread has an idea behind it that will need your input. It will hopefully become a long ongoing thread based of your ideas and feedback. Simply post your suggestion in the comments below and when we have enough new portrait tips we will post them in the next part of this blog thread.
1. Customize your view: Most portraits are taken with the camera at approximately eye level of the subject. This makes sense, but completely changing the angle that you shoot from can give your portrait a real WOW factor. And convey a totally different message. Get crazy with the pose and positioning. Not only with the poses, but also with your own positioning shoot from different angles to achieve different impacts.
2. Eye Contact: The direction of your subject’s eyes will have a huge impact an image. Most portraits have the subject looking down the lens, this can create a real connection between a subject and the person viewing your image. But there are a couple of other things to try:
Lookingout of the frame: Have your subject focus their attention on something unseen and outside the photo. This can create a feeling of candidness and also create a little intrigue and interest as the viewer of the shot wonders what they are looking at. This intrigue is particularly drawn about when the subject is showing some kind of emotion (e.g “what are they laughing at?” or “why are they surprised?”). But don’t forget that when you have a subject looking out of frame that you can also draw the eye of the viewer to the edge of the image, taking them away from the point of interest.
Looking within the frame: Alternatively you can have your subject looking at someone (or something) within the frame e.g. Mother looking at her new baby, a man looking at his watch, a child looking toy etc…. When you give your subject something to look at that is inside the frame you create a second point of interest and a relationship develops between it and your primary subject. It also helps create ’story’ within the image.
3. Break the Rules: One of the first things you read about when you start to take photos is the “Rule of thirds”. It’s not a real hard and fast rule but more a guideline, which is there to be broken. Place your subject(s) on the edge(s) or in the middle or in the corner.
4. Lighting: There are a number of ways you can use the light in your portraits. Don’t be afraid to experiment a bit. Use more light, less light, different light formers, backlighting, whatever works for you after all it’s your photo.
5. Move the person out of their comfort zone Make them do something fun and freaky, like the jump. These shots would be fantastic and unusual, unique. This wont work for everyone but it can be a lot of fun. And you will need to get your timing right.
6. Image Manipulation (AKA "Shopped"): If you’re good with post-processing and manipulations, use it to your advantage. Use your imagination, try some new Photoshop techniques. Even the most basic adjustments like exposure correction and cropping can totally change your image.
7. Texture: If texture is a big part of your subject, make it stand out and make it obvious e.g the wrinkles on an elderly persons face, or the long red hair.
8. Exposure: Blowing out the highlights can make a nice soft portrait with kind of a light airy feeling. Another advantage of “high-key” photos is that the smaller details and defects are blown away, making the image look much smoother. Or a dominantly dark or low-key image will naturally draw your eyes to the lighter parts. These tend to have a grittier and harder look to them than the high-key images.
9. Props: Adding a prop of some kind into your shots and you create another point of interest that can enhance your shot. But it should also be appropriate for the photo you want to take e.g. give a singer a microphone.
10. Culture: Capture the local culture, what’s mundane to you is exotic to us. Culture is everywhere, even in your own town. Just image you’re visiting from a different country, what things would then seem more interesting to you?