A portrait picture and an ID photo both capture an image of a person. Although they are similar in their nature, only one can hold some magic in it. So, the question is how to take a portrait and avoid turning it into a passport photo?
First and foremost – grab a camera and fire the shutters. But there are other techniques that you can implement to elevate your shot to the level of art. You will also need a photo processing program, but it warrants its own discussion. For now, you can stick to this portrait editing software. Keep on reading and by the time you are done here, you will have the knowledge of 10 more photo-kung-fu moves to make stunning portrait photography.
- Shift the Perspective
To take a portrait picture, the camera is usually positioned in front of the model and on the level of their eyes. That is the normal way. Or you can try taking a shot from below or above, standing on a chair, or from a vantage point, such as a balcony. That is an interesting way that can provide more expressive results. Different angles can emphasize different tones. For example, low-angle portraits can make the look more imposing and powerful, if done right. So, keep that in mind, consider the desires and surroundings of your subject, and don’t be afraid to experiment.
- Light It Up
Light is the cornerstone of photography in general, and portrait shooting is no exception. Mastering the control over light opens a whole world of possibilities, but let’s stick to the basics for now. Soft light is the best for portraits. Naturally, it occurs when the sky is clouded, but in the studio, you can use a softbox. Direct frontal light works for formal photos, but for something more artistic it’s best to avoid it – sidelight is much better. For a more mysterious effect, you can try backlight.
- Pop Out the Prop
Introducing an object for your model to interact with has an immense amount of uses. Firstly, your model might feel more at ease, which can make a lot of difference. Secondly, having two points of interest is the foundation of a whole story. Thirdly, props can add a lot of extra flavor and character. Just keep in mind that a person should be the center of a portrait shot, not an object.
- Keep an Eye On
Human eyes convey a lot of emotion and mood. The easiest way to capture that is to let your subject gaze directly into the camera, and your camera have a sharp focus on the eyes. Looking away can create a sense of intrigue, reminding of the world just outside the frame. Looking at another object (like a prop) or a person with the frame can, on the contrary, encapsulate an entire narrative within one shot by creating multiple points of interest. Once again, this is a huge field of experiments.
- Break It Into Parts
This may sound strange, but each part of your subject is a whole thing of its own. Just try shooting with an emphasis on certain details – hands, eyes, mouth, dress – and you may get something much more interesting than the run-of-the-mill head-and-shoulders. And if you experiment with macro lenses, you can get something even more captivating.
- Don’t Show It All
It’s hard to retain the appeal of a mystery, so why use it in your photography? Put something between the model and the camera to create intrigue. For, a face can be covered with hair, clothing, hands, or anything for that matter, as long as there are enough recognizable features. Of course, you can cover the subject completely and get appealing results, but that might defeat the purpose of a portrait, so stay wary of that.
- Leave the Comfort Zone
Most people who don’t model for a living tend to feel awkward in front of a camera. And that naturally results in awkward shots, which is a problem. Unless, of course, awkwardness is what you wish to capture. To draw more energy from your model, try making them do something they normally wouldn’t. Doing a burpee, singing, climbing a tree, talking to a tennis ball – something that breaks the pattern may shake things up and make the process more fun. Just don’t push too hard.
- Burst Into Action
The problem with taking a shot of people that are in the middle of doing something is that you have to make them freeze. The result is usually flat, stiff, or unnatural. The solution to this is rather simple – use the burst mode! If your camera has one, that is. This way, your models won’t have to stop in awkward poses and can move and act naturally, while you can capture the motion in its entirety and pick the best-looking frames later.
- Keep It Natural
The most natural shot can be taken when your subject is in their natural habitat – working, shopping, spending time with family, or doing a hobby. Pictures taken in such circumstances can be the most relaxed and lively. You can even use a long-range to stay away from the subject’s personal space as far as possible. Of, both parties should agree to such a shooting beforehand.
- Break the Rules
There are plenty of photo composition rules for making photography portraits. If you know some of them by now – great! If you don’t, here’s a quick rundown of the most basic ones:
- The rule of thirds. The easiest one is just to place your subject a third of the way into the frame.
- The rule of space. Make your subject look towards the frame edge that is farther from them.
- The rule of triangle. Position the key elements of the composition (e.g. head and two shoulders) in points of a triangle.
Now that you know these rules, try breaking them on purpose – outside the norm, you may find outstanding shots and find the most captivating portrait photo ideas!
Before taking a still shot you have to consider a lot of moving parts – light, background, composition, and sometimes even what your subject has eaten for breakfast. But with this knowledge under your belt and some practice, you will be able to make a stunning photo on a whim!