Take better portraits with 3 simple tips

Composition

There are many different ways in which you can compose a photograph. You could have your subject in the centre of the frame or for example, off to one side with the landscape rolling across the rest of the space. When photographers do this, we often use the ‘Rule of Thirds’. This means, the person is in the first third of the picture with the surrounding landscape taking up the next two thirds. The most important piece of composition advice we can give though (because we follow this all the time) is making sure the person’s head is towards the top of the frame. Of course, in photography there is no right or wrong; it is a creative form that gives freedom for artistic expression but often there is no need to have a lot of space above their head. Usually, it doesn’t add to the picture in any way. Make the person the focus of the photograph and take away any distracting space above their heads.

Couple looking at each other infront of lake
Blurry Background

Most people with a fancy camera want to know how to acheive those gorgeous, soft, blurry backgrounds. There are a couple of ways to acheive this. A technical approach is to set your aperture to a low number so you have a shallow depth of field. This means that your subject will be in focus but anything infront or behind them will be out of focus, giving the blurry look. Another way to achieve this is to physically separate your subject from the background. It is very common for people to stand up against a wall or a fence for a photograph. Have them take at least three big steps forward to position them in a more professional way. Even if your camera isn’t able to create a blurry backdrop due to it’s technical limitations, this separation from the backdrop will vastly improve your portraits.

A couple smiling at their baby

Light

Photography is all about light – it’s in the name! However, we have to control that light to produce impressive portraits. On a cloudy day, the lighting outside is ideal for normal, pleasing portraits. The cloud cover diffuses the light from the sun for soft, flattering images. When the sun is beaming down though, it creates harsh shadows under the eyes that aren’t appealing and causes people to squint (which we don’t want). To combat this, you need to find the shade. Position your subject under the shade of a tree and behind a building. If you can’t find any shade, have the person stand with their back to the sun so it doesn’t hit them directly in the face.

Young man smiling

Bonus tip

Contemporary portraits try to capture the person’s individuality. This means they don’t have to be static, staring at the camera. Have fun with them, make them laugh, ask them to look elsewhere. The candid’s are often the best!

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