Are you’re looking to capture the type of portrait that impresses not only your model but everyone else who sees it? Have a look at these 15 pieces of advice you can take to improve your portrait photography skills and make any shot stand out.
1. Pay attention to height
Different heights lead to different results. If you want to capture your subjects on an eye level, consider using equipment that can elevate or lower your gear for the best outcome possible.
2. Try to moderate sunlight
Direct sunlight can be harsh on skin when taking a portrait. You can try to moderate its effect by using shutter blinds, a screen, or windows.
3. Be creative with angles to achieve different impressions
Be creative and add new perspectives to your images by breaking the rule of thirds. Try different angles, distances, and challenge the traditional. For powerful shots, position yourself lower than your subject and shoot upwards. To create a feeling of loneliness, capture your subject from afar.
Take risks and shoot from an aerial viewpoint, the sides, or other settings you find interesting at the moment.
4. Don’t be afraid to experiment
Try things you traditionally would not in portrait photography. Have you thought that overexposure can be a good idea? Even if it is something that you usually try to steer away from. In portrait photography overexposure can be an interesting concept to experiment with. An overexposed image can sometimes contribute to a clean and flawless composition.
Or experiment with a wide-angle lens. Most likely you will be using a regular 50mm standard lens to take your portraits. However, photographing with a wide angle can spark your creativity and bring unexpected results.
5. Try candid instead of staged
Try distracting your subject to obtain photos that are natural and authentic. If possible, engage in conversation or have them having a friend around they feel comfortable with. Music, small tasks, and other tricks can also help to achieve the desired results.
6. Focus on specific subjects
If you are portraying a group, place your focus on the closest person to the camera. In case you don’t, it might be that the front person is out of focus — even if you are using a large aperture.
7. Make use of props
Props are great for adding different moods to your images. They can help you to introduce color, storytelling, or distracting your subjects and making them more at ease. You can think about objects like hats, flowers, or furniture pieces.
8. Check your background
If you are not shooting in a studio, check out the location beforehand. Try to understand the space and account for unexpected appearances, such as animals, people passing by, or other distractions. Just make sure you know your background, so your shots don’t get ruined.
9. Play with color and get different moods
Colors can change the mood of your photos and communicate different messages or styles. To achieve your desired results, consider planning your model’s outfit in advance and style the location ahead of time. It might be a good idea to have a look at the color wheel to understand complementary colors. Or even make a mood board beforehand, to make sure everything goes together.
10. Prepare your shoot and therefore your lens
When planning the shoot, think about what outcome you want and how to get there. If you’re going to experiment with overexposure, light, and different angles, consider preparing the right gear the day before.
11. Be sure you know how to use your equipment
Being sure of what to do and how to do it is crucial for a good result. Know how to change your settings fast and make the necessary edits to your equipment without hesitation. This way your shoot will flow and you’ll be likely to get better images.
12. Keep shooting and be eager to improve
Don’t stop learning and getting experience. Shoot with friends and family so you can practice as much as you can. If you’re just starting, consider offering your services for free, so you can improve and build up your portfolio.
13. Consider working with a hair and makeup artist
A good hair and makeup artist will help to elevate any type of portrait. If you never worked with one, you might want to prepare beforehand and agree on the equipment you should provide or that they should bring. In addition, it might help if you both agree on a couple of looks together with your clients in advance, so that time is not a constraint during the shoot.
14. Experiment with different techniques
Have you heard of Victoria Will’s tintype portraits of Hollywood stars at the Sundance Festival? They became iconic because Victoria put her digital camera away and used a century-old technique to photograph. The outcome was celebrity portraits unlike anything you’ve seen before.
Take the risk and go for bold techniques when you can.
15. Add your final touch with editing and post-production
Use editing software to retouch skin imperfections or simply enhance your photos. This will surely give your images a professional final look. Make sure you become familiar with editing programs in order to achieve a good result and craft your style in portrait photography.
Here we just listed 15 ways to improve your portrait photography skills. Let’s review them:
- Pay attention to height
- Try to moderate sunlight
- Be creative with angles to achieve different impressions
- Don’t be afraid to experiment
- Try candid instead of staged
- Focus on specific subjects
- Make use of props
- Check your background
- Play with color and get different moods
- Prepare your shoot and therefore your lens
- Be sure you know how to use your equipment
- Keep shooting and be eager to improve
- Consider working with a hair and makeup artist
- Experiment with different techniques
- Add your final touch with editing and post-production