Portrait photography is one of the most popular genres and is considered an art form in itself, with countless books published over the years dedicated to the craft. Here we explore five ways you can enhance your portrait photography so that your photographs can truly stand out.
Ignore the centre of the picture
It’s always tempting to position your subject bang in the centre of your photograph. The theory goes that the eye is drawn to the centre and therefore that’s the best place to put your subject’s face. However, unless you’re shooting a purely corporate headshot, keeping everything central can mean your photos lack originality.
The same goes for the rule of thirds (mentally dividing up your images using two horizontal lines and two vertical lines and positioning the important elements in the scene along the lines or where the points meet) – don’t be afraid to throw the rulebook out!
Remember your background
Make sure nothing in the background messes with your subject’s appearance, you don’t want to get home at the end of a long photoshoot only to discover that a tree in the background is awkwardly placed directly above your subject’s head, making for an odd-looking hairdo.
Similarly, avoid using blue clothing on a blue sky background, or a green dress on a grassy background. Along with making sure your subject doesn’t blend into the background is forgetting to check for unwanted distractions; after all, you wouldn’t want a random car or a piece of graffiti in the background of an otherwise stunning wedding photograph!
Forget smiling – tell a story
If you think of portrait photography, the natural reaction is for your brain to picture someone smiling at the camera. However, what if you ignore the smile and focus instead on a story the subject is telling? Whether it makes them feel sad, pensive, excited or passionate, capturing that emotion will enhance the portrait tenfold.
To achieve this, don’t ask them to look at you and smile. Instead, have a chat with them or get some conversation prompts ready, then snap away to your heart’s content.
Perspective influences perception so if you want your viewer to feel a particular feeling you need to alter your portrait’s perspective. For instance, taking a photograph from high up will make your subject seem small. A photograph taking low to the ground will make your subject seem immense.
With that, also consider how taking a portrait through a wet window can infer sadness, or a photograph taken through a tube or tunnel can create distance from the subject. Perspective can be fun to play with, so make sure you know what tone you want to give your photograph, and what story you want to tell.
It’s not often that overexposing an image can play into your hands, so grab the opportunity while you can. An overexposed photo loses details and flaws, which can end up achieving a clean and polished look.
Where overexposure works particularly well is when you want to give a subject an element of radiance and lustre, such as during a broad smile or laughter.
If these tips help you experiment with different styles and enhance your photography, then why not take it even further and explore our interactive Exposure Triangle. Not only does it offer a different perspective to the traditional tool, but it’s jam-packed full of advice on how to use shutter speed, ISO and aperture settings to your advantage.