Portrait photography has always been a mystery to me. In the beginning, I thought it was all about the camera, but as time has gone by I realized that you can achieve great things with any camera if you focus on the composition and settings.
It took me quite a few years to figure out some basic strategies and tips on how to take better portraits and today I want to share my favourite ones with you.
Btw I’m not a professional, but I’ve come to a point where I actually like my portraits and that’s why I want to share those tips with all the other people that have the same struggles as I used to have back in time. I’m definitely not done with learning, so if you have any other tips please share them in the comments.
Also, if you are already an advanced photographer these tipps might be simple and nothing special to you, but remember we’ve all started somewhere and I want to easily help people who just struggle with photography a little.
#1 choose the right aperture
The aperture is one of the three basic settings when shooting in manual mode. (Btw if you don’t know a lot about manual mode, I’ve got a basic tutorial here.)
So, the aperture actually controls the amount of light entering your lens. Meaning that if you have a higher aperture your image will be lighter. Furthermore, (and that’s the interesting part when shooting portraits) the background will be blurry.
I for example like to keep the aperture as low as possible, so my models are in focus and everything behind and in front of them is blurry.
#2 create a nice surrounding
Most of the time when shooting a portrait, you don’t want to only care about your model, but also about the surrounding. Make sure the colours blend in nicely, and there are no distracting things in the background.
I also really like to have some light-sources or other interesting things in the back (e.g. water, leaves,…). Furthermore, most of the time I love it when there is also something going on in the foreground.
I believe that adding layers to your portrait basically makes them stand out a little more and creates a beautiful scene and character. That tip was probably quite a lot for you, so I actually added some exemplary pictures in the gallery.
#3 Don’t crop the portrait in the wrong place
Do you know that feeling when you crop a picture and it just feels wrong? Well, you might have just cropped it in the wrong place. Certain body parts just don’t look good when you crop them, so let’s give this a little closer look.
The first rule is that when shooting a person, never crop directly on their knuckles. If you want your model to be visible to the hips, already crop the tummy. Or want him or her to be in the frame until the knees, crop their upper leg. If you want to show her face, crop below her shoulders and so on and so on.
These aren’t really rules, but basic breakpoints. You don’t always have to follow them. A lot of great pictures actually break them. However, they could be the reason your portrait looks kind of off.
#4 Try out new angles
Ok, so this tip is actually quite a basic. In every single article about photography, people say that you should try new angles and I totally agree.
As simple as this tip is, it may actually be hard at the beginning. Whenever I do a photo shoot, you’ll see me laying on the ground or climbing anything at least once.
Trying out new angles is not only about the easy movements but also about the more extreme ones. When you try out new angles, try some you would usually not see the scene from.
Also, there are so many more breathtaking angles than you might think of, so don’t stop exploring. I did, for example, create a Pinterest board solely about portrait angles to keep me inspired. You can check it out by clicking on my pin code or scanning it.
#5 Explore Lightroom
To me, editing is not a way to destroy or completely manipulate a picture, but to enhance it. For a lot of people, editing seems rather boring, but it is an essential and powerful step when shooting portraits.
However, editing is so misunderstood. Due to the filters and magazine covers that alter our appearance we see in the media, we think of editing as something bad that actually completely distorts the image. But most of the time it isn’t.
Adobe Lightroom, for example, is an application that showed me how much you can enhance an image. Doing so solely by altering some light and colour parameters.
It can help you when you want to attract attention to a certain part of the image, or if you just want to changes the colours up a little to fit your style. In every way, Adobe Lightroom is a huge game-changer and I personally love using this application.
It may seem a little overpriced at the beginning since the computer application starts at approximately 12€ per months. But it’s totally worth it. If such an investment isn’t affordable to you, you might instead download the mobile app. You don’t have all the functions the main application has, but you got the main functions on the go.