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25 Portrait Photography Tips & Considerations You Need To Know

Portrait photography is one of the most challenging and yet rewarding areas of photography.

And, so that we can help you to get better results with your own portraits, we have compiled this must know list of amazing portrait photography tips.

So, if you are ready to enhance your photography.

Dive in.

  • Try Using Flash Lighting (Even when you think is not necessary)

  • Portraits Photos can look a lot better with subtle changes in light. Even when the sun and all the light conditions are on your side you probably would want to use a flash in order to avoid harsh light and undesired shadows on your subject.

  • A dedicated stand alone flash will give the best results. However, the builtin one in your camera or even phone is still better than nothing.

  • There are of course add on flashes that you can buy online for your smartphones which can add extra light and enhance your smartphone results.

  • Give it a try.

  • Your subject is what matters the most….(so make them feel like you care)

  • Your subject is the interest of your portrait and as such, the rapport with them is key for success shooting and wonderful photos.

    Are they comfortable with the location?

    Have they already eaten?

    Connecting with the subject makes this process far more enjoyable and also makes them part of it.

    This is more important when approaching unfamiliar people, even if you are trying to shoot people on the street you need to be unobtrusive or keep unnoticed.

    This is how you get the more natural look on your portraits.

    But also remember your legal obligations if you are photographing strangers that you do not know.

  • The Background And Composition Is Key To A Great Photograph .

Your background and the composition of the portrait is as important as the subject.

Avoid crowded spaces or places where colors and saturation of elements can interfere or create noise with the focus of your picture or can become the eye interest of your picture.

Remember this photo is about the subject and NOT the background.

  • Background Defocus Can Make Your Portrait Photography Look Amazing

  • Background defocus is so popular these days that you can achieve such effect with most recent cellphones in the market and is an important feature to have with any camera.

    Look at your camera to see if you have this setting to achieve better results

  • The Right Lens Can Make Or Break Your Photography

  • Lenses go from focal length to zoom lenses and prime lenses.

    All can be used for portraits but you need to make sure you have the right one for your camera, the location and also the desired results.

    This comes down to reading reviews before you purchase, asking experts and of course budget.

  • The Right Source of Light Matters More Than You Think

The general rule is, that the more natural the source of light the better.

Finding the right source of light will improve the clarity of the portrait and will enlighten the faces and give real tone to skin.

Make your subject go close to windows and other sources of natural light, not against them for good results.

Just do not do it when the sun is hitting directly that windows, otherwise harsh and excess of light will generate unexpected results.

Common practice is to shoot during specific hours during the day when the sun is not that strong or in “golden hours”.

  • When Too Much Light Can Be A Bad thing.

Sometimes you can’t control the sunlight…it is just way too intense.

However in these situations, additional compensation must be used to reduce harsh light and undesired shadows in the picture.

When looking for a great portrait, excess of light can put shadows in eyes, cheeks, and depending on the angle in all the mouth area of ​​your subject.

So, the exposure to the amount of light should be controlled.

Framing the subject can be done in order to improve the control of light to and expose better its face or fill the entire frame with the face

  • Your Best Character or Subject is Unknown To You.

The unexpected and unknown subject on the streets, at the supermarket, the cafe or somewhere else can deliver that piece of inspiration that you were feeling missing during your composition.

Go ahead and look for those stylish and irreverent subjects that can be nice to pose for a pic.

You will be surprised at just how many people have interesting faces and would love to have their photograph taken.

Just remember to get their details and send them a copy.

  • Grab A Reflector When Working With Bad Lighting

When working with insufficient or bad lighting for your photos the best you can do is to count on a reflector.

The white balances in your pictures will make grace on the skin tones of your pictures, so the balance in these factors is crucial for getting the most of the shot.

  • The Magic To Great Portraits Lies In The Manual Mode.

 We are used to grabbing the camera, turning it on and shooting.

Auto mode is by default in every camera, so we use it and deal with the result and interpretations that the camera and its technology wants the result to be.

If you go with manual mode, adjusting ISO, exposure, aperture and all other parameters you will be getting more detailed pictures and also more aligned to your inspiration and expected results.

Even the adjustment on the shutter speed can improve your results while taking the shots in the right time and not missing the moment.

Don’t be afraid to switch to manual mode.

  • Watch The Angles (and play with them)

Portraits are known for being aligned on a vertical and horizontal grid. However, making a twist with your camera, shooting with a degree of inclination against the horizon can give a sense of fun and energy to the shot.

Also, angles of your subject deliver different results from one side to the other.

It is important to be connected with your subject as it can give you an idea which is their “magic angle” , how they will feel they will look slimmer, or more attractive in the shot.

  • Wide Angle Lenses (Yes or no?)

This one can be a little counter intuitive. Yes, you didn’t get me wrong. Wide angle lenses are popular within photography.

Phone makers are using them to promote the camera capacities for their latest smartphone and actually they can improve the results on the shot if you are looking to have distorted images, inappropriate dimensions of a subject as it will enlarge portions on your subject if you are close to them or the subject is next to the edge of the frame.

Do you want to show a larger head, longer arms, or try to give a perspective of depth to the surrounding of the subject in your picture?

Go with wide angle lenses.

However, they are not intended to be used for family pictures or for great memories, unless they don’t mind and are in the mood and you want to keep it that way.

On the other hand, using them appropriately with some distance to the subject can help to minimize distortion in the background of the shot. They are most recommended when you want to show a vast picture or the greatness of the landscape.

  • Motion In Photographs (Break Rules)

  •  Portraits don’t need to be as static as they once were.

    Break the rules on the concept, have fun playing with the subject, angles, lenses, effects.

    This often results in better pictures that will be the more authentic.

    You can give a sense of motion when moving objects or persons in the shot while your subject is standing in place.

  • Embrace The Magic Of The Eyes

  • Nothing connects a portrait to people more than the eyes.

    What do you remember from Monalisa? Yep, you got it, her eyes chasing you no matter where you stand.

    As someone said, eyes are the windows of the soul.

    Many cameras out there will have technology capable of getting autofocus in the eyes of the subject.

    You can have the best composition, background set and all the lightning in place but if you miss the connection with the eyes you won’t be connecting as well as you could with captured sharp eyes giving the senses of emotions of your picture.

    A blurred background but sharp eyes probably will stand out from the sea of portraits in the world.

  • Instructions To The Subject Need To Be Clear And Inspirational

  • Part of being connected with your subject is to have the freedom to give them instructions and guidance on how you want them to look in your picture.

    Where to stand, how to pose, what emotion to bring. This also applies to angles, the subject will know their best angle, but you won’t know unless you ask them and communicate with them.

  • Emotions That Shout The Magic Of Life Make Amazing Portraits

  • People laughing, kids being kids, pets being pets.

    Those are authentic moments and the emotions that deliver are the best that you can capture.

    Remember, it is not to be as static as you would think. It’s all about emotions and energy that can be captured with your camera. So add your style and flare to the photographs.

  • Environmental Portraits Change The Game

Think of getting people in their own environment, their workplace, the streets.

Remember when connecting to the subject or being unnoticed, and also that your best subject can be unknown.

The lady at the supermarket, the guy selling flowers, the possibilities are unlimited.

Just think about it and keep the eyes open for the best shot.

  • Filters, Polarizers Can Do Wonders

  • Polarizers and other filters can help you in reducing glare and reflection when handling with a lot of light or when you are shutting out of the sun golden hour.

    There are a variety of filters that can give you subtle warm or reduce noise in your pictures. Just play with them looking for the right balance to get a better shot.

    This includes UV filters, and other color filters if needed. Just remember not to abuse these filters or you will be getting unreal results.

  • Portraits Are Not Just For Faces

From National Geographic, “The hands of a farmer, a pianist, a baker. The feet of a ballet dancer, a long distance runner, a place kicker. The belly of a pregnant woman, the bicep of a weightlifter. Hair caressing a pillow, fingers clutched in prayer, a peering eye. The details of the human body make great photographic subjects, either as expressions of ideas or emotions, as graphic shots, or as a way to say something about an individual.”

Play with your imagination and also with the lights against the subject so the light will produce the desired shadows and the background will pop up.

  • Keep Your Eye On The Horizon

  • Unless you want to give your pictures a twist, keep your eye on the horizon.

    You can use a grid to better align the horizon, the coast, the landscape of the mountain, etc.

  • Black and White Gives Intimacy

  • The eyes are the windows of the souls. But if we complement that with Black and Whites we will be creating pieces of intimacy from the subject to the viewer.

    It is a classic approach that most professionals use to get that connection.

    It is not about colors in this one but the brightness in the situation. Useful too when you can not achieve a right white balance for the shots. 

  • Get on your subject level 

Moving in and out, lay on the floor, go on your knees.

Great to do when shooting with pets, kids and grannys’

It is part of getting the eye to eye connection on the subject.

Take the photos when they are in their comfort zone.

It will improve the quality of the shot. No matter how awkward it may sound to you while looking for the best angle to get that  perfect result.

Do it, it will be worth it.

  • Your editing and post processing.

After getting your pictures, subtle retouch and adjustment will always be welcome.

Some others will argue that editing removes the pure nature of the picture however, a shot could be away from being a great shot for a little of removing an unwanted element, enhancing it or enlightening it.

Just be careful while cropping to not remove the whole sense of the picture. Your subject will always need some space above its head.

You don’t want a subject without an arm, hand or something like that.

A landscape without the crest of trees or something else. Editing tools are more affordable these days and your smartphone can help with it if no other option is available at the moment.

But just remember, editing tools can’t replace a bad photo, they should only enhance one.

  • RAW format

JPEG is great for many social media and has been the one used for years in digital photography.

However, RAW format will let you get more information and details in your pictures that will be a great addition and advantage while editing and post processing the images.

Any tweaks you make, won’t be losing the “negative” or RAW file.

  • Use Props 

A hat, a scarf, skirt, blanket and some other accessory that will give your subject something to play with, will ensure that you are giving life to the picture.

And this gives the right focus for the subject instead of being there and trying to figure out what to do while being shot.

  • Conclusion

So, there you have it.

Our 25 must know tips and considerations for portrait photography.

So, what do you think?

Did we miss any?

Comment below to let us know.

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