Portrait photography is a great jumping off point for new photographers looking to build their skills. In fact, the desire to take great photos of people, often friends and family, is quite often the motivation behind taking the first steps on a photography journey. People love to photograph people!
Even photographers who primarily focus on shooting photos without the human element in them will often find themsleves taking a portrait or two–even if it is just for their own personal collection. Regardless of why you’re taking a portrait, or if you’re just getting started in the world of portait photography, these are three of the most important things to keep in mind when you’re shooting.
This is the number one thing you need to keep in mind. Without sharp eyes, you don’t have a portrait. You may have heard this before, it’s a popular saying. With good reason! The eyes are the first thing a person looks at when they look at a portrait. You could go so far as to say they are the focal point of a portrait. That’s why it’s so important to shot on a more narrow aperture (smaller f number). If you use a wide aperture, like f1.8, your chances of having out of focus eyes is greatly increased. If your artistic preference, however, is to not have both the eyes in focus, I strongly recommend you at least make the eye closest to the camera in focus.
Posing can be tricky business. Depending on who your subject is, there gender, personality, etc…you will want to pose them differently. For example, you may not want to have a teenage cheerleader pose in the same way you would have their grandfather pose. Do some research on ways to pose your subjects before you start your portrait session. We have a guide to maternity posing right here on PhotographyPlanet. There are also a lot of books available and resources available on YouTube.
There are a lot of ways to compose a portrait. Whenever I’m struggling to find a great pose, my go to technique is to fill the frame with the subject. Get nice and close so there’s no other place for the viewer of the subject to look. Your subject will stay the star of the show! Another way to compose a portrait, which is slightly more advanced is to try your hand some natural framing. Here’s an example:
That is, try to find elements in the location you’re shooting in and see if you can compose the image in a way the elements create a natural frame around your subject. This will also help keep the eye on the subject when it’s done right. However, this technique may require a little practice. The last thing you want to do is introduce a distraction into the photo.
Bringing It All Together
Lastly, When you’re out there shooting, try to think about the composition and find a pose that works well with it, since the two go hand in hand.