Some of the most dramatic and engaging examples of portrait photography are tight close-ups of the subject's face or medium shots of their face and torso in front of a white backdrop. Take a look at Richard Avedon's celebrity photos for some wonderful examples, particularly his later work for "The New Yorker." To really make your portraits "pop," you'll want to mimic Avedon's technique by filling the frame with your subject and minimizing all background noise.
The simplest way to get a tight shot of your subject is to physically get close [source: Caputo]. Be careful, though, because this can cause problems if you're using a conventional short lens. Short lenses, also called wide-angle lenses, are designed to capture the largest image possible. This leads to distortion; objects in the foreground -- like your subject's nose or hands -- will look too big.
One solution is to use a long lens, such as a 70-200mm lens [source: Wallace]. A long lens has a powerful zoom, allowing you to stand farther away while still filling the frame with your subject. A longer lens has the added bonus of calming your subject's nerves. It's harder to relax and be natural when there's a camera snapping mere inches from your face.
If you want your portrait to tell a larger story, it's time to step back. In the next tip, we'll talk about environmental portraits.