5 Portrait Photography Tips

Mix Things Up

It's easy to get bogged down by rules. People talk about the "rule of thirds" and other composition conventions, but some of the best and most arresting portraits are anything but conventional.

The standard rule about backgrounds is that they shouldn't be too noisy or busy, or they'll run the risk of overpowering the subject. But sometimes a loud background -- like a wildly colorful wall mural or geometric tile pattern -- can set off a delightful contrast with the subject [source: Rowse].

Mess around with framing. Try your subject right in the middle of the frame, then way off to either side. The same is true for the angle of your shot [source: Caputo]. Conventional wisdom says to take the shot at eye level or slightly above. Why not have your subject lay on the ground and take the picture from directly above? Why not tilt the frame dramatically and play with equilibrium?

If you're really feeling creative, suggests Darren Rowse of the Digital Photography School, try adding some blurred movement into the portrait [source: Rowse]. Tell your subject to stand still in the rush of a crowd and capture the swarming movements with a slow shutter speed. Focus on a single body part. Or don't focus at all! You never know which unusual idea will turn out to be an unforgettable picture.

For lots more photography tips, click on the links below.

Related Articles


  • Caputo, Robert. "People and Portrait Photography Quick Tips." National Geographic. August 2007.http://photography.nationalgeographic.com/photography/photo-tips/people-quick-tips/
  • Caputo, Robert. "People and Portrait Photography Tips." National Geographic. August 2007http://photography.nationalgeographic.com/photography/photo-tips/portrait-photography-tips/
  • Norton, Natalie. "The Human Side of Photography -- 4 Tips for Natural Looking Portraits." The Digital Photography School. (Accessed Dec. 10, 2010)http://www.digital-photography-school.com/the-human-side-of-photography-4-tips-for-natural-looking-portraits
  • Rowse, Darren. "10 More Tips for Stunning Portrait Photography." The Digital Photography School.http://www.digital-photography-school.com/tips-portrait-photography
  • Rowse, Darren. "DIY Reflector --Wear a White T-Shirt." The Digital Photography School.http://www.digital-photography-school.com/diy-reflector-wear-a-white-t-shirt
  • Wallace, Mark. "Digital Photography One on One: Episode 7" Snap Factory. (Accessed Dec. 10, 2010)http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7MNvYqUymQc


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