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.
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