A well taken portrait can be truly captivating. Here I present you with three tips that I’ve found have really helped me take better portraits. I hope they help you too!
1) The eyes have it
Focus on the eyes. Make sure they are really sharp. Try to get catchlights in the eyes of your subject. This is really going to help you take better portraits.
When you’ve taken your image, play it back and zoom in to the eyes to make sure they’re sharp. If you’re not sure, they certainly won’t be when you get home and view it on your monitor.
It’s amazing the difference a sharp eye can make to the overall feel of a portrait. They can draw you in and reveal so much about the subject, so if you can, get this right.
When I’m shooting with a wide aperture and only one of the eyes is in focus, I try to ensure the eye closest to the camera is the one in focus.
2) De-clutter the background
It’s easy to only concentrate on our subject when we’re shooting a portrait, after all, they’re the focus of our photo. But don’t forget about the rest of the image.
I love to make the backgrounds of my portrait images as clean and de-cluttered as possible. It’s amazing the difference it makes to their quality.
How many times have you shot a portrait, only to discover when you get home that there’s a lamp post or something else sticking out of someone’s head?
Objects in the background of your portraits can act as a distraction, so be sure to analyse what’s behind and around your subject.
Of course some things can frame your subject or enhance the image in a nice way, so you don’t have to remove everything. Just be cognisant of all the elements in your image, and whether they add or subtract from it.
3) Make your subject feel at ease
Although it sounds obvious, this one is easy to forget if you’re concentrating on getting your camera settings right, setting up your gear, or wondering how to compose the shot.
Communicate with your subject, be warm and open, crack a joke. Even if you’re trying to adjust your shutter speed or something, try to engage with them and make them relaxed.
If you’re shooting a stranger it’s often wise to say ‘Hi’ and get their permission. Maybe you can explain what you’re up to. Sometimes a nod towards your camera is all you need. (I’ll write more on shooting strangers on the street in another post).
You’ll notice the difference it makes to the image if your subject is at ease.
It’s amazing how simplifying your approach to portraits and doing just these three things can really improve the quality of your output. Of course there is much more to taking portraits than just this, but it’s a great foundation to work from, especially when you are starting out. I hope these simple tips help you take better portraits.
Let me know what you think about the tips and whether they helped you in the comments below. I’d love to know!