3 Easy Steps to Better Portraits

Portrait (from wikipedia) - A portrait is a painting, photograph, sculpture, or other artistic representation of a person, in which the face and its expression is predominant. The intent is to display the likeness, personality, and even the mood of the person. For this reason, in photography a portrait is generally not a snapshot, but a composed image of a person in a still position. A portrait often shows a person looking directly at the painter or photographer, in order to most successfully engage the subject with the viewer.

Many of the shots taken by your average person are family shots and of those the greater percentage are snapshots of people. Why, because we want to remember the important things in life, our friends and family? Let's take a look at three easy ways to change those snapshots into outstanding portraits. Portraits are traditionally taken in studios by a professional photographer at great cost because we know that we are going to get great images. That doesn't mean you can't take outstanding photos of family and friends by yourself. It really is simple if you follow these key points.


1. Location, Location, Location
Always find a great place to take your photos. An area that is interesting and with backgrounds that will show off the person being photographed. There should be no distractions and the background should be simple and uncluttered. A good location is going to complement the overall image. Be very aware of the colours in the scene so that there is no clashing between your subject's clothes and other elements in the photo. Choose a location where there are a variety of props that will improve the image. These could be a vintage car, a tree with an interesting trunk or an archway, window or stone structure. It gives the subject something to hold on to or lean against. A subject standing on a plain background will make an average image.


2. Get in close
We are all guilty of shooting images that are not close enough to the subject. Of course you need to vary your photoshoot and take some wide angled shots but the majority of the images need to be shot in close. More detail often means better memories later. Getting in closer does two things, one, lets you see more of the person in the final photo and two, helps to exclude all of the unnecessary clutter you often see in an image. Be aware of the edges of your scene when framing it in the viewfinder or on the LCD. Find the clutter and you won't have to crop unnecessarily in your editing software.

Michael SG

3. Change your angle and your format
By shooting from a variety of different angles such as low down or high up you will change your viewpoint and make a more interesting portrait. So many images are shot from directly in front of the subject and most people have seen images like this. They are average and below par.
On the other hand by looking for unique angles you will create a dynamic photo. Secondly your format, a portrait taken using a vertical format may seem the right way to take it. But, if you use a horizontal format it may result in an even better image. Horizontal (landscape orientation) works well if your subject is looking off camera (not directly at you and there is negative space between the subject and the frames edge.And, if you really want to be daring turn the camera 45 degrees and see what results. Key here is to experiment with all the formats and see what you get.

By putting these three steps into practice I can guarantee that your portraits will improve and the resulting dynamic images will place you head and shoulders above your friends. Happy shooting!