5 Tips for improving your portrait photography

Here are some techniques that you might not be aware of if you’re new to portrait photography are. It takes practice, but be aware of these ideas can get you experiment, and inspire you to try photos you don’t else might have tried.

Next time you are watching a movie pay attention to the close up shots. See the top of someone’s head? Probably not very often.

Tightly framed natural light portraitTightly framed natural light portrait

Leaving too much space above the head is a common error in portrait photography. For a close-up portrait, just cut off the top of the head. You do not have to enter it. I know it feels weird at first, and to be honest, that I would never have tried this if someone hadn’t told me to. But it works because we connect to faces, not the tops of people’s heads. Also cropping the top of the head (in the camera or in post) brings the eyes higher in the frame and helps you achieve the rule of thirds or the golden mean position of the face in the frame.

Tight portrait with golden-section crop overlay to show composition.Tight portrait with golden ratio crop to show overlay composition.

The eyes often look best when the iris in the eye is centered. Direct gaze of the subject to place her eyes in such a way that the iris is approximately centered. By centered, I mean centered from the camera point of view, not point of view of the subject.

Natural light portraitNatural light portrait with good eye position and catchlights

I do this one of two ways, depending on the situation. If possible, I raise my left hand and have the subject Follow my hand with her eyes until her eyes are conveniently positioned. If this is not possible, I give directions such as “still keep your head and your eyes just a little bit shift left.”

Besides leading your subject look position of the eyes, also take note of the catchlights in the eyes. A big, soft light source will create the most attractive catchlight. Windows without direct sunlight shining through them work great, as well as clear open sky.

You have heard this before, but I will mention it again. When photographing children, one of the best ways to natural smiles and nice photos is to shoot them in their natural habitat, which is probably not a photography studio.

Boy on a swingAnd he kicked me only once.

Apart from a great portrait tip this is also good around practice your photography skills. Children in the game are fast and unpredictable. Learn frame, focus, and shoot before the time has expired takes practice and patience.

When it comes to portrait photography, his hands rarely neutral. Usually they are either to add to your photo, or taking of it. Make it a point to pay attention to your topic.

When shooting women, the hand in the profile with the fingers curled show work well. Often this looks more feminine and seductive than showing the back of the hand. Consider the following example:

Natural light portraitFor portraits of women, hand in profile with the fingers curled often work well.

Have you ever heard a topic complaining “I do not know what to do with my hands?” If you’ve ever stood in front of a large group of people to give a speech, then you know this feeling. When we put on the place are, it’s hard to know what to do with our hands.

If idle hands are messing with your portrait, then put them to work. Sometimes solve the problem of the hand is as simple as handing over the hands something to deal with. Creative thinking about using a prop to give your topic has something to do with her hands.

Woman trying on an earringWoman tries on an earring

Woman playing with a classic KonicaWife playing with a classic Konica

Morning and evening are great times for backlit portraits. When the Sun is low in the sky, you can use it as a rim light Highlight the topic its. This works best if you have your subject against a dark background, such as a shaded area places can without losing the light on the subject head.

Backlit portrait using the sun as a rim lightBacklit Portrait using the Sun as a rim light

I hope I have given you some new ideas to try the next time you set out to shoot a portrait. Let me know your thoughts on this article by commenting below or reach out to me on my Facebook page. I do my best to respond to questions and comments.

Jason Weddington is a portrait and fine art photographer based in San Diego CA. He started photography as a hobby in 2001 and started doing mission work in 2010. In 2012 he left his IT job to pursue photography full time. You can find more tips and training videos on Jason’s blog and connect with him on Google +, Facebook or Flickr. Jason is also an associate member of the American Society of Media Photographers (ASMP).

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