Simple Tips for Better Portraits

Whether you’re armed with an expensive SLR or just a smart phone camera, there is an art to taking good pictures of people. With some thought and some practice you’ll be the go-to person in your group for taking photos. Here’s a collection of some simple but effective tips for improving your portraits.

Get Closer

A common problem is standing too far back or not zooming in enough. Especially for head shots, get close so there’s less background to distract from the subject. Same with group photos. Instead of lining people up and having to move back, try to get people in rows.

Better Composition

A head in the middle of the photo is not very interesting; compose your shot so the subject’s head is in the upper two-thirds of the frame or a bit to one side or the other.

Depth of Field

If your camera allows it, use a low f-stop (e.g., f/4) to limit depth of field. This will make the background blur out while the subject will be sharp. This has a highlighting effect and anything behind the person will be less distracting.

Don’t Pose Your Subject

Unless you’re taking a portrait of a professional model, most people do not ‘pose’ very well. Try to get outside or somewhere your subject can move and look around. Move with them and snap photos as they look around. You’ll be amazed at how much better your portraits will look.


Okay, if you have to pose someone, try some of the tricks pros use. Have the person look anywhere but the camera and then when you’re ready to snap have them look toward you. Another trick is to have the subject bend forward for a moment and then stand up and look at the camera. Making your subject laugh can help, too. Also, don’t have your subject stand fully facing you. Head on shots are usually not flattering.

Be Aware of Lighting Conditions

Bright sun can cause deep shadows or make your subject squint. Find a shady spot or use the fill-flash option on your camera if it has one. Any strong light source can also cause shadows. Again, use a fill-flash or move the subject to softer light.

best portrait tips

Photo by mahnoorraja; ISO 1000, f/4.0, 1/15-second exposure.

Read Your Manual

Using digital cameras is so easy that most people only take a quick look at the manual to learn how to turn the camera on. Most cameras are feature-rich and have specific settings for portraiture, groups, and other situations. Learn how to use the settings and put them into use when appropriate.

Take Lots of Photos

With a digital camera you can try lots of different techniques, angles, and locations. Don’t be satisfied with a few photos. If inside, move outside and vice versa. Try different lighting and poses. This will give you plenty of options.

Learn Photo Editing Software

Even the simplest software is very sophisticated and can make a dull photo better by enhancing colors, contrast, and composition. The web is full of helpful instructions on how to achieve certain effects.

easy portrait tips to try

Photo by [martin]; ISO 100, f/1.8, 1/200-second exposure.

These simple tips will improve your photos dramatically. The most important tip though is to practice! Keep your camera handy when people are around and get snapping.

About the Author:
The Positive View Foundation has the expertise in the field of photography, as demonstrated at the Landmark contemporary photography exhibition.

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