Creating amazing portraits is a combination of light, composition and your own creative skills. But what exactly are the elements to focus on when creating THE portrait ?
You can always plan a portrait photoshoot; knowing which elements you want to manipulate is essential – this way you’re prepared to build the image and not only photograph what you see.
There will also be times when you’re not able to plan the photoshoot as much, so with these portrait photography tips you can create stunning portraits in surprising surroundings if you know what to adjust for the final image.
Communicate who they are
We see so many portraits all the time, but what else is necessary in them than just the looks of your subject ?
It’s important that you take the time to personalize the portrait, to show who your subject is deep down. It can be you documenting their unique features they’re not aware they even like or that you show what their passions are through capturing what they do.
Especially if you’re making a reportage about them for a magazine, create an interesting series where their energy shines through.
Capture emotions and expressions
You might be lucky enough to be able to capture laughter or a split second where your model is completely present. This has lately been more difficult to catch since people are living in this performance mode; we are already so aware of our presence so that we move as if we are being recorded most of the time.
Which in public environments is completely true, but this leads us (and our models) to have hard time to relax, be themselves and show vulnerability; which is the beauty in showing your true character.
Find a location that has a story
When choosing the location for your photoshoot, look for places that speak a language and go hand in hand with the theme of your photoshoot.
You can create beautiful family portraits in the intimacy of the subjects home or creating amazing portraits of painters at their atelier.
The location you choose emphasizes the presence of the person you’re photographing; and showing them in a surrounding that works as a continuum for your story.
Colors play a huge role
We subconsciously connect colors with different meanings; red can be for passion and green is to do with nature and outdoors. Choosing the right colors can be crucial especially if you’re creating images for clients – this way you’re also creating a connection between the subject you’re photographing and the connotation of the colors, location and other attributes in the image.
If you’re not able to add the right colors through the surrounding you’re photographing in, try to then build those meanings through the colors of the clothing or light.
Create a lighting that goes with the theme
After deciding what kind of mood you’re going to be having in your portraits, you can start planning the lighting to go along with it.
If you’re photographing something delicate, using warm natural (sun)light would capture the essence of the delicacy. Creating dark and heavy portraits when covering subjects with similar significance will also have cohesion.
If you’re not familiar what type of lighting would be used in the portraits you’re about to shoot, do some reasearch prior to your photoshoot to know what you can build in the location. If natural light is the only option for you, try to play with shadows to create compositional elements.
Play with the composition
Balance is related to, but distinct from, symmetry. A balanced image doesn’t necessarily look the same right-to-left or side-to-side. Rather, the various quadrants of the image complement each other in aesthetically pleasing ways.
If you are not able to impact lighting, have an interesting location at hand or your subjects seem shy, you can always compose your image to have interesting shapes and leading lines in them instead of creating your subject to be the substantial part of the image (even if they truly are).
This is a tool you can always have at hand wherever your photoshoot is taking place.
Direct your subject to pose
You can either have safe poses that are used in formal portraits or if you and your subject feel comfortable and playful enough, trying different poses that can elevate the portrait.
Composing not only the surroundings of your subject, but also the subject themselves – you can create a portrait with symbolism and meaning which then communicates various emotions and themes.
The best way is to research some poses before hand to know what you want to be using during the photoshoot; you can even print the inspirational images out so that your subject can see what you’d like them to do during the photoshoot.
If you feel more at ease with people you’re photographing, just go with the flow and you’ll be able to compose them in the moment.
Using chairs and props like glasses, hats and gloves will take the stiff focus off of your model and they’ll be able to focus on something else all while you’re creating amazing portraits.