Guest Post: 7 Tips for Taking Better Portraits

This is a Guest Post from our friends over at PRO EDU:

Portrait photography is one of the disciplines of photography that highlights a lot of emotion to tell a story. A portrait is a photo of a person that depicts their personality and what they are feeling at that moment.

7 Tips for Taking Better Portraits

If you see a photo of a couple in love, a child laughing with joy, or even a dog running with glee, and you feel exactly what they are feeling at that moment, that’s a sign of a great portrait photo. Follow these 7 tips for taking better portraits to better capture the personality and emotion of your subject.

1. Determine the Lighting

If there’s one way of creating a really great portrait photo, it is using the right type of light.

For example, if you want to capture your subject in a natural and candid way, natural light will likely be what you want to use. Avoid shooting out in the sun when it is too harsh (such as the middle of the afternoon). While you can take photos during this time, your options for where to shoot, along with specific angles to use, will typically be more limited. Instead, choose the hours that are early in the morning or the hours before the sun goes down. This is when you will get beautiful, soft lighting. 

On the other hand, if you want to create a more curated portrait, shooting in a studio or with additional lighting equipment is what you’ll want to try. When you photograph your subject in a studio, you will have full control over the lighting, allowing you to create highly stylized portraits. Additionally, there are generally less distractions when shooting in a studio, allowing you to more easily connect with your subject.

2. Observe your Subject and Catch their Emotions

If you want to be able to capture your subject’s personality and emotions, take some time to observe their behavior through your camera. Look at their best angles. Try to capture the peak of their emotions, whether they are happy or sad. 

You can also time your shots according to their actions and according to the peak of what they are doing. For example, if you are taking a portrait of a musician, this means capturing the moment they are working their hardest playing their instrument.

Julia Bell outdoor portrait demo shot from portrait photography workshop

3. Use a Wide Aperture

Having a blurred background is perfect for helping focus the attention onto your subject. Try adjusting your aperture so it is somewhere around f/1.8. This will give your photo one main focal point, while the rest of the image is softer.

4. Talk to your Subject and Build a Relationship

A big part of capturing what a person is feeling through a photo is making sure your subject is very comfortable. Talk to the person you are taking a portrait of to help alleviate any nerves they might have from being in front of the camera. 

Make them laugh. Ask questions. Try to find ways in which you can reel out what they are feeling and what emotions you want to capture with your camera.

Children Portrait at College Farm

5. Capture your Subject in their Natural Environment

Sometimes, the best way to capture someone’s personality is by photographing them in an environment they are most comfortable in. If they are a nurse, meet them at the hospital. If they work as a carpenter, shoot them at their workshop. 

It’s all about getting them in their comfort zones, to get a better feel of who they are as a person.

6. Try to Capture Eye Contact

Some of the most powerful portraits known in the world of art capture their subject making eye contact with the camera. If you can catch your subject looking directly into the lens, it’ll create a really stunning and endearing portrait. 

Don’t be afraid to tell your subject to look directly into the lens. Ask them a question, and as they answer, encourage them to look at you so you can capture their full expression.

7. Think of the Overall Composition

Once you’ve gotten your subject comfortable in front of the camera, think about the overall composition you want to create. Are there elements you want to frame your subject with? Can you use negative space to create an interesting balance in the photo? Are there leading lines you can use to lead the viewer’s eyes to your main subject?

Beach Fashion Photography Workshop-4


Portrait photography is one of the more beautiful ways to take photos. It embodies what photography is all about. Creating images that tell powerful stories, share relatable emotions, and captures the best of a subject’s personality. And these are great tips to help you do just that.

Article test supplied by Zach Good from PRO EDU

All images © Original Art Photography by Joe Lenton

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