Tips to Shoot Awesome Portraits

We all do portraits.  It’s something that we learn how to do when we are first trained as photographers. Sometimes though, many portraits look the same after a while. Therefore they become boring to look at unless you find a way to make them fun and different than anyone else. Here are some tips to shoot that awesome portrait.

Break the Rule of Thirds

Christine on the floor

This rule is so extremely essential to creating interesting portraits. The rule of thirds is how us photographers are taught to compose our shots in order to make them effective and pleasing to the eye. If you’d like a more interesting shot, try messing with the way your viewer will look at the shot. In the above shot, she is totally off the rule of thirds. It shows her being relaxed, happy and totally serene/confident with herself. If you set up the rule of thirds composition lines on this shot you’d see that it doesn’t exactly meet the standards. On top of that, you’ve got the lines going horizontally as well as her arms and body going in the same direction. Slap on a black and white filter and you make this one really cool shot.

Use a Wide Aperture

Alex and Serenity

While this may seem more obvious, using a wide aperture allows us to single out our exact subject in the photo. In this shot, I manually focused on Alexandria’s eyes. This was shot while visiting South St Seaport in New York City. The wider aperture allowed me to single out Alex easily in this shot, especially in the low-light situation presented to me during the night.

A wider aperture will usually give you best results unless in the case of trying to capture what the person does for a living. For example, if you’re shooting a carpenter in his workshop, you may want to position him in front of all his tools hanging on the wall. In that case, a more closed aperture might be wanted in order to capture him and all of his tools. That way, it shows the viewer what he’s all about.

Choose a Different Perspective

Horror Movie Still 5

We all know what the standard portrait looks like, or at least we have an idea. They’re not hard to do and anyone can do them really with a little bit of training and knowing what to look for. But choosing a different perspective puts a little bit more of you into the shot. Additionally, your viewers will obviously see it all differently too.

In this shot that I was working on for a class project, I had to photograph someone without shooting their face. The unconventional approach was taken to use a mask and have some fun with it. Putting the mask on my model, Julius, placing him in the tall grass and focusing on his “face” vs the hand coming at me was a good choice when adding on the black and white. It gives us a perspective we don’t usually see and it makes for a very awesome portrait.

Focus on the Eyes

Shanon direct

Focusing on the eyes is something that is very important because of the fact that we always say that, “the eyes are the window to the soul.” It’s human nature to make eye contact and we can usually read people’s expressions by looking at their eyes. It’s quite interesting what responses you may get from photos like this. Guys usually tell me, “Wow, she’s hot.” Women will tell me something similar but they will usually blurt out something along the lines of, “She has gorgeous eyes.”

Either way, eyes in a photo always bring in appeal because we’re all attracted to them. It may even make your viewer stare at your photo longer.

Bring Out Their Fun Side

Big Rob of Irony of Chaos

This is an element that you must experiment with in order to be successful with your portraits. When your subject is having fun, you can capture that energy in a split second. This is because they are being themselves and are totally and completely comfortable. That’s the combination that you want for a photo. Everyone has this energy within them as we’re all passionate about something. In this photo, Rob is a front man for a band that I regularly shoot. They’re metal, so his headbanging and the hand formation only make photo more of a representation of what he’s all about.

What tips do you have to contribute to make an awesome portrait?