Learn how to take great portraits for those special occasions

Portraits are visually powerful things. They capture not only a person’s physical features but also delicate moods and fleeting expressions. With so many portraits that look picture perfect, it is easy to feel a little anxious when photographing people. Don’t fear. Most professionals accomplish brilliant portraits by following a few simple guidelines. If you’re relatively new to taking portraits, below are a few easy tips to help you on your way to producing engaging portraits of your own.

It’s all about the eyes

Everyone knows that the eyes are known to be the window to the soul. Focus on the eyes as they can completely change the feeling that is being portrayed in the photograph. Depending on where your subject is looking, you can snap various feelings. Play around and ask your subject to look in different directions, until you are happy with the mood. Try a few different moods; you may be pleasantly surprised with which ones can work really well.

it's all about the eyes

Right background is everything

Backgrounds are always important. More often then not, neutral colored backgrounds allow the audience to focus on the face. Try and avoid patterns and bright colors. If you slightly blur the background, the eye is immediately drawn to what is in focus – great if you are shooting outside at events.

learn portrait photography

See the light

There are countless opportunities to capture something unique with the wonderful uses of lighting. Lighting is one of the most crucial elements for any photo. It helps to establish powerful moods, deep feelings and the character of your photos. When it comes to portraits, natural light can be a bit of a puzzle to work around. Take care to avoid direct sunlight if you’re photographing outside while the sun is shining.

Right camera angle

Camera angle is where you position your camera lens in relation to your subject. Things to consider here are the distance from the subject, height and the angle to the subject’s face. For example, if you want to create a portrait conveying power, intimidating even, capture your subject with camera below eye level. But beware! It will not be a flattering shot!

Up right or side-on, don’t limit your snaps to traditional angles. There are more exciting angles that exist! Get creative and position the camera in diagonal angles. Think contemporary, just because it’s a portrait doesn’t mean it has to be boring. Adding a slight angle can be confusing to the audience as they are left wondering if it was intentional or not. Be bold and be original. Try and create a portrait that makes people stop and stare.

Facial view

Some photographers will argue that portraits are all about capturing “the real you”. This view has its merits; however there’s nothing wrong when the “real you” also looks your best in the photo! Make sure you experiment with facial view, or the angle of the face that is showing towards the camera. Choosing the right facial view allows some flattery to your subject without resorting to Photoshop.

Once you feel you’ve had enough practice you can try experimenting with more advanced settings on your camera such as aperture (aperture enables you to achieve “blurred background” effect). Capturing successful portraits is an art. Give photographing portraits a try; you may find that you have a natural knack.

Journalist and copywriter, Emma Williamson, is passionate about capturing that perfect moment on camera and has written a number of articles relating to photography in both New Zealand and Australia.