Portrait Photography 101: Top Tips for Taking Awesome Portrait Photos

Portrait Photography 101: Top Tips for Taking Awesome Portrait Photos

With the holiday season right around the corner, you might be asked to take portraits of family members or loved ones that are worthy of sending out on holiday cards. Sure you can put them in festive holiday gear and place them in front of some decorations, but taking a quality portrait takes more work than that. Even with the best camera gear and a willing subject, there are many vital elements that photographers will forget about when taking portraits. Wondering what some of those often forgotten elements are? Here are some of the most common things photographers overlook when taking portraits.

Remember Composition

Don’t be so concerned about every detail of your model’s appearance that you forget about the composition of the shot. Make sure to include interesting colors and textures, but don’t include so many elements that your shot becomes cluttered.

One Dollar, Sir! by Stuck in Customs

Obey the Rule of Thirds

It can be tempting to place your subject in the middle of your portrait and snap away. Instead, utilize the rule of thirds and frame your subject so they rest on the first third or latter third of your image. Off-center images look more dynamic, and will create a more frame worthy moment that you’ll want to share.

Untitled by (Sarah Robinson)

Pose Your Models

Don’t just stick your subjects in front of the camera and ask them to say “cheese.” Instead, give them some direction for how to pose and don’t be afraid to position them in a particular way. You are the one guiding the photo shoot and who can see the images you’re capturing, so don’t be afraid to give direction if you think the photo will be enhanced.

Deb by Astragony

Add Movement

This tip might be difficult if you’re stuck inside taking your portraits, but if possible, include some form of movement in your images. Have your subjects throw fake snow or confetti, or see if you can get them to interact with prop presents.

Self Portrait | Movement Series by Hannah_Kate

Keep Eye Contact Interesting

Eye contact is a great way to draw someone into your image, but don’t feel confined to just having your subject smile straight ahead at the camera. Having your subject look outside of the frame can create a great image as looking off camera draws in your viewer’s attention.

Down The Line by Auzigog

Make Your Subjects Feel Comfortable

Most people will feel slightly uncomfortable having their photos taken for an extended period of time, so make sure your subjects feel comfortable around you. You might be photographing friends or family members, but even the most familiar of subjects might clam up once you start snapping. Let your subjects express themselves naturally in a few early test shots so they feel at ease while you are taking their photos. This will also help them feel more comfortable as you pose them.

This is Valeria by Stuck in Customs

Light it Right

Make sure your lighting is set up to capture the best portraits possible. You might be able to capture a great photo with the lighting you already have established, but feel free to experiment with other forms of lighting to capture truly great portraits. Place a flash behind your subjects to create a backlit effect, or use an additional source of lighting and a reflector to enhance the existing lighting you have available.

Ashley B. ’12 | On The Road Again by Sean Molin Photography

Introduce Props

Props will not only make for a more compelling portrait, but they can also make your subjects more comfortable while having their picture taken. There is no shortage of props you can think of including along with your holiday card photo shoot, so offer your subjects a wide variety of fun photo props to choose from in their holiday portrait session.

Nom! by Dustin Diaz

To see a video tutorial of these tips, you can visit the Gadget Infinity blog for two instructional videos on ways to enhance your portraits. Part 1 is available here and you can see Part 2 here.

Mike Cushing is a freelance writer for Gadget Infinity, an online source for digital camera accessories and gifts.

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