20 Simple Tips to Enhance Your Portrait Photography Techniques

Anyone can take a picture; however, taking an amazing picture takes practice. One can advance their photography skills into high gear by just practicing these 20 simple tips intended to enhance portrait photography techniques. With practice, the following 20 tips and can improve photos and build photographic skills.

1. Change the Cameras Visual Point of View

Using different angles to take a picture can give pictures a different perspective. Shooting above or below the subject can give the picture an element out of the ordinary and create a unique portrait. Shots taken from different angles create portraits that are eye catching. Interest is raised when a portrait has characteristics out of the norm.

2. Don’t Underestimate The Power Of The Subject’s Eyes

When creating an amazing portrait, never underestimate the power of the eyes. A photographer creating a portrait that focuses on a subject might want to use the eyes to draw interest and attention. Eyes are the connection to the observer. Using these two techniques, the eyes can create a striking photograph.

  • Indirect Focus: This strategy suggests that the subject look towards an unseen object and not at the camera. Using this technique the photographer can create a portrait that appears to be candid and natural. Wondering what the subject is looking at or thinking about creates an air of mystery and again, creates interest in the photograph. Another aspect to look at when creating mystery and intrigue is the emotional element. When the subject portray happiness, sadness or any other type of emotion, this, again inspires the viewer to ponder and take notice. (Note that it is important to keep the focus on the subject’s eyes and not another element in the photos background.)
  • Focus Directed Towards The Inside Photo: When using this photo enhancement strategy, the photographer directs the subject to view something identifiable inside the portrait. This could include a mother gazing at her child or a child staring at an animal. Using a second point of interest creates a story and gives credibility to the old adage that “a picture paints a thousand words”.

3. Sometimes You Have to Break the Rules

Following the rules guides the photographer and helps them to get started; breaking the rules helps the photographer to be creative. Putting the subject right in the middle of the portrait can be boring and tired. Break the rules and place the subject to the side. Using visual techniques that flow towards the subject will bring the viewers eyes to the intended point of interest. Subject placement can be manipulated to create dramatic visual effects. Up close or distant, break the rules and experiment with creativity.

4. Lights, Camera, Action

The elements of intrigue and mystery can be added to a photograph just by the manipulation of lighting. The list of things that can be accomplished through lighting goes on and on. The photographer can silhouette, shadow, conceal, and introduce mood and feelings all from the use of lighting.

Using a flash when shooting portraits, the photographer should be sure to use a fast shutter speed as the portrait will be too light and when using slow shutter speed be careful of motion haze from the subject.

5. Do Something Out of the Ordinary

Stereotypical photos are a dime a dozen, however, photographers that have their subjects do something that they would not normally do create the most interest. A portrait of an old man riding a carousel horse might catch the viewer’s attention a lot quicker than an old man sitting on a park bench. Creating interest and wonder is the secret to an interesting portrait.

6. Candid Shots Capture the Mood

When photographing children, it can be somewhat difficult to have them sit and pose. Taking a candid shot of a child playing or observing something that has caught their interest can create genuinely interesting art. Taking photos of subjects doing something they love or do well create multiple points of interest in a photograph while keeping the focus on the subject. People are more natural when they are in their own element. That uninterrupted look comes through and the picture becomes more art than ordinary.

7. Give the Subject a Prop

Creating multiple points of interest in a portrait enhances the photograph and supports the subject in the photograph. An easy way to enhance a portrait with multiple points of interest is to add props. Added props give the story being told by the photograph depth and richness. The props bring attention to the subject and what the story within the photo is trying to portray.

8. What You See Is Not Always What You Get

Photos that leave more to the imagination are very appealing. For example, taking a close up picture of mysterious looking eyes creates in the viewer a desire to know what the rest of the face looks like. An element of mystery can be put into a photograph just by taking close up shots of body parts and nothing else. Hands, eyes, legs and mouth are some of the examples that can be used to generate curiosity and interest in a portrait.

9. Leaving the Subject Vague

Covering the subjects face with hands or clothing sparks the imagination. If the viewer is unsure of what is behind the hands, then the imagination comes into play. The interest in the subject then turns to the surrounding background and perhaps the real focus of the portrait. A little mystery goes a long way.

10. Multiple Shots for that Series of Images Shot

Continuous shooting with the camera can create a moving story when put together in a display. This type of continuous shooting is called “burst” shooting.

11. Frame Your Subject Right Now!

This technique puts the subject inside of a frame of some kind creating depth while drawing the viewer directly to the subject. This creates a focal point that quickly draws the interest of the viewer. It also pinpoints the exact subject in the photograph that the photographer is trying to capture.

12. Use A Wide Angle To Change Perspective

Distinctive photographs can be created using the Wide Angle Lens on the camera. Don’t be afraid to attach this and use it. Exceptional photos can be shot using this type of Lens that could not be captured otherwise. Body parts can be enlarged and dramatic enhancements of the outside edge of the picture create unique photos that capture the viewer’s attention.

13. Use The Background, Don’t Get Scared Of It

When your subject is the obvious point of interest, the background can complement the subject. Mood and feeling can be portrayed just by looking at the background around the subject.

Photographers can use their artistic license to create dramatic backgrounds that bring the attention of the viewer to the subject. An example of this would be an elegant lady dressed in red with a background of a grey junkyard. This would bring the attention to the subject while incurring the interest of the viewer. Drama and emotion can be brought into the portrait using color in the background as well.

14. Think Out Of The Box – Change The Photo Format

Add variety to photos by mixing horizontal and vertical. Photographers sometimes get into a rut and take photos for the most part the same. Using different formats can add creativity and freshness to a photograph. The more the photographer practices with variety, the more creative and interesting the portraits become.

15. Think Out of The Box II – Change the Angle Of The Photo

When mixing up the shots, make sure to take photos holding the camera at different angles. Horizontal and vertical shots can be included but unique and interesting shots can be accomplished when the photographer steps out of the box and tries something new.

When taking these pictures, be sure to take the photo at a definite angle. This lets the viewer know that the picture was taken like that on purpose to add an element of liveliness to the photograph and not an accident.

16. Experiment Without Focus

A hazy picture that is not in focus can create an air of mystery. Again, the photographer will have to leave their comfort zone to create a portrait that is not in focus. However, they may be surprised how much artistic value can be created when a photo is out of focus.

Some examples of this would be to focus only on the subject and leave the rest of the photograph unfocused or even focus the background and leave the subject unfocused. The photographer could also create a hazy, mysterious mood with a photo that is completely out of focus. Using creative photography and an imagination, distinctive photos can be created.

17. Capture That Move – Consider Adding Motion To Your Picture

An interesting portrait can be created by allowing the subject to move and having this element come forth in the photo. This out of the norm technique can create an element of movement that adds depth and richness to the story that the portrait is telling the viewer.

Another example of adding movement would be to keep the subject still while the background moves around them. Artistic ability and imagination can run rampant with this type of scenario but remember to use a slow shutter speed to capture the elements of movement. The photographer can also use an extra fast shutter speed to halt the movement as well.

18. Add Expressions to Your Subject

Don’t be afraid to let your subject show emotion. Happiness, sadness, seriousness, or mysterious all create a story that the photograph is trying to convey. Emotion grabs the attention of the viewer and makes them wonder at what is causing the subject to feel the emotion.

19. Don’t Leave the Frame Half Full

Photographers can create a more visually attractive portrait when the frame is completely filled with the subjects face. Without a background, the entire focus is on the subject and it is quite certain that the viewer’s attention is drawn to the subject.

20. Find Something Interesting to Photograph

Artistic ability will never be discovered in one’s self if they never venture past taking pictures of loved ones. Photographers should again step out of their elements and photograph different things at different angles.

Taking a picture of someone that they don’t know they are more likely to capture that mysterious edge that draws the views interest. Finding abstract backgrounds for portraits could also open up a flow of artistic creativity as well.