Seven Interesting Portrait Photography Techniques

In order to take stunning photographs, sometimes you have think a little bit out of the box. It’s all fun and games when you only consider the rules, but sometimes, breaking the rules leaves a lot more room for excellence – provided you break the rules the right way (remember that old saying that said in order to break a rule, you have to be first acquainted with it). Breaking the mold and finding new ideas can be a little difficult in the beginning, but sometimes that particular randomness can bring a whole new outlook. Let’s take a look at fifteen out-of-the-box portrait photography techniques.

1. A Change of Perspective

Most portrait rules are all about the eye level of the subject – we’ve seen wonderful and terrible pictures that use this rule, and portrait photography is usually centered around this particular rule. So let us go a little bit around it and see what we can dig up – whereas it’s common sense to go for that angle, changing this particular angle at the appropriate moment can give a whole new sense of WOW to the image. And isn’t that something we’re all looking for.

It’s all about going above or below the subject for a little more pizazz. Consider shooting as close to the ground as possible, and make sure you work with your model on this, since it wouldn’t be wise to put him or her in a bad light. See what his or her best feats are, and try and angle that complements those feats.

2. Playing With The Look

We all know that in portrait photography, the subject’s eyes are key, and while you can have wonderful portrait photography without the look, one is sure to achieve interesting results if they use this particular feat right. This will help create that particular sense of connection between the viewer and the model. What are some of the things you can try? Let’s consider these for a moment:

Looking away from the camera – This obviously can be used in a great number of ways. The interesting thing is that it draws a little bit of curiosity and a little bit of wonder as to what was making the model look in that direction. Especially if you add a little emotion to the model’s expression. Consider a smiling model looking off-camera, one will end up wondering what was it that made the model so happy.

Looking Within The Frame – Another interesting twist to the above-mentioned tip is to ask the model to look at something that is within the frame. For example, the shared look of two lovers, or the attention the model gives to a certain object comes to mind. The point here is to draw attention to the emotion generated by the pointed object.

3. Forget About Composition

Many times, composition rules help us frame the image better, whether it’s portrait photography or any other kind of photography. The rule of the thirds is the first that comes to mind when it comes to breaking the pattern. Whereas most of the times it would be advised to avoid putting your subject in the center of the image, in some cases it can create incredibly powerful and emotional images. It’s all about doing things the right way, after all.

Another rule that can be easily challenged and can lead to wonderful results is the one that gives the subject room to look at (as opposed to what we discussed above, for example). Instead of placing them in such a way that their look balances the empty space around them, you can crush that space and make the image dead-on, so-to-speak.

Portrait photo

4. Lighting Tips And Tricks

We can also explore unorthodox lighting techniques (although it would be recommended to go through the creative lighting section of this book before going too far out-of-the-box – mastering the art of creative lighting isn’t quite easy).

One interesting tip would be to use a technique called side-lighting since although it doesn’t light up the environment the same way a full-frontal Speedlight (accompanied by other lights as well) would, it can certainly add a lot of backlighting, mood and not to mention silhouetting. These features can be very strong with the right model so make sure you pick yours accordingly.

Portrait photo

5. Say No To The Comfort Zone

One of the most interesting portrait photography techniques involves not something about the camera, the equipment nor the lighting but putting the subject outside of their comfort zone. If the general rule is to create an environment where they feel incredibly comfortable so the resulting image will not feel strained, this goes precisely against the book and asks the model to be wild in a totally new environment.

This should however be taken with a little grain of salt (like any other rule breaker) – not all models are fit for this particular process, and in some cases, it might just not work. That means theirs is a poor fit between you, your model and the idea you wanted to apply. If you feel this isn’t going as planned – concentrate and try again. Maybe a new location or a different idea.

6. Say No To Posed Shots

Instead of preparing and overpreparing a shot, how would it be to make things a little more interesting and actually coming up with candid shots? Candid shots are borrowed from street photography, where everything is as it is, since you want to shoot the world the way it is.

However, in portrait photography, this can prove to be even more interesting. Some of the most interesting candid portraits are those taken of the Beatles in their recording studio, at a casual photoshoot.

This is an interesting technique that can also be applied when working with children – it’s incredibly hard to convince children to pose for an image and not look like there’s something wrong there, therefore you might find it easier to let them be in their own world, and shoot from their own level. So-to-speak.

7. Adding Props To Your Images

Introducing props to your images can create a significant point of interest, and can certainly do a lot to enhance your shot. One of the most important parts here is to make sure you don’t draw the attention from your subject too much though – this is portrait photography after all. But what props can do is add another layer of depth that makes things more alive for the viewer – it’s creating an environment, an interaction.