Taking Better Portraits

Portrait photography is the art of capturing a person's personality or their mood.  Great portraits capture more than an image, they tell a story.  Yes, it's possible to take a great portrait with your mobile phone.

Focus on your subject.  Focus on their eyes, they are after all, the window to their soul.

The most important element of a portrait is the person you are photographing. Your subject needs to be comfortable, relaxed, and engaged with you. A connection between you and your subject is the most important part of a portrait.  Try to capture their emotions and expressions by talking to them, making them laugh, or giving them directions.  

A natural pose can make a big difference in the success of a portrait. If someone is uncomfortable, it will show in the image. Asking your subject to sit or lean on something might help.  You should move around. Different angles and perspectives to find the most flattering one for their look.  If you’re taking a portrait on location and looking to bring in some of the environment, then you might need to pay particular attention to ensure there’s nothing to distract from your subject.

Speaking of location, we want to make sure that it complements our image. We want somewhere that suits the story you’re telling.  That might be a place of work, where they enjoy their hobby or maybe even just a plain background. Natural light sources like windows or doors that create soft and flattering shadows on their face (plain net curtains are your friend here). Harsh sunlight or artificial lights that can’t be diffused might cause distracting, harsh shadows.  But never say never!  If your portrait is meant to be dramatic, maybe even jarring, harsh light might help.

When using natural light, the time of day you take your picture can really make your picture.  The golden hour (the hour as the sun is rising or setting) offers a lovely golden light with soft shadows. Perfect for the summer beach or autumn woodland portrait.

When it comes to good portraiture, like all photography, nothing will improve your images like taking pictures.  Take a lot.  And lots!  The more you take the better you get.  Experiment, some things will work and others won’t.  Either way, you'll learn something.