How to Take Better Portraits

Learn 5 easy steps for better portrait photography

When it comes to taking portraits there are many adjustment, tricks and knowledge that can be applied to make any beginner's portraits standout. If you want to improve your photography skills, here are tips that our team member Chloe shared on Instagram for taking better photos of people.

1) USE WIDE APERTURE 

Between f/1.8 to f/4, to focus in on your subject and blur out the background.

The use of a wide aperture in photography is used to create a large depth-of-field and blur the background. This technique is often used in any situation where you want to isolate your subject from the background and widely used in snapping portraits.

“Any time you shoot a portrait of a person or an animal, you're going to want to use a wider aperture in order to blur out any additional distractions that may happen to be in the frame. For example, let's say you are taking a picture of your girlfriend in an outdoor café on the sidewalk of the big city....That wider aperture is going to get rid of all those background distractions, and then there will be no doubt who the subject of the photograph is. “

Creator of Digital Photo Secrets, and the Photography Dash David Peterson.

Photo by Thom Melograna

2) GET CREATIVE WITH ANGLES

When you are taking pictures of people, make sure that you are using different angles. Don't always shoot at eye level because it is the easiest option. For example, try getting down to their level if they are sitting down. Get up high and shoot them from above for a more dramatic effect. Shoot them from below to emphasize their height difference.

“A creative use of camera angles is one of the quickest ways to add interest and variety to your photos.” 

Canada-based family photographer Mat Coker

Photo by Thom Melograna

3) DON’T SHOOT IN DIRECT SUNLIGHT

Direct sunlight can result in unwanted shadows on the subject’s face and it might also cause troublesome reflections in glasses or sunglasses. These shadows will make it difficult for the photographer to light the scene correctly. And if they don't compensate appropriately, it can result in a very unflattering portrait.

“When the sunlight is really harsh, it can create some really unflattering shadows on the model’s face. So, try facing them towards the sunlight, especially their face. Avoid having the sun directly above the model’s face, as it would make them look really strange, and it’s difficult to edit these shadows out.” 

Photographer Beauty and fashion photographer Kayleigh June

4) FILL THE FRAME

You can get closer to your subject and eliminate any distractions in the surroundings by filling the frame. Fill-the-frame is a photography technique that is used to focus on the subject by eliminating all other distractions. This technique, originally created by Henri Cartier-Bresson, has developed into one of the most popular photography methods in the world.

There are many reasons for this success. One of them is that it allows photographers to capture details and emotions more vividly than they would otherwise be able to.

“This advice seems basic, but I’ve judged many photos in competitions where the subject wasn’t distinct. I look at the image and can’t quite figure out what captured the photographer’s attention.”  

Fine art, travel and landscape photographer Jenn Mishra

Photo by Laura Macij

5) USE THE COLOUR WHEEL

The colour wheel is a great tool for any portrait photographer. It’s easy to understand and it will help you to see which colours work together.

A common mistake in photography is not understanding how colours work together. The colour wheel can be used to determine what colours blend well with each other and which ones contrast with each other. You can make a certain colour pop to complement the subject and overall image.

Photo by Laura Macij

“Using color in photography correctly helps draw attention to your subject, and therefore creates a powerful visual effect that is pleasing to the eye.” 

London-based photographer Laura Bass

Laura also gives guidance on how to use colour wheel in her blog.

“Look at the color wheel above to find complementary colors. For example, if you want to find a color that works well with red, find the color red on the color wheel, then look at which color is directly opposite.”

Courtesy of Laura Bass

Hopefully the tips will help you at taking better portraits and improve your portfolio! We want you to know - you are not alone. Alice Camera has a community where you can share your work, be inspired by others, and learn from other content creators, photographers and filmmakers. Feel free to jump on board!

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