Last Updated: September 1, 2014
If your portrait photography is a little uninspiring, it may be time to have a think about how you can inject some creativity into how you shoot. By giving just a little thought and planning before you reach for your camera, you can easily transform your portraits into images to be proud of.
We’ve put together a list of creative portrait photography tips to help you take your images to the next level.
Choosing a suitable background for your portrait photography is essential, and is something that is often overlooked by beginner photographers. If your chosen background is too busy or distracting, then this can ruin a portrait photograph by taking away the focus of your main subject.
Another important background consideration is colour — you can creative lovely vibrant images by contrasting the background colour with your subject. Of course you need to work with colours that blend well together. It’s also worth considering your subject’s skin tone, and the colours of the clothes they are wearing.
Conversely, you could choose to go with a very plain dark background, this can really draw focus to your main subject and create a powerful portrait. This technique can also work well if you are planning convert your image to monochrome afterwards.
You can create some wonderful portraits with off-camera lighting and studio equipment, but most amateur photographers do not have access to this equipment. That doesn’t mean you have to have dull photos. You need to get creative, look at the environment around you; in you’re shooting indoors study the light through windows, doors, shutters – any kind of opening.
If you’re shooting outdoors then consider the light at different times of day, early morning or late afternoon can offer some wonderful light to work with.
Eye contact is an area you can have great fun with in portrait photography. You can experiment with your subject looking directly at the camera, or you can have your subject look off-camera; this can add a little more tension and mystery to your image.
Another option for creativity is working with reflections and mirrors, everyone has a mirror in their house so why not give something like this a go?
Many portraits are captured with a medium to long focal length lens (normally between 50-100mm), but that doesn’t mean every portrait has to be taken in this traditional manner. By shooting with a wider lens you can give your subject real context, if you are shooting at a lovely scenic location then why not take advantage of it?
The majority of portrait photographs contain all of the subject’s face, but you can get some very strong images by focusing just on one particular area of the face of body. This is a technique that’s very quick and easy to experiment with, so take a variety of close-up images and see what works best.
Experiment with expressions
Facial expressions can convey a huge range of emotions and moods, so it’s worth taking a number of different ones with your chosen subject, not just shoot a standard portrait photo with the person smiling as these can look a little too staged sometimes.
It’s easy to get into the habit of taking your portrait photographs at eye-level, whilst there’s nothing wrong with that, it can pay to change your perspective a little (or a lot). Getting above or below your subject can create some really memorable images.