Portraits are, in my unprofessional opinion, the most commonly taken photograph by the general population. Whether you’ve set up a shoot with your friends or decide to take some impromptu shots while out on the town, everyone with a camera is taking pictures of people. If you’re not, you need to get out more.

This post is inspired by the Digital Photography School‘s post 10 Ways to Take Stunning Portraits. From this list, I took my 3 favorite tips and put in my two cents to help you take more engaging and unique portraits.

Numero uno: change your POV.

It’s easy to take a picture at eye level, we all do it; take the standard portrait to add to the standard collection of standard photos. But who wants to be standard?! Not you. Don’t be afraid to bend, stretch and twist (carefully, of course) to add variety to your portfolio. Here is an example of an altered perspective:

Picture by rolands.lakis

The photographer has gotten closer to the ground to be at eye level with the girl. Altered perspectives work especially well with photographs of children. Children see the world in such a drastically different way than adults, and it all stems from the fundamental difference in size.

Photograph by Sora DeVore

Even though this photograph has a lot going on, the gaze of the little girl directly at the camera lens gives the viewer a point of reference for the rest of the photograph; as if her face could tell you all you need to know about what else is going on. If this picture had been been taken looking down, I don’t believe it would have had the same effect. When changing the perspective, we are allowed to see through a different lens; in this case, the lens of a child.

Other altered perspectives include the extreme bird’s-eye view and worm’s-eye view along with any other angles that are not as extreme, but do not require your camera lens to be at a 90° angle from the ground.

Numero deux: look within the frame.

Having a bidirectional transaction within one image will create vectors (in this case, visible or invisible diagonal lines within an image) between the eyes of the subject and another subject or object. Having these eyeline vectors will guide the viewers’ eyes around the image, making it more engaging. Take this photo for example:

Photo by Daniel "Jeremias" Coelho

 Not only do I love the color and subject of this image, but the eyeline vectors keep my eyes travelling between the two subjects in an attempt to better understand what is going on within the image. In turn, the photograph holds my attention longer. (Side note: I will expand on the concept of vectors in another post, so stay tuned!)

Nummer drei: candid camera.

Every shot does not have to be posed; you do not need to direct your subjects to get a picture that conveys a message you are trying to capture. By taking pictures of subjects that are not posed, you will get more natural, organic emotion.

Photo by tq2cute

With a more natural picture, you’re allowing your viewers the privilege of viewing a moment in real life that cannot be recreated (well, it could be, but I insist it’s not the same thing!). You’re also more likely to capture raw emotion this way. For example, this photo:

Photo by Matt Andrews Photo

When you’re looking through a wedding photo album, it’s likely that you’re going to find a)bride and bridesmaids, b)groom and groomsmen, c)bride and groom, d)bride’s ring, etc., etc.. You’re going to get a much more interesting picture if you’re capturing the moments in between the posing; that is where each wedding differs and becomes special and unique. This photograph expresses happiness through the physical expression of this woman’s uncontrollable laughter and the smiles of the men behind her. Her emotion is so raw and atypical for a blushing bride that it is surprising and refreshing to capture this rare moment.

This technique also applies to life beyond the wedding. Go beyond the pose and challenge yourself to seek out special moments in real time. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised with the results.

What are some of your favorite tips?



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1 Response to Portraits

  1. Afro says:

    I don’t have any favorite tips, but I would like to pick a fight with you. In class you said you don’t like Nikon, what’s wrong with Nikon, Huh? Huh?….Just kidding. I have a Nikon and I don’t know much about photography and I’m not trying to be an expert. I just want to take interesting, pretty pictures. I like to look at pictures. Any way I do take pictures from different perspectives, but I learned that technique from being a motion picture camera operator, it seems like those skills are easily transferable.

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