Portrait Photography Tips

June 7, 2017

Posing for portraits can be a little tricky; it can feel awkward and inauthentic. For some experienced people, posing for photos comes naturally. For others… not so much. I speak from personal experience. We all want to look our best in portraits, and want to avoid one of those classic school photo looks. You know the ones — with the lovely backdrops. However, great direction from the photographer can make it a much more pleasant experience for both the subject and photographer. Here are some tips when shooting portraits.

Depth of Field

Put the focus on your subject. Using a shallow depth of field brings focus to the subject as the background is blurred out. This is great for outdoor or indoor portraits with busy backgrounds that distract from the subject.

Example of depth of field
Example of depth of field


Get to know your subject before you start shooting (if you don’t already). Having a conversation with them will put them more at ease about being in front of the camera, and you’ll get a better sense of their personality. Getting their personality to shine through may involve getting your subject to pose with objects, or in an environment related to their hobbies or with something they identify with.

Portrait with personality

Portrait with personality

Directing vs Posing

Rather than posing your subject, placing their hand this way and that, telling them to look up, and other types of micromanaging, give them direction. A straight-on shot can portray confidence and strength; however, the shot may come across as stiff, unflattering, and a little boring. Even something as simple as getting your subject to angle their shoulders, leading the viewers eye towards the subject’s face, can add interest. If you want to convey emotion, get them to play a character, give them a story.

A great way to bring life into your photo is to capture motion. This gives your photo a candid feel. Keep your subject moving, going from an action pose to a resting pose. Engage with your subject, get them to tell you a story about themselves, let them become animated.

Boring portrait

Outdoor portrait
Direct vs pose

All About the Chin

For those not blessed with a chiselled jawline, the photographer needs to make sure the jawline is not lost. At a certain angle, everyone has a double chin, and no one wants it in their photo. If you are taking a more static photo, whether it’s head on or to the side, you want to make sure that your subject brings their head forward slightly, and then tilts their jaw down and out. The key is to get them to do this without jutting their chin out. For a straight on shot, get them to push their forehead out and down. For a shot from the side, get them to bring their ears towards the camera. Both of these techniques create a defined jawline. Try it out yourself. You’ll be pleasantly surprised just how big the difference is.

All about the chin - Portrait tips

portrait photography tips - chin

You don’t need to follow these tips to a tee, but keep them in mind next time you shoot a portrait. Try them out and see the difference they make. Happy Shooting!

Bonus tip: Spend time in front of the camera so you can relate to your subjects and help direct them for the shot you want.




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