How to Take a Good Photo Portrait

Michele Wanke
View helpful photo portrait tips.

By learning how to take a good photo portrait, you will be able capture images that transcend a single moment.

Anatomy of a Good Portrait Photograph

A good portrait photo projects emotions that draw in viewers. The key to capturing an outstanding portrait is to focus on your subject. The image should reflect the subject's personality, style and interests.

In order to document your subject's true colors, it's important to get him or her to relax. This can be achieved by placing your subject in a comfortable environment and carrying on a lighthearted conversation. While you are chatting with your subject, study his movements and mannerisms. Remembering what triggers a certain smile or facial expression will allow you to snap multiple frame worthy photos during the course of a single shoot.

Learn How to Take a Good Photo Portrait

Capturing high quality portrait photos is an art that takes patience and practice. However, it doesn't require being a professional photographer. Everyday shutterbugs can learn how to take a good portrait by following these simple tips:

Background

The most important part of a photo portrait is the subject's face. Consequently, it is important to choose the right background. Pick a neutral background that doesn't draw attention away from the subject. For example, a soft, solid colored background is much better for a portrait shot than a busy street filled with people and other moving objects.

You can further enhance your photo portrait by blurring the background. Doing so will help emphasize your subject instead of his surroundings. The easiest way to blur a shot is to use a shallow depth of field. This can be accomplished by employing a zoom lens and shooting just a short distance away from your subject. Another way to blur the background is to shoot with a wide aperture manual setting. If your camera does not feature manual settings, which allow you to modify the depth of field, you can always blur the background later using photo editing software on your computer.

Lighting

A good photo portrait should contain excellent lighting that accentuates the subject. You should aim to incorporate as much natural lighting as possible in your portrait shots. Natural lighting helps to capture the full color range and warmth of a person's skin. Indoors

If you are shooting indoors, try to include light from a window. However, be careful not to position your subject directly in the sunlight. Harsh lighting can create shadows and cause a subject to squint. If you are just photographing the subject's face, have her hold a piece of white paper beneath her chin. The paper will act as a reflector to bounce light and reduce shadows. Finally, if you have to shoot indoors using artificial light, make sure the light source illuminates the entire room instead of shining directly on your subject.

Outdoors

Never take a photo with the sun directly behind your subject. Doing so causes overexposure and distorts a person's natural skin tones. When shooting outdoors position your subject in a way that the sunlight hits her from the side. If some shadows appear on her face, use a soft fill-in flash to get rid of them.

Angle

To get the most attractive angles, shoot from eye level or slightly above. Positioning your camera below your subject and shooting up won't yield frame worthy shots. Also, try to find unique angles that incorporate other body parts besides the face. Hands and necks show off a subject's mood and personality as well.

For a superior photo portrait, try to capture your subject in her natural state. Avoid posing your subjects in awkward positions. Allow them to be themselves and continuously snap while they move around.

Focus

The center of good portraits should be the subject's eyes. The eyes tell the story, and offer a glimpse into what makes your subject tick. When taking a photo portrait, focus on the eyes. Aim to snap the shot when your subject is looking straight into the camera or when she is focusing on something slightly out of the camera's range. Having your subject smile is also recommended unless you are looking to capture a more somber or contemplative mood.

Practice Makes Perfect

Capturing an outstanding photo portrait takes practice, practice, and more practice. Fortunately, in this era of digital photography, the cost of taking additional shots is practically nothing; so don't be afraid to experiment with different exposures, depth of field, or lighting. The more willing you are to try new techniques, the better your chances of getting an exceptional shot.

How to Take a Good Photo Portrait