Cecilia 6 edit.jpgOne of the most rewarding feelings a photographer can get is when he/she has captured a beautiful portrait of a friend or loved one - a portrait that can be treasured for years to come. But good portrait photography doesn't just happen. There is a "science" to consider when composing your photo. Like most everything in photography, there are rules that need to be considered. Unfortunately what rules fit for one subject, may not fit with another. It takes a little thought when composing the shot. This page lists several tips you can use when taking portrait photos.

Get Up Close!

The number one rule you should remember when photographing people, is don't be afraid to get in close. Too often people will stand back at a distance and take a shot. When
Grant not up-close.jpg
Grant up-close.jpg
we do that, however, we lose the dynamic of the shot. Look at the "before" and "after" photos of the cute little boy. While the "before" shot is a cute one, the "after" one is much more powerful. With less clutter in the image, there’s less to draw the eye away from the main subject of your photo. Whenever anybody looks at a photo, they actually scan across it a few times. If there is anything in the photo that takes attention away from your main subject, the eye will fixate on it, and the photo will seem less interesting. Also, human faces (particularly children’s faces) are something we all feel pleasure looking at. When you make them the main focus of the image, it sets off all kinds of warm and fuzzy feelings.
But what do you do if you don't feel comfortable getting close to your subject? Most digital cameras have a zoom feature, so zoom in on the face. This will give you the opportunity to fill the frame from a further distance. (This is especially handy if you're trying to be discreet.) But, if you can't zoom in, you can zoom in later using photo editing software – crop out everything except the subject’s face and see what a difference it makes. The nice thing about today’s new digital cameras is that most have a high number of megapixels. Even if you crop out a huge portion of the image, you’ll still have a high quality portrait. Granted, you may not be able to turn it into a poster-sized print, but you should be able to print a standard size photo (5x7 or 8x10) without losing quality.

Be Aware of Parallax

Parallax is a displacement or difference in the apparent position of an object viewed along two different lines of sight. This is sometimes a problem with point and shoot cameras. Because the viewfinder is not at the same position as the camera’s lens, centering the subject in the viewfinder may mean it is not centered for the lens, resulting in an off-center final picture. You can eliminate this problem by using the LCD – which shows you what the lens sees – rather than the viewfinder.
Some point-and-shoot cameras have a workaround built into the viewfinder. If you stare into your point-and-shoot camera’s viewfinder, and you see what looks like a dashed box, that’s the area that the camera’s lens actually sees. You can still use the viewfinder as long as you also use the dashed box to frame your shot.
When you know how the framing effects your image, it makes you a much better photographer. Also keep in mind the fact that the image produced in a digital camera is not the same size as most standard frames (i.e.5x7 or 8x10). It is wise to keep enough space on the sides and top and bottom of the frame to allow for cropping. You don't want to find yourself in a position where you cannot print a great photo because cropping to a standard frame size will cut off part of an ear or the top of the head or some other equally important part of the photo.

Be Conscious of Gender Posing

Be sure to keep in mind the gender of your subject and pose them accordingly. Believe it or not, there are feminine poses and masculine poses.The worst thing you can do is pose a boy in a feminine pose. Keep the following rules in mind.

For girls:
If It Bends, Bend It

  • If it bends, bend it. Girls look good if you bend the wrist, elbows, tilt head, turn in ankles
  • Girls you want to have hands open and bent.
  • Think "curves." Girls look good, leaning back, with hands on hips, crossing their ankles, or anything that adds curves.
  • Girls can get away with looking away or being flirty with the camera.
  • Girls can pose like boys, but never the other way around.

For Boys:
  • Turn upper body toward camera. Boys look good if the upper body is turned toward the camera. This give them a more confident and masculine look.
  • They need to look straight at the camera.
  • Boys should pose with hands clasped together, or thumbs in pockets, but don't look good with open hands on hips

In the photograph below, notice the difference in the body positioning of the two subjects. The feeling you get when you look at the young woman is that of softness and femininity, whereas the young man portrays strength and confidence. The most obvious difference is their head position. Her head is slightly tipped to one side while his is squared with his shoulders. Also look at their hands. Her hands are Matt & Jenni.jpgopen with slightly curved fingers, while his hands are closed. This give her a softer, more welcoming presence while his closed hands portray boldness and challenge - very masculine qualities.