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Being able to take great portrait photos is one of the most important aspects of being a photographer. Whether you are taking portraits of your friends and family or shots of a bride on her wedding day, being confident at taking portrait photos will help to improve your photography skill set, no matter what level you are at.

Whether you are complete beginner or a professional, these tips will help you to improve your portrait photography.

Understanding your subject
The most important aspect of your portrait photo is the subject, so it is vital that you have an understanding of their personality as well as a good relationship with them. If you are photographing your friend or family member this is easy, however if it is a client then you will need to spend a little time getting to understand them and what they want from the photo. It is also important that they feel at ease in your company, this will help them to relax during the shoot, plus it will make it easier to direct them.

Eye contact
Where the subject looks can have a massive impact on how a viewer perceives the photo. Normally a photographer will get the subject to look down the lens, as this creates a connection between the viewer and the subject. To create unique and experimental images, however, you can try getting the viewer to look at something out of the shot. While you will have to be careful that this doesn’t take the viewer’s attention to the edge of the image, doing this can create intrigue and interest to the photo. Another interesting way to experiment with eye contact is to get the subject to look at something within the shot, this is particularly popular technique when there are two people in the frame.

The importance of lighting
While lighting is always important in photography, it is particularly important when taking portrait photos. If you get the lighting wrong it can spoil an otherwise great image. Direct, harsh sunlight can lead to shadows over the subject’s face or backlighting can hide their features. If shooting outdoors soft lighting is best, however if you are fortunate enough to have a studio then spend time making sure that the lighting is as flattering as possible for your subject.

Choosing the right location
If you are shooting inside a studio you will have no choice about the location, however you should spend some time creating the right backdrop to suit your subject. Ideally wedding photographers should go to the location of the wedding prior to the day, this way you will be able to find the ideal spots to take your photos.

Experiment with composition
The rules of composition are well known and while it is an important aspect of portrait photography, experimenting with composition can help you to create more interesting images. Consider putting your subject at the centre of the image or on the edge to create something unique. Another technique that can create interesting portrait images is to fill the frame with your subject.

If you want to enhance your portrait photography skills further consider taking part in one of portrait photography courses.

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