Portrait Challenge Tips

When you photograph someone, you can convey their strength, presence, and personality. Here are some tips to make your portraits more powerful.

Eye Contact

Where your subject appears to look can influence the way the viewer sees them. If a subject gazes straight at the lens, the viewer may feel more connected. If a subject looks at another person within the picture, that relationship is highlighted and suggests a story. A subject looking off-camera can evoke interest and suspense. Think about what you want to convey about your subject and experiment with the direction of their gaze.

Photograph by @Cassidy

Photograph by @Cassidy

More than a Face

Who says a portrait must include the face? Take a portrait from the neck down, or focus on just one part of your subject’s body to express who they are. The way a person holds their hands, or their characteristic posture, can identify them and be just as engaging.

Hands #3, 1975, James Welling. The J. Paul Getty Museum. © James Welling

Hands #3, 1975, James Welling. The J. Paul Getty Museum. © James Welling

Selfies

Improve your selfies by taking a lot of them. Here are some tips to try.

Think about your background. It provides information too. If you’re in nature, that says something about you. So does the décor of your room. If you want to minimize the background, keep it neutral.

Think about light. If you’re indoors, take advantage of natural, indirect light from a window. If you’re outside, position yourself in relation to the sun, and consider the quality of the light—how strong it is—and the direction of cast shadows. You’ll probably want to avoid squinting into the sun!

Think the positioning of your face or body within the picture. For a more compelling image, avoid being in the center. The rule of thirds works for selfies too. So place your face in the top right or top left corner of the frame, with your eye-line one third down from the top.

Photograph by @Norma

Photograph by @Norma

Extreme Close-Up

Photograph a part of your subject’s face: eye, ear, or nose—for a unique, unexpected view.

Photograph by @Michelle

Photograph by @Michelle

Crop Your Image