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We were shooting portraits in the office the other day for the We are Fracture blog post, and the topic of how to actually take good portraits came up.  So we’d thought we would share a few tips that we’ve discovered through trial and error, as well as some that we dug up online.

First, ask yourself a few questions:

– Do you want your subject to be posed or look natural?
– Do you want an indoor or outdoor setting?
– Do you want a backdrop for your shots?

You may need to prepare a few things before starting, and it’s always good to have an idea of what you want before you begin shooting (but also know some of the best shots are the result of spontaneity!).  Once your set up, start snapping away.  Here are some tips and advice for taking portrait shots:

1.  Change your perspective

Get on the floor, climb on a chair, tilt the camera at an angle …  altering your perspective can give your photos and subject a bit of personality and character.

Make Your Portrait Photos More Interesting


2.  Play with lighting

Adjust your light sources and intensities.  Ask yourself: do you want the light to be shining directly on their face, from the side, from behind (silhouette)?  Do you want artificial light, natural light, a combo?  The possibilities are endless!  More Portrait Lighting tips here.

Make your portraits more interesting


3.  Pay attention to your subjects eyes

Depending on the effect, you can have your subject stare directly at the lens, or look off onto the side, or close their eyes all together, or have them look at something within the frame (an object or a partner).  Try a few, you’ll be amazed at how much eye contact effects portraits.

Make your portraits more interesting


4.  Introduce a prop.

If your subject is looking wax-like, or their hands are just too busy, introduce a prop to the shoot.  It can help calm them down and give them something to focus on rather than the camera snapping away at them.


5.  Let loose and get silly.

Having people do something unusual — like standing on their heads, or making goofy faces, or leaping through the air — can create a whole new mood for your photos.

make your portraits more interesting


6.  Try black & white

Sometimes that okay color shot, looks great in black and white!  Try adjusting the settings or adding a filter to give a nice effect to your photos.


7.  Focus on a single body part.

Take a just of your subjects eye, or smile, or foot even, and leave the rest up to the imagination.


8.  Take a series of shots at once (flip book style).

Set your camera to take a series of shots at once.  Although it’s more photos to sift through, you may catch something special (this is especially great for catching candid shots of children at play).


Bonus Tip: Candid shots

From professional photographer Jesse Lash

“When taking photos of people, the best shots often come from the moments in-between. People transform when they’re in front of a camera… they get stiff, they smile as big as possible, and they don’t look natural. But there are quick moments in between poses, when their guard is down and they aren’t “posing” that can make the best photos. THIS photo of my friend was taken after about 15 minutes of posing, smiling, and getting boring regular photos. He looked a bit stiff in all of them, and they just didn’t seem believable. But then, I made some comment that got him laughing and immediately snapped a shot mid-laugh… you can see that his face appears incredibly genuine, because it was!”


We’d love to hear your tips!  Leave us a comment on Twitter with your tricks and advice, and happy shooting : )


The Author

Drew Allen

Drew Allen

Besides being the managing editor of this blog, I'm also a drummer, a husband, and a father, not necessarily in that order. I love good stories, and great design, and I probably quote the Office more than I should but less than I could.