Portrait Composition Tips you NEED to Know

Welcome to our blog, where we delve into the fascinating world of portrait composition. Whether you are a professional photographer, an aspiring enthusiast, or simply someone who loves capturing beautiful moments, understanding the art of composition is essential to create stunning portraits. In this blog, we will share with you some invaluable tips that will take your portrait photography to the next level. From mastering the rule of thirds to exploring different angles, we will unravel the secrets behind creating compelling compositions that truly capture the essence and emotion of our subjects. So, grab your camera and join us on this creative journey as we explore the portrait composition tips you absolutely need to know.

Portrait Composition Tips you NEED to Know

Hey everyone! I have been a portrait photographer for many years, and over that time, I’ve done various styles of photo shoots, from e-commerce to fashion campaigns, wedding photography, engagement sessions, and taking portraits of people just because they want nice photos of themselves. There are a few things you should be thinking about at every single portrait session you do, in terms of composition, that will instantly elevate your photos. These are tips that I’ve applied to my photography over the years, and I want to share them with you today.

This article is sponsored by PPA, the Professional Photographers of America. PPA provides a community of over 35,000 photographers where you can find equipment, insurance, education, and business tools made specifically for small business owners like you. So, I’ll talk more about PPA later on.

Cropping your Images

One of the first things you need to think about when capturing portraits is where you’re cropping your image in regards to the person. If you look at these two images, they are almost the same, but the photo on the left is more visually pleasing than the photo on the right. But why? This is where cropping comes in.

There are a few tricks that I like to use with cropping portraits that can completely change what the image looks like. The main rule of thumb to keep in mind is to never crop an image at someone’s joints. For a close-up image, I recommend either cropping in super close to their face or leaving a little hint of their shoulders, as it looks more flattering compared to cropping at their neck.

When capturing full body images, make sure to never crop your photo at the person’s ankles as it can make them look very short. Instead, be sure to include their feet as well. You can see what a big difference this makes. For mid-length portraits, I personally love cropping right above someone’s knees, as this can make their legs look a lot longer compared to if you crop them at their knees.

Another interesting body part to consider is the stomach. It’s not a joint, but it can make your photo look strange if you crop someone right through their stomach. So, instead, I either crop just before or after. Sometimes, I personally like to crop body parts out of images on purpose. For example, I usually crop out a little bit of someone’s foot out of the frame. The reason I like to do this is to add tension to my image and frame my shot a bit closer.

Something else to keep in mind is that while you can crop in this way on location with your composition, this is another really important element to look out for while you’re editing your photos. You might have an image where you love the expression, the pose, and the lighting, but something about it doesn’t feel quite right. Turning that into a spectacular image might just be as simple as changing up where you’ve cropped the photo. Maybe on location, you’ve accidentally cropped just past the knees because your subject was moving around. In editing, you can bring that crop above the knees, and all of a sudden, you have a stunning photo.

If you run a photography business or are thinking about starting one, the sponsor of today’s video, PPA, has lots of resources to help you out. As a PPA member, you will have access to equipment and camera gear insurance, templates to create model releases and contracts for your clients, as well as access to a photography community of over 35,000 members. Their education platform features over 900 hours of business and photography classes to help you grow as a photographer with topics such as having the right brand messaging, how to attract the right clients, and more. Make sure you use the link in my description to receive 25% off your PPA membership.

Mindful Use of Negative Space

Another tip I have to improve your portrait photography is to be mindful of negative space – when to use it and when to fill it in. Negative space can be an underestimated technique to creating better images, in my opinion, but it can really change the way your photos feel.

Personally, I like to use negative space when I’m creating dreamy or whimsical photos, especially when using long lenses. A longer lens, like an 85mm or 135mm, compresses the frame and has very smooth backgrounds. By choosing to include negative space in your frame, it gives your image a chance to breathe and makes it feel more calming or dreamy. Even though you are making your subject smaller in the frame by stepping back to include less of them, it can actually make them stand out in the photo since the background is mostly just a smooth texture.

Another reason to think about including negative space in your portraits is when you have a great location you want to show off. You can compose your photos in a way where both the subject and the location share the frame. This is especially important to think about when doing wedding photography, for example, where the chosen venue will have sentimental value.

On the other hand, when you decide to fill in your negative space, it can give your photos the opposite effect where they feel more intense, since there is a lot going on in the frame. There are two main ways that I like to fill the frame:

The first way is when I’m using a long lens, I like to get in close to my subject and pretty much crop out as much of the background as possible with my composition. I like doing this to create striking portraits that are all about the person in the frame.

The other way I like to fill the frame is with my subject’s posing. For example, when I shoot in landscape orientation and want to create a dreamy-looking photo, I’ll ask my subject to pose in a constricted way to keep the edges of the frame empty. But when I want to create a photo with more story, I’ll use posing to fill in the entire frame.

Your choice of angles also makes a huge difference in the mood of the image. Shooting from below, for example, is a very popular angle for fashion photography as it gives off a powerful feeling and can make your photos look more artistic. Shooting from below also shows off your location in interesting ways and challenges you to think about different poses.

Remember, have fun experimenting with different angles, cropping styles, and use of negative space to create stunning portraits that stand out!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) – Portrait Composition Tips

1. What is portrait composition?

Portrait composition refers to the arrangement and placement of various elements within a portrait photograph. It involves the careful positioning of the subject, backgrounds, lighting, and other visual elements to create a visually pleasing and impactful photograph.

2. Why is composition important in portrait photography?

Composition plays a vital role in creating a well-balanced and engaging portrait photograph. It directs the viewer’s attention to the subject, enhances the overall aesthetics of the image, and helps in conveying the intended message or emotion effectively.

3. How can I improve the composition of my portrait photographs?

To enhance your portrait composition skills, consider the following tips:
– Implement the rule of thirds by placing your subject off-center
– Utilize leading lines or diagonals to create a sense of depth or movement
– Experiment with different angles and perspectives
– Pay attention to the background and ensure it complements the subject
– Use framing techniques to add interest and focus to the subject
– Experiment with different lighting setups to enhance the mood and create emphasis

4. What is the rule of thirds?

The rule of thirds is a basic compositional guideline in which an image is divided into nine equal parts by two equally spaced horizontal lines and two equally spaced vertical lines. It suggests placing the subject of the photograph along these lines or at their intersections, resulting in a more visually pleasing and balanced composition.

5. Should I always follow the rule of thirds?

While the rule of thirds is an effective guideline, it is not a strict rule. Experimenting with composition and breaking the rule of thirds can lead to unique and creative portrait photographs. However, the rule of thirds is a great starting point for beginners and generally produces aesthetically pleasing images.

6. How can I achieve a good background in portrait photography?

To achieve a good background in portrait photography:
– Ensure the background is uncluttered and does not distract from the subject
– Utilize a wide aperture to blur the background, creating a shallow depth of field
– Consider using a complementary backdrop or natural settings that enhance the subject
– Pay attention to the lighting and shadows on the background, adding depth and dimension to the image

7. Is lighting important in portrait composition?

Yes, lighting plays a crucial role in portrait composition. Properly controlled lighting can enhance the subject’s features, create mood, and add depth to the image. Experiment with different lighting techniques, such as natural light, studio lighting, or off-camera flash, to achieve the desired look and feel in your portraits.

8. Are there any specific tips for photographing children or pets?

When photographing children or pets:
– Get down to their eye level to capture more engaging and intimate portraits
– Utilize their natural environment or surroundings as part of the composition
– Be patient and allow them to be themselves, capturing their unique personality and expressions
– Use toys, treats, or sounds to grab their attention and direct their gaze towards the camera

Remember, composition in portrait photography is not a set of strict rules but rather a set of guidelines to help you create visually appealing and impactful imagery. Experiment, be creative, and develop your unique style.

I hope you find useful my article Portrait Composition Tips you NEED to Know, I also recommend you to read my other posts in my blog at this link.

If you need help with anything join the community or do not hesitate to contact me.

Best of luck! and follow your passion.

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