Hey everyone. I have been a portrait photographer for many years and over that time I’ve done lots of styles of Phhoos 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.
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 to either crop 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-leith portraits I 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 again, it makes them appear shorter and adds an awkward look to the photo.
Also if your subject is wearing a dress, the end of the dress acts like a joint. If you crop right at the hemline it can look a little bit weird, so I usually like to crop right after the dress finishes so you can see a little bit of their legs.
Another interesting one 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 cropped just before or after. Sometimes I personally do like to crop body parts out of images on purpose. For example, you’ll usually see me cropping 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 it allows me to frame my shot just that little bit closer as well. In some poses, when the subject is sitting down, you’re also seeing the bottom of the shoe, which in my opinion is not something super important to the frame. When that happens, I’ll try to crop some of it out with my composition, so you can crop people’s body parts out of a photo if you do it in a mindful way.
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. So in editing you can bring that crop above the knees and all of a sudden you have a stunning photo.
Another tip I have to improve your portrait photography is to be mindful of negative space, so 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 for me. Personally. I like to use negative space when I’m creating dreamy or whimsical photos, and in particular. I do this a lot when using long lenses. The reason for this is that a longer lens like an 85 mime or a 100 and 35 met compresses the frame and has very smooth pocket.
So when you include lots of the background in your photo, it’s not too distracting. By choosing to include negative space in your frame, it gives you image a chance to breathe and makes it feel more calming or dreamy. When you look at it.
Even though you are literally making your subject smaller in the frame by stepping back to include less of them, it can actually do the opposite and make them stand out in the photo. Since the background is mostly just a smooth texture, your eyes are drawn directly to the person in the photo. 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 venue, the couple of chosen will have sentimental value, so it’s nice to capture some photos where you can really see it. 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 subjects posing. For example, when I shoot in landscape orientation and I want to create a dreamy-looking photo, I’ll ask the 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 instead. I do this a lot when I’m using wide-angle or standard Frecall lengths like 2435 or 50 meters. Next is angling because
The angle you’re shooting from makes a huge difference in the mood of the image. For example, shooting from below is a very popular angle for fashion photography as it gives off a powerful feeling and it can make your photos look more artistic.
Shooting from above can create some traditional-looking portraits and it’s also a cool way to share more of the location you’re in.
Finally, shooting from eye level is my most popular way of shooting. This is a very neutral angle to work from that gives you the most freedom when it comes to posing.
The last tip I have for you today is to think about the distance you’re shooting from depending on the brief. Usually when you do a portrait photoshoot for a client, you want to make sure you deliver them a nice variety of photos, for example, for senior portraits or wedding portraits or engagement sessions and photo shoots. Along those lines,
Having a set of images to share with your client that both tells a story and captures beautiful images of them is really important.
One way of doing this is by taking photos from different distances. If you take a look at this set of photos here, the photoshoot overall looks nice, but I feel like it’s missing something. It looks a little bit boring. So let’s take those same images but add in these extra photos here. And all of a sudden, this set of photos looks way more interesting.
The reason for this is we have images taken from all different distances from the subject. We have a full body shot. We have a few mid- length photos, couple of close-ups. There are photos with negative space and photos where the subject fills the frame.
Seeing those photos all together tells more of a story which makes them more interesting, but the photos work on their own as well. If we take a wedding portrait photoshoot, for example, you’ll want to take a few photos where you can see the entire outfit from head to toe, so this is where the full boddy images come in. You’ll also want to take close-up portraits that share more of the emotion and also photos where the subject is the main focus, but it also shows off the location they’re in, which is where mirth lengthngth composition comes in handy.
While these are some composition tips you can use to improve your portraits, there are also other elements such as lighting and posing that you can think about as well.