I want to share four easy portrait tips that will help you start taking better photos today. These portrait tips are quick, easy to remember and will take your portraits to the next level.

Focus on the Eyes

portrait tips
Photo © 2019 Randy McKown

A shallow depth of field can create a very attractive portrait. However, you should always keep the face in focus as much as possible, especially the eyes.

A good rule of thumb is to focus on the eyes, then recompose your subject in the frame before making the final image. Another option is to manually adjust your AF point to where the eyes are in the frame. This is helpful if you want to avoid moving the camera.

If your camera has Eye-AF, make sure that you learn how to use it. Having a camera with facial recognition and the ability to auto focus on the eyes is a game changer.

Stay in the Shade

portrait tips
Photo © 2019 Randy McKown

New photographers automatically assume the best time for shooting is on a bright sunny day. Sticking your subject in full overhead sunlight is one of the worst things that you can do. Overhead sunlight can produce harsh shadows, raccoon eyes, possible squinting and emphasized wrinkles.

If you are shooting with natural light, find a shaded area to keep the sun off of your subject. The shade from a building works great but any uniformly shaded area will work.

If you are using foliage as your source of shade then make sure there are no rays of light spilling onto your subject through the leaves. They will most likely show up as blown out highlights in your final shot.

Can you shoot in the sun? Yes but I highly recommend giving the shade a chance.

Experiment with Angles

portrait tips
Photo © 2019 Randy McKown

Nothing is more boring than a photo of somebody placed dead center in the frame and shot head on. That style of portrait composition can be dull, lifeless and without depth.

Move around your subject to find a more unique composition. Climb up on something and shoot down at them. Don’t be afraid to get dirty crawling around on the ground. Experiment and have fun with it.

Eliminate Distractions

portrait tips
Photo © 2019 Randy McKown

Shooting a portrait does not mean that you have to capture the person from head to toe. I see a lot of beginners shooting portraits and capturing a huge amount of space around them. Unless you’re shooting an environmental portrait, this is not always a good idea.

Leaving too much room around your subject will make them appear smaller in the frame. It also allows the opportunity for distracting elements to work their way into the composition and ruin the shot. One way to eliminate distractions is to move in close and fill the frame with your subject.

When you decide to shoot a full body portrait, closely inspect the surroundings. Look for anything that could distract attention away from your subject and remove it from the scene or recompose your shot to eliminate it.