studio portrait of man in sunglasses

Take better portraits

Portrait photos are easy to take but tough to master. We’ve come up with some helpful basic tips to turn your good shots into great ones – whether you’re shooting city surfers or family and friends.

Shoot from different viewpoints

Whoever you’re photographing, don’t be afraid to experiment with different shooting positions. Kneel down or get down low to the ground and try shooting your subject from below. Or gain some height by carefully standing on stairs to shoot your subject from above. If the person you’re photographing is playing sport, climbing a wall or surfing in a city river, get close to the action by zooming in and capture their expression. It’ll add loads of personality and feeling to your photo.

Shoot using a wide aperture to let more light in

When shooting portraits outdoors, it’s best to set your camera to a wide aperture (a low f number - around f/2.8-f/5.6). This allows you to capture a shallow depth of field, so the background behind your subject will be beautifully blurred. This will make them ‘pop out’ in your photo.

Use a fast shutter speed to capture the moment

Even when they know they’re being photographed, people tend to move around a lot. It’s a shame when a good photo is ruined by somebody blinking, frowning and or screwing their face up.

To make sure this doesn’t happen, and to prevent unwanted motion blur in your photos, use a fast shutter speed – at least 1/125th of a second or faster.

Fill the frame with your subject

Think about where you are going to photograph your subject before you begin. Are you aiming for a busy urban feel, minimalist cool or an action packed shot? Zooming in to fill a frame with someone can create a powerful shot.

Positioning your subject to one side of the frame and including their environment – like a street scene, a green field or their home - can also create great results.

Play around with backgrounds

With all portrait shots, the person in your photo should be the main point of interest. However, you can radically change the mood of a shot by altering the background to express their personality or environment. For example, shooting someone on a busy subway platform will have a different mood to the same person shot on a quiet park bench. Sometimes a minimal background, like a plain wall or curtain, works well too. Be bold and experiment with different backgrounds to see which looks best.

Keep portraits natural - or strike a pose

Posed portraits can sometimes look cheesy so keep your camera close to hand to capture your subject’s spontaneous smiles, concentration or other facial expressions.
Or if you’d like a more staged portrait, try positioning your subject in the left or right of the frame to add interest. Ask them to look away from the camera to add intrigue.
Your subject’s facial expression can turn a good portrait photo into a great one. So experiment with different moods and emotions as you shoot.