1. Alter Your Perspective
Most portraits are taken with the camera at (or around) the eye level of the subject. While this is good common sense – completely changing the angle that you shoot from can give your portrait a real WOW factor.
Get up high and shoot down on your subject or get as close to the ground as you can and shoot up. Either way you’ll be seeing your subject from an angle that is bound to create interest.
2. Play with Eye Contact
It is amazing how much the direction of your subject’s eyes can impact an image. Most portraits have the subject looking down the lens – something that can create a real sense of connection between a subject and those viewing the image. But there are a couple of other things to try:
A. Looking off camera – have your subject focus their attention on something unseen and outside the field of view of your camera. This can create a feeling of candidness and also create a little intrigue and interest as the viewer of the shot wonders what they are looking at. This intrigue is particularly drawn about when the subject is showing some kind of emotion (ie ‘what’s making them laugh?’ or ‘what is making them look surprised?’). Just be aware that when you have a subject looking out of frame that you can also draw the eye of the viewer of the shot to the edge of the image also – taking them away from the point of interest in your shot – the subject.
B. Looking within the frame – alternatively you could have your subject looking at something (or someone) within the frame. A child looking at a ball, a woman looking at her new baby, a man looking hungrily at a big plate of pasta…. When you give your subject something to look at that is inside the frame you create a second point of interest and a relationship between it and your primary subject. It also helps create ‘story’ within the image.
3. Break the Rules of Composition
There are a lot of ‘rules’ out there when it comes to composition and I’ve always had a love hate relationship with them. My theory is that while they are useful to know and employ that they are also useful to know so you can purposely break them – as this can lead to eye catching results.
The Rule of Thirds is one that can be effective to break – placing your subject either dead centre can sometimes create a powerful image – or even creative placement with your subject right on the edge of a shot can sometimes create interesting images.
Another ‘rule’ that we often talk about in portrait photography is to give your subject room to look into. This can work really well – but again, sometimes rules are made to be broken.