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7 Composition Tips For Portrait Photography

An eye pleasing picture always needs a great composition. When it comes to portraits, a variety of considerations are required for a balanced shot such as lighting, posing, expressions, background, surroundings. Here are some 7 tips for portrait photography that can help you level up your portrait game:


1 - Rule of Thirds

Let’s start with the most common rule of thumb in photography - Rule of thirds. I call this one ‘the king of all the rules’. What this means is, whether you are framing your picture horizontally or vertically, divide it evenly into thirds using grids. The four intersection points in the middle are the point of interest. Viewer’s eyes naturally gravitate towards these points of interest rather than the center of the frame. Try placing the subject around these points of interest to make the picture visually appealing and well balanced.

Most digital cameras come with a rule of third grid overlay which can be leveraged when you are taking pictures.


2 - Focus on Eyes

Portraits look the best when the focus is on the eyes. You can adjust your focus point on the camera on the eye of the subject. This creates a very powerful and engaging photo.


3 - Leading Lines

To create an engaging picture, one of the most effective ways is to use leading lines to draw the viewer's attention. It creates depth, symmetry and a distinct visual perspective to give a real 3D effect. Some of the scenes that help create leading lines are walls, station platforms, highway partition lines, piers, steps, windows, railings, buildings, etc.


4 - Cropping

There are many ways a portrait can be cropped - full length crop, three quarter crop, upper body crop, head and shoulder crop, face crop. One of the best practices is to crop in camera rather than post production. Filling the frame and cropping tight in camera leads to creating more depth. Placing eyes in the top third of the frame as visually more appealing. This also compliments the rule of thirds. The ideal practice is to include ears, chin, shoulders (we don’t want a floating head in the picture). Don’t be scared to crop the top of head if it makes the portrait look more strong.


5 - Creative with Composites

A composite is something made up of different parts or elements. A composite portrait is made up of 2 or more images. Many times photographers tend to tell a narrative story through the picture. It is not always possible to have the perfect setup for an idea to be shot. But that shouldn’t slow down a photographer to express the story they want to express through their art. Often, photographers concentrate on shooting the model (which is their main subject) with the lighting, pose and expressions they have on their mind and then combine them with other images (stock or from their own catalog) to create a visually appealing cinematic shot.


6 - Use props to make it interesting

To make the portraits stand out, a lot of props can be used while framing the image. As a photographer, it is always good to carry some props that may come handy in exploring creativity while shooting. For example: sun glasses, hat, fabric, balloons, flowers etc.


7 - Variety of shots

After you come back from a shoot and start going through your catalog, there might be a shot which is perfect in terms of lighting, model’s expression, and posture. But it might not have perfect hair or may be the perfect flow to her dress. It is a good practice to take a variety of shots to compensate for missing elements from another shot. Here is an example that shows how a variety of shots taken in the same shoot can help create a perfect image.


Breaking the Rules

Learn the rules like a pro, so that you can break them as an artist.


Thank you so much for reading, we hope you found this useful!

Image Credits: @liquidverve and @jon.snip

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