If you’re a professional photographer, people don’t pay you to look bad in their portraits. But even if you’re just an amateur snapper, or a friend with a camera, you’ll quickly find out that there’s a certain skill in taking great portrait photos that see your subject in their best light.
So let’s take a look at 5 of the most common portrait mistakes, and explore the ways you can very easily improve your portrait photographs and really bring them to life.
Mistake #1: Forgetting about the background
If the background is too distracting, it’ll take away from the subject. So try to use neutral backgrounds that won’t steal focus from the person you’re photographing.
If you’ve achieved the right level of subject focus (which is what portrait photography is all about) the background should be blurred and out of focus.
Mistake #2: Using the on-board flash
The type of light that’s normally emitted from your camera’s built-in flash tends to be whiter than other flash types, and it very rarely produces good results in portrait photography.
So unless you red pupils and terrifying over-exposure in your shots, we advise you to steer clear from it if you can.
Mistake #3: Not thinking about head height
Taking group portraiture where everyone’s the same height? If you don’t vary the subjects’ height, your photos will look unnatural and staged.
So bring some variety into your shots and break up the height line by having one or more of the subjects sit down, with the rest of the group behind them.
Mistake #4: Not thinking about height
Changing the height at which you take photos is a great way to improve your photos. Taking photos a little lower to the ground, or a little higher than eye level, adds a whole new dynamic to the shot.
Thinking about height is a great photographic technique that really gives your shots a life of their own.
Mistake #5: Not making your subjects feel comfortable!
If you don’t make the effort to help your subject feel comfortable while you’re taking the photos, it’s probable that the photos won’t be worth very much.
They’ll look very awkward, posed, and extremely uncomfortable. So make sure it doesn’t happen!
Get to know your subject. Speak to them, show them past examples of your work (or the work of others that you like if you don’t have a profile to show them) and talk over why you like them and why you think they work.
When a subject knows what you’re trying to achieve, the chances are they’ll feel more comfortable taking direction from you. And a comfortable, at-ease subject means relaxed and professional photos.