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Portrait photography engenders mental images of the traditional head and shoulders composition shots that make up 99% of the genre, but portrait photos can be so much more. The funny thing is that most people’s favourite photo of a relative or loved one is rarely the head and shoulders shot, but rather an action shot or one of them in their natural surrounds.
That means there is an opportunity to add a special element of interest to any portrait photography. Here are a few ideas with our guide on 7 Ways to Add Interest to Portrait Photography.
Reflections – An easy way to add both depth and interest to a subject is to shoot it in reflection. That means setting up near reflective surfaces such as glass, a mirror, water or a polished surface which can be found in almost any location. The reflection adds a point of interest and makes the portrait composition much more interesting.
Consider the Setting – Let’s face it, sitting for a portrait in front of a screen is boring and has been done to death. Why not get outside where you can use natural lighting as well as the interest of the natural environment to create an interesting portrait? Shooting people in their natural environment such as at work is also another way to get a more natural looking shot.
Consider Your Lens – Getting closeup portraits is one way that many people capture interesting shots of people. The shot below was taken with a Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 lens. If you want to take portraits this close, you might need to consider what type of lens you are shooting on.
Use a Prop – A strategically placed item or even having the subject interact with an item can also produce much more interesting portraits. The shot below introduces the element of cigarette smoke very effectively to add interest and draw the eye to both the subject and elements of the background.
Underexposure - Intentionally underexposing your subject in portraiture photography can produce some very emotive images and will draw the view of the audience towards the lighter parts of the image. It also adds a gravitas to the image that is great if you are trying to evoke emotions of seriousness.
Overexposure - On the other hand, intentionally overexposing a subject will draw the eye to the darker areas of the portrait and produce very stark results. You quite often see this technique in magazine and fashion shots but it is easy enough to replicate if you like these types of photos.
Change the Angle – Most portraiture photos are front on, head and shoulders shots. Maybe the easiest way to mix this up is to simply change where you are standing as the photographer. Get above the subject so that they are looking up for example. The shot below made what would have been an average front-on shot quite interesting simply by getting above the subjects to shoot.