The best portrait trigger an emotional response in the viewer about the subject. Your job, as a photographer, is to create the right kind of emotion. You have to decide, in advance, what emotion you want to elicit, and then setup the portrait to achieve that result.
Know Your Subject
If you're being paid to take a portrait shot, you'll need to talk to your client about what kind of effect they want to achieve. A high-profile business person will want to feel respected, while an actress may want to look beautiful or seductive.
|Putting colleagues in the background, blurred out, implies the subject is a leader.|
|This photos framing and the woman's makeup all draw your attention |
to her eyes - making an instant connection.
Emotional Subjects lead to Emotional Photographs
A simple way to elicit the right emotion in the viewer is to have the subject display that emotion. When we see someone smiling, it makes us want to smiley; when we see someone laugh, it makes us happy.
|A smile on a subject's face makes them more relatable to the viewer.|
|But more rarely seen emotions, like anger, |
make for more interesting photographs.
Put the Subject in Context
In a portrait, everything in the photo should draw the viewer's eyes to the subject. However, you can use an interesting background or props to add context to the photo, and to tell the viewer something about the subject.
|Putting this man with a suitcase implies that he is a |
successful, world-traveling professional.
|You can add context to a portrait by including an important |
aspect of the subject's life as a prop, like this piano player.
Try a new Angle
Portraits taken from straight on are the most common, but taking a photo from a different angle can make it more interesting.
|Rotating your camera to an interesting angle can add |
a feeling of motion to a shot.
|Overhead portraits stand out because they're not seen as often.|
Tell a Story in a Look
Your subject's eyes will almost always be the most important aspect of a portrait.
|Having your subject look straight into the camera will create |
a connection between them and the viewer.
|A subject looking outside of the frame makes the viewer |
curious about what they're looking at.