Portrait Photography Tips

portrait photography 101

This is one of the most popular topics I come across from new photographers. They want to be able to take better photos of their family, friends and pets. Below are ten tips along with full explanations that will have your family and friends saying “wow” in no time. Lets get started.

Eye Contact

Eye contact or lack of can not only set the overall mood of the photo, but can also really help the viewer feel connected emotionally. You often times see a person smile softly after looking at a portrait and that emotional response is what you want to get from people when they look at your photos.

portrait photography 101

Depth of Field

Depth of field is simply the area of the picture that’s in focus. For photos of your family, friends, and pets you want them in focus and in most cases the background as out of focus as possible. This helps draw the eyes attention to the people in the photo. In the case of the photo of the dog the Christmas tree lights are so out of focus that they just have a nice soft glow to them adding to the overall mood of the camera. So how do we get this look with a point and shoot camera? The easiest way is to zoom your camera all the way in and stand farther away from them.  By doing so you end up blurring the background more and moving the focus of the photo to the person instead.


portrait photography - perspectiveMost portraits are all taken the same way. You put the person in the middle of the frame, hold the camera at eye level and take the picture. Instead of falling into that habit, try changing the height at which you are taking the picture. Try shooting up at a person or even taking a photo from above. To the right is an example of what I mean. In this case shooting from above placed the amazingly green grass into the picture which is a beautiful contrast to the skin tones.

Sit Back & Wait

The initial reaction when trying to grab a photo of a group of family members or friends is to get everyone to stop what they are doing, pose, and say “cheese”. We’re going to do just the opposite and instead sit back and wait. Let people interact, laugh, smile, and talk with each other. After watching the group for awhile you’ll start to see great natural portraits appearing that you can take photos of. As you get better at this most people won’t even notice you’re taking photos. Below are a few examples to help you get an idea of what I am talking about.

Get Close & Go Wide

You don’t need to have a persons entire bodies or even their face in the photo in order to make a good portrait. You can get close and highlight a part of their body or go the extreme opposite and include the environment to help add a story to the photo. In the two examples below we’re combined the two techniques and included only part of the person along with part of the surrounding area.


I felt pets needed their own section because of how unique they are to shoot. What makes pets so hard, for me anyway, is that they are always running and almost impossible to get to sit still. Getting them to pose is easy, getting them to stay posed is also impossible. Taking photos of your pets takes patience so we’re going to include tip number 4 (Sit Back & Wait) along with exercising your pet prior to trying to take their photo to get some of their energy out. Not only will they be more calm and receptive to having their picture taken, but you also get funny photos of them completely passed out.

pet photography - dog

Family and pet photos also make great gifts when made into calendars or photo books, so once you have a collection you’re proud of, create some lasting memories over at picture.com!

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