Byrd photographer: Dinendra Haria
January 2020

How to take better portrait photos

This blog post is specifically for you with a more recent Android or iPhone with a portrait function. 

First things first, taking photos of people is not the same as shooting portrait photos. The subject might be the same, however, what makes portrait different is that it captures the true picture of the person, whether that be their emotions or personalities. Taking photos of people, on the other hand, is any quick snapshot of a friend or a crowd. It does not reflect the person and the personality in the same matter as portrait photos do. 

Now when that is straightened out - let’s run through some pointers when it comes to portrait photography.

Basics of portrait mode
To get the portrait function to really work, make sure that the actual subject is in focus. You do this easily by tapping on the screen on the object that you wish to be your main subject. 

You also need to make sure you are not too close to your background - you want to make sure that there is a clear difference between the main subject and the background. You should be close to the subject but not too close or otherwise, you may not get that blurred background. Around half a meter away from the subject is recommended. Recent smartphones even let you do portrait mode with your front camera!

Lightning will affect everything
The lightning will be key to how your photos will turn out. Some portrait functions might even refuse to work in low light settings - so needless to say the light is of the highest importance. 

Shoot from various angles
To make portrait photos more interesting, try shooting from a different angle than just eye level. For example, try to shoot portrait photos from above or maybe the side of the subject in mind. Make sure to focus on eye contact - often you will find your strongest emotional cues in people’s eyes. 

Make your subject comfortable
A big challenge when it comes to portrait photography is to make the environment as natural and relaxed as possible. You want the person you’re photographing comfortable and to be themselves. Therefore, talk to them and show them confidence so that they can rest assured that you know what you are doing to make them look good in the photos. 

To sum it up
Getting good at portrait photography might take some time and practice. Not only do you have to juggle best practices - but you also have to make the subject comfortable and trust you. However, the cool thing with a lot of the more recent smartphones is that they all have a portrait mode - meaning you have a great portrait opportunity on you at all time.