Images and words by Jerred Zegelis
1 - Don't have your subjects "square up."
Instead, have people vary how they stand, maybe with a more relaxed and casual pose, where their weight is more on one foot or one shoulder is a little closer to you. Of course, there absolutely is a time for someone to be standing straight and looking directly at the camera, but adding in more poses like this can help you get more dynamic photographs.
2 - Get close!
This tip is really powerful. Instead of fitting in entire bodies every time, get some varied shots by scooting in closer to your subject (or choosing a more telephoto lens). This way you can really get the eyes to shine, which is the next tip!
3 - Focus on the eyes.
A great portrait is almost always about engaging the viewer with the personality of the subject. Focusing on the eyes is the absolute best way to do this. This means that for most portraits, the most make sure your camera is autofocusing on the closest eye. New cameras, of course, make this easy by adding “eye autofocus” and even allowing you to select which eye you’d like the camera to use!
4 - Watch your backgrounds.
Environments can make or break great portraits. The first thing you should do is make sure that there are no strange lines or branches going in or out of people’s heads. This is distracting for your viewer. It’s good advice to just quickly scan the background for distractions or ugly elements such as trash cans.
5 - Make sure to smile yourself!
Making your portrait subjects comfortable is one of the hallmarks of great portrait photographers. Remember that the person you are taking a picture of is looking to you for direction. If you’re calm, smiling, and having fun, they are much more likely to let go of their nervousness and allow you to get great shots of them!
About Jerred Zegelis
Jerred or Mr. Z, as his students fondly know him, has been a photography teacher and photographer for more than 18 years. Jerred's goal for every class is for each student to find their voice through photography.
Jerred's former students include fashion photographers, landscape and art photographers, wedding and portrait photographers.
Take a class with Jerred Z or another one of our talented instructors at Rockbrook Camera EDU - Class Calendar