Ideas for Shooting Portraits

By Matthew Bamberg / May 27, 2011

Taking portraits with any type of camera is a great exercise in conversation. Portraits can be come alive if you catch unexpected shots of your subject while talking to him. One of the best ways to take a male portrait is with a telephoto lens with your subject posing with his foot on a stool and his arm on his thigh with his head up. Be creative with women; have them jump.

Here are plenty more great ideas for taking a portrait. Go ahead and comment about one of them. What’s turned out best for you?

Capture Emotion in Older People
Photograph Men at Work
Create Rustic Backgrounds and Foregrounds
Find Modern Backgrounds and Foregrounds
Play with Nature
Shoot Portraits in the City with Buildings in the Background
Position Face in Different Ways (Profile, three-quarter view)
Angling Shots
Shooting Action Shots
Extreme close-ups (as in the image above)
Take Full-body Portraits
Match Surrounding Colors to Subject
Find Patterns of Objects Among Which to Place your Subject
Place Subject Among Cold (blue, purple) or Warm Colors (red, orange)
Photograph Subjects Interacting with Environment (including eating and inside vehicles)
Build a Relationship with Your Subject
Take Two Shots and More
Apply Make-up
Soften the Nose by Shooting Far Away from Subject with Long Focal Length Lens
Have Subjects Wear Lip Gloss and Glitter
Tease Subject’s Hair
Have Subject Wear a Vest
Have Subject wear a Scarf
Dress Subject in Retro Clothes
Photograph Earrings, Nose Rings
Have Subjects Wear a Big collar or No Collar
Photograph Subject Wearing a Coat
Have Subject Interact with External Elements
Stage a Scene with Subject in It
Emulate Cinema
Photograph Musicians Playing Instruments
Work with Natural Light
Create Silhouettes by Shooting (Subject)Into the Light
Photograph Subject in Sunrise, Sunset
Photograph Subject in Rain or Snow
Photograph Subject in New Age Pose (Yoga, Martial Arts)
Shoot Subject Praying in Chruch
Shoot with Moving Hands and Gestures
Focus on Cleavage (Women)
Focus on the Bare Chest (Men)
Create Lonely Settings
Have a Good Time Shooting!

About the author

Matthew Bamberg

Matthew Bamberg has provided photographs and written articles for various Southern California newspapers and magazines, including The Desert Sun and The Press-Enterprise. More recently, Matt has been teaching at UC Riverside while also authoring several books like the Quick and Easy Secrets book series (Cengage), Killer Photos with Your iPhone (with Kris Krug and Greg Ketchum, Cengage), the 50 Greatest Photo Opportunities in San Francisco (Cengage) and Digital Art Photography For Dummies (Wiley).