Have you been improving with your lighting techniques, but not seeing as much progress with your portrait photography as you hoped for? It could be the compositions you are trying. The good news is, there’s a lot of photography rules designed to help make composition easier.
Harmony


Here’s four of my favorite composition techniques you can try in your next portrait shoot:


Natural Framing

Framing your subject can help draw the viewers eye where it needs to be. It can also add interest to a photograph, but caution should be taken so it’s not overdone. Too much can actually make it a distraction—which is not what we want at all!

One really easy way to do this when shooting outdoors is to find a tree with some low branches. See if you can find a good place for your subject to stand and where you can shoot through the branches. Remember to check the subject for any weird shadows!
Cottonfields - Self-Portrait

You can use a shallow depth of field (a small f-number) to help blur out the foreground and background, creating a nice, soft framing effect.


Fill The Frame

If you’re not happy with the shots you’re taking, the easiest solution is generally getting close. Zoom in there and do a close up. Try to fill the entire frame with the subject. Get creative with the angles and perspectives you shoot from.
Eyes
It’s possible to fill the frame with just the face, but also to fill the frame in a full body shot. You just need to get creative with your posing direction and shooting perspective.


It’s like Robert Cappa once said, “If your photos aren’t good enough, then you’re not close enough.”


Looking Space

For shots where the subject is looking away from the camera—typically of screen—make sure you’re allowing a little space in the composition in the direction they are looking. This will help create a balance in your photo. There are, of course, exceptions to each rule and in some situations a little breathing room in the composition isn’t necessary.
Bologna night
That being said, try to avoid allowing for excess space between the back of the subject’s head and the edge of the frame. If there’s going to be space in the composition, it should always be in front of the face in the direction the subject is looking.


Separate The Background

Blurry, bokeh rich photos are incredibly popular in portrait photography and with good reason. They add an elegant amount of softness to a portrait and help keep the focus on the subject. Blurry backgrounds are extremely useful when there’s a lot going in the background that would be distracting in a photo. Use a wide aperture (small f-number) to reduce your depth of field. Just be sure it’s not too shallow—the subjects face can fall out of focus really quickly on apertures like f1.8. Be sure to double check!
GoldDust
A great way to create bokeh in the background without sacrifing the sharpness of the subjects is to put a little space between them and whatever it is in the background you want to blur out. In other words, ask you subjects to move away from the background. Open up some space between them and the background objects will quickly fall to bokeh.

Do Something New

Remember, rules are meant to be broken. Even though these techniques will help you create some awesome portraits, don’t be afraid to try new things.

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