We use cookies to provide you with a better experience. If you continue to use this site, we'll assume you're happy with this. Alternatively, click here to find out how to manage these cookies

hide cookie message
2,847 Tutorials

How to take better portrait pictures

Now you can relax on either side of the camera

Taking pictures of people can be intimidating. Being in front of the camera is even worse. It's hard to get a natural pose from people when they know they're being photographed, so you need to put your subjects at ease. To capture spontaneous, candid moments, back off and blend in with the background.

For formal portraits, while you can't disappear into the trees and take your pictures surreptitiously, it will help to talk to your subjects to get them to loosen up. Eventually, they'll exhibit more natural responses and look better in the photograph.

Take pictures periodically as you pose your subjects to get them used to the shutter going off, even if you don't intend to keep the shots. When you take the final shot, they'll never know it.

One of the handy things about a digital camera is that you don't need to hold it up to your face to frame the picture. You can use the large LCD on the back to do so. This means you can casually chat to your subjects without having a camera obscuring your head and intimidating them. And if you're shooting more than one person at a time, get them to interact with each other.

Use a shallow depth of field

Usually, you'll want to focus exclusively on the person in the portrait. In such cases, you can get great results by choosing a narrow depth of field and leaving the background pleasantly blurry. Use your camera's portrait mode, designed for exactly this purpose.

If your camera has an AP (aperture priority) mode, switch to that and select the smallest f-stop value available. Another option is to selectively blur the background using a photo-editing program.

Use a shallow depth of field

Use a shallow depth of field

Choose the right focal length

Another important piece of the puzzle is your camera's zoom setting. Set the camera to a wide-angle position and the lens will distort your subject's features, which can be peculiarly unflattering - especially for those with already prominent features.

A focal length of 80-100mm (near the telephoto end of many point-and-shoot compact digital cameras' zoom ranges) is about right. Experiment to see what setting works best for your camera.

Choose the right focal length

Choose the right focal length

Keep it natural

Use natural lighting whenever possible - it will make your subjects look better. Shoot early or late in the day. If possible, shoot outdoors in the shade.

If you're taking pictures indoors and need to use your camera's flash, turn on red-eye reduction mode and supplement the flash with as much other lighting as possible. If the flash can be tilted, angle it so that the light bounces off a wall or the ceiling.

Keep it natural

Keep it natural

See also:

How to edit photos for free using The Gimp

How to selectively colourise your photos

IDG UK Sites

45 Best Android games: top Android games for your smartphone or tablet in 2014 (24 are free!)

IDG UK Sites

How Apple, Adobe, Microsoft and others have let us down over UltraHD and hiDPI screens

IDG UK Sites

Do you have the X-Factor too? Mix Off app puts fans in the frame

IDG UK Sites

iPad Pro release date, rumours and leaked images - 12.9 screen 'coming in 2015'