Composition For Portrait Photography
Updated: Nov 18, 2022
When you first pick up a camera and begin to learn the basics of photography, you will likely start to learn about a number of things. One of those things will be composition which simply means how the photographer fits all of the different elements with the image within the frame and the conscious decisions they make doing this.
Subject Placement in Photography
In portrait photography, this takes a on a slightly different meaning as the only thing you are organising is your subject- the person within the image. The different composition technique you use within your image has the power to change the overall look and feel of the image, so its a good idea to experiment with these techniques. Try out different styles and see how it alters your perception and style.
In this blog post, I will introduce you to a few of the core composition techniques for portrait photography; I will offer my own insight and give you ideas of how you can use it too.
Photography Composition Techniques
The Easy Portrait
One of the easiest composition techniques to use in portraits is filling the frame. This is a technique used a lot in actors headshots or corporate images. These styles commonly have their subject in the middle of the image, at eye level. It offers you a clean, crisp and almost organised way of presenting your subject.
Even though its simple, it doesn't mean it doesn't have its place. Sometimes you need to keep the composition simple and let your models' expression speak for itself.
Once you have mastered this, you can begin experimenting with it. Why not take inspiration from beauty photography and zoom in a little? Fill the frame with the subjects' close up face? This is how you can add some variety to your work.
Fill The Frame
Another easy composition technique is filling the frame. Commonly, as photographers, our go to photography composition is to place the subject in the middle of the frame. We then like to leave equal space around the subject so they are in the middle of the image.
Simple is effective. But why not get closer. My old photography lecturer used to tell my class, that if your image isn't looking interesting enough, it's probably because you are not close enough. So give it a try, take a couple of steps closer to your subject. Capture the small details on their face. See what differences you can make with this simple tip!
Portrait Rule of Thirds
To understand the rule of thirds you must image you have divided your image into nine equal squares with two lines slicing the image vertically and horizontally to create these. Where each of these lines intersect, this is where you should place your subject to utilise this rule. When using this technique, try shooting wider and leaving space on either side so you can crop it when editing. Try out a few different variations then pick out the ones you like the best.
In my work I tend to use the rule of thirds in a different way by utilising negative space. I have adapted my style and with this, I enjoy placing my subjects in the bottom three squares so that the top six are negative space. I absolutely love the simplicity it offers and how it draws the attention to the subject.
I mean this literally: frame your subjects. Frame within a frame photography is all about placing your model so that they are framed or outlined with something that is within the image. An idea for this is place your subject infant of an archway, or door.
See the images I took above, those use this frame within a frame technique. They are carefully outlined to create more depth within the portrait or fashion shot. It gives you the opportunity work with a shallow depth of field too so that the frame which sits in front of your subject is blurred which therefore exaggerates the frame because your eye is drawn to the part of the image that is in sharp focus.