Taking casual portraits with a digital camera

PortraitsFor a photographer, very few things can be as rewarding as capturing a pleasing portrait. Portraits can be candid – taken on the spur of the moment without the subject’s knowledge – or they can be more formal and posed, planned in advance as to location and clothing.

Portraits can be of individuals as well as small and large groups. Don’t forget portraits of pets. Like photographing children, taking photos of pets can pose its own set of challenges.

Good portraits can be captured both indoors and outdoors.

Types of portrait photography

There are three main types of portrait photography: close-up, upper body and full body. Then there are environmental portraits, where the surrounding environment and props offer a hint as to the subject’s interests and personality.

Close up portraits

Close up portrait by James Jordan

Close up portrait by James Jordan

Close-ups typically include only the subject’s head and shoulders. The focus is on the face.

For close-ups, make sure the face stands out from the background. With a head and shoulders shot, you want to keep the arms out of the shot. Concentrate your attention on the face and the turn of the shoulders and you should get excellent results.

Upper body shots

Upperbody portrait by James Jordan
Upperbody portrait by James Jordan

Upper body portraits include the head and shoulders of the subject, and even part of their torso.

With an upper body shot, you can cut the subject off at the waist and still have a nice photo. Just remember to keep the arms in the shot. If they are leading out of the shot, that’s where the eyes of the viewer will want to go, too.

Full body shots

Full body portrait by James Jordan

Full body portrait by James Jordan

If you are taking a full body shot, remember to keep all arms, legs and feet in the shot. Cutting off someone’s feet in a full-length shot makes for an unpleasant photo.

If you can’t get back far enough to include the whole body, consider an upper body or head and shoulders shot instead.

Environmental portraits

Environmental portrait by Gail Bjork

Environmental portrait by Gail Bjork

Environmental portraits let us peek into the life of the subject.  These usually include the subject in a scenario along with some props that indicate their profession or some hobby or activity that they enjoy.

Visit our Portrait photo gallery for more sample shots.

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