***This tutorial was posted on our expansive photography forum; however, we think it’s so rad that we just had to share with you, too***
For the longest time I found myself to be a straight on shooter.
Meaning, I would pose my subjects and photograph them from directly in front or behind.
I had a really hard time challenging myself to break that habit but when I finally did I really fell in love with my photography again. My portraits began to take on life and portray emotion and intimacy that I sought after but had a hard time achieving for a while.
Every session I challenged myself to break the rules and find a new shooting perspective even if it didn’t really work in the end. But what I discovered during the process was not just my failures but also my triumphs.
My eyes became open to not just pretty light, or strong composition but to meaningful, beautiful moments and connections that I helped to inspire through guided interactions and a new perspective!
So, I thought I would share with you some of the things I did to help me break out of my comfort zone and to create more interesting portraits.
1. Change your angle
Every time you photograph a subject in one position, place or pose, think about all the possible angles you can shoot from that one position.
Shooting from above not only creates a more flattering angle, it also provides the viewer with a unique and interesting perspective.
Coming in tight allows me to capture individual shots of kids without having to change my pose and I am also still getting an implied visual connection from mom as well as a physical connection with the embrace.
This leads us to number 2…
2. Fill the frame
Filling the frame with your subjects minimizes any distractions and helps to create a sense of intimacy by bringing the viewer right into the moment.
3. Focus on the details
This one can also go hand in hand with Tip #2 since often times you will find yourself filling the frame to focus in on details. Hands have a powerful ability to tell a story all by themselves.
However, sometimes it can also mean a simple shift in focus to highlight an unseen detail.
For instance, in the first portrait, my focus is on the boy highlighting the emotion and interaction happening between his mother and him.
But with a simple shift in focus, I am giving my viewers more information by highlighting the tiny details in the frame. My focus is on the wind blowing through her hair while still being able to visualize the connection happening in the background by blurring it just enough.
4. Shoot through objects
Shooting through objects such as plants, windows or doorways does a number of things to create an interesting photograph. It creates a sense of depth by introducing a foreground element that guides the viewer through the scene and also creates a three dimensional feeling.
Foreground objects also act as a wonderful framing element creating a stronger composition.
The closer your are to the foreground element, the blurrier the element becomes. Here I am shooting through a twiggy branch but because I am so close to the object, the branches become heavily blurred which introduces an interesting, yet unknown element in the frame.
5. Explore creative crops
First, let me premise this by stating that I do find it very important to learn the rules before you start to break them.
With that being said, once you have a good grasp on the rules of composition, I am a believer in breaking those rules at times. But do it with purposeful intent.
For instance, in this image, I wanted the focus to be about the physical connection and love between two brothers snuggling with their mom. Cropping in tighter, I lose part of moms head, but the focus becomes more about the embrace.
In this image, this little guy is just learning to walk but is still unstable by himself and needed a little help from mom and dad. Cropping in tighter, I am able to emphasize this important milestone.
Don’t overwhelm yourself. Start small. Implement just one of these tips the next time you breakout your camera and study your results. Think about what you can do differently the next time to make the image even better then build on that.