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Tips to improve portraiture shooting

Learning framing with portraiture

When shooting portraiture choosing what to photography in terms of the model, costume is important, but what to frame within your shot is equally important.  Fundamentally “framing” is a compositional element to your image, so this deserves you thinking about, look through your camera and consider what you want in the shot and what you don’t.  These tips you will help you overcome simple mistakes and understand what is important.

Plan to succeed

How many times have you read about planning, through education and employment you understand this concept.  Sometimes in your work you have to plan to ensure job’s are prioritised so why not use this technique with your photography.

Get a pen and a paper, write down what you want, draw it if you can, just get it down, of course some of you may have a photographic memory to help here.  Personally I write it down on a paid and then forget to put this in my bag!



Experiment – fight or flight

Sometimes it goes wrong, you accept that, but hopefully most of the time you get it right, that you enjoy it.  During the shot below the idea was to experiment with angles, bearing in mind these were shot on manual lenses with low light.  Notice the glaring problem, you can see the stand that supports the background!

anna stacey photo with bad frame example
Anna Stacey

There is technique even the professional’s discuss called working the shot, this is knowing there is a great image possible, but you have to try different angles or perspectives to get there.  Sometimes you can move your feet, a different lens or go below or above.

The examples show different ways to use depth of field,

  • first shot model is in focus
  • first shot is framed with background “noise”
  • second shot guitar strings in focus
  • second shot more pleasing frame
Anna Stacey
Anna Stacey model with guitar
Anna Stacey










The next example featuring Safia shows you must consider the angle too, because the edge of the frame overlaps with a background that is so contrasting (red is a strong colour) you are naturally drawn to it!   You might also say the shot looks too busy with the positioning of the notebook near the computer?

Safia model bad framing
Safia Rofidi

Now consider how height can produce a different perspective to shot, by utilising focal distances and framing.  The first shot is taken with Anna is using a small set of ladders to obtain a different angle and with a digital lens at about 36mm (2 x crop so roughly 72mm).  This elevation allows you to show more of the model including the length of her hair, but still keep the flowers too.

Anna with flowers from high
Anna Stacey

For this shot the manual 50mm (100mm equivalent) was used, which filled the frame and allowed me to play with field of depth as there was a smaller subject area to light.

anna with flowers close up
Anna Stacey



Following this article you have seen just a few examples where you can get it wrong and how easily you can adjust your position to create the shot.  The example images are not perfect in quality terms for exposure and field of depth due to the lighting and lack of knowledge by the photographer (myself).  All the images are shown for instructional purposes, are unedited and are designed to guide you to consider not just sharpness but what you want (framing) in the shot.

To summarise some of the points from the shots and lessons to learn

  • understand composition
  • try different angles
  • be aware of the set size
  • use depth of field to help
  • plan shots

Hope you enjoyed the article and keep checking back for me, thanks again to the lovely models for their patience.

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