Great Portraits


As you set out on your journey to take better and better portrait photographs, you will discover some artistic concepts to help you along your path towards creating great shots. Try using the Elements of Design to focus your work:

  • Line
  • Shape
  • Value (shading)
  • Texture
  • Color
  • Form
  • Space

1. Great Values– (no , not family values) any photo that has a strong mixture of Highlights, Midtones and Shadows will bring a strong presence to your portraits.


Extreme darkness in the background focuses our attention on the planes of the face as they are highlighted. Our eyes move from shadow to light, studying the angles of the face.

2. Great Textures – if you feel like you could reach out and touch the image then it has created the illusion that it is real due to this surface texture.


The shiny smooth skin contrasts with the rough, scratchy stubble, creating interest and drama. Our eyes crawl slowly over the face, reading this story.

3. Great Shapes/Spaces – if the balance between your negative space and the shape of your subject is well planned, then your photo will draw and keep your viewer’s attention.


By moving the subject off-center and tilting his head, the artist creates a diagonal both with the edge of the face, and with the mustache.

4. Great Colors – if the vibrant hues of the photo are there, you can almost guarantee that your image will resonate with any audience.


Notice that the colors green and red are Complements (Opposites) on the color wheel so they enhance each other!

Great use of the Rule of Thirds – go back and look at each of the photos above once again. They all are placed slightly off-center, creating more space on one side of the face than the other. This unevenness generates drama and discomfort in our minds as we try to balance things out but cannot!

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