Tips to click Great People Portraits with your Phone Camera - Photography Tips, Tricks & Hacks

Today one of my friends reached out if I can do online Photography session for kids during this Lockdown period due to COVID-19. Initially I thought it would be very hard to do something online as I usually prefer workshops with hands-on practices and interactive sessions.  I was not sure how can make kids learn basic of cameras and how to use them in best way. But when I though more, I realised it's a special time when every kid is spending 24 hours in a day inside the house, so why not having something which makes them appreciate things inside their house while learning to use their cameras, creativity and post-processing softwares.     I will be doing first online photography workshop for Kids on coming Sunday and this blogpost is to compile some content for first session. And it's not only about preparation of this session, but this tutorial would be beneficial for anyone who is interested in understanding how they can click some awesome portraits with Mobile Phone Cameras. So let's start.    [Related to Camera] Your Focus on subject has to be right !

Today one of my friends reached out if I can do online Photography session for kids during this Lockdown period due to COVID-19. Initially I thought it would be very hard to do something online as I usually prefer workshops with hands-on practices and interactive sessions.  I was not sure how can make kids learn basic of cameras and how to use them in best way. But when I though more, I realised it's a special time when every kid is spending 24 hours in a day inside the house, so why not having something which makes them appreciate things inside their house while learning to use their cameras, creativity and post-processing softwares. 

I will be doing first online photography workshop for Kids on coming Sunday and this blogpost is to compile some content for first session. And it's not only about preparation of this session, but this tutorial would be beneficial for anyone who is interested in understanding how they can click some awesome portraits with Mobile Phone Cameras. So let's start.


[Related to Camera] Your Focus on subject has to be right !

The subject is the most important aspect of portrait photography and portrait photography is not only about people, but in this blogpost we shall focus on People Portraits. So in this post 'Portrait' mean 'people portrait'. So make sure that your camera focus is right and you can also take care of any movements of subject of other things you want to keep in frame.

The subject is the most important aspect of portrait photography and portrait photography is not only about people, but in this blogpost we shall focus on People Portraits. So in this post 'Portrait' mean 'people portrait'. So make sure that your camera focus is right and you can also take care of any movements of subject of other things you want to keep in frame. 

If you are using mobile phone camera, keeping subject in focus is pretty easy. Just tap on subject and let your camera lens focus. As subject is in focus and preview is sharp, then click the photograph at right moment. 


[Related to Subject] Candid or staged Portrait? 

Some people are just not comfortable posing, so shooting candid photographs of such people can be great. While some folks are awesome at posing to even setting up frame for you. So you can decide whom you want to click in a staged frame and who can look best in candid. When in doubt, try both and look at results to pick best ones according to you and the subject.

Some people are just not comfortable posing, so shooting candid photographs of such people can be great. While some folks are awesome at posing to even setting up frame for you. So you can decide whom you want to click in a staged frame and who can look best in candid. When in doubt, try both and look at results to pick best ones according to you and the subject.  

At times, when you chose to click staged portraits you need to make sure that you have make subjects comfortable. As I write this line, that's my weakness. I had to leave the idea of wedding photography because in a wedding you are supposed to shoot lot of people and one of the key to create some awesome portraits is how quickly you can mingle with people so that are comfortable when you click their photograph & support you photograph with right amount of smile on face with a lovely expression on the face. 

What do you think about above photograph? Is it candid or 
staged portrait? 

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[Related to Subject] Amount of comfort or discomfort defines your portrait !

Can you reflect personality of your subject in your portraits? Depending upon your subject you need to decide what exactly you want to do while taking a shot. Some subjects are more expressive when they are comfortable while some surprise you when they are not in comfort. So chose tricks when you are shooting. There are so many tricks like that to take our people from their comfort zone.     In above photograph, mom of this kid is taking their toys and giving back and the photograph is clicked when kid is smiling & fully engaged.

Can you reflect personality of your subject in your portraits? Depending upon your subject you need to decide what exactly you want to do while taking a shot. Some subjects are more expressive when they are comfortable while some surprise you when they are not in comfort. So chose tricks when you are shooting. There are so many tricks like that to take our people from their comfort zone. 

In above photograph, mom of this kid is taking their toys and giving back and the photograph is clicked when kid is smiling & fully engaged. 

Some more examples - 

- After setting up a frame with appropriate lighting background and subject in a position, crack a joke or say something which surprise/shock the subject :). 

- You explicitly ask subject to do something crazy - jump, run, walk or mimic something.


[Related to Subject] Make your subject try different eyes orientation or eye contact ( or maybe capture natural eye expressions ): 

Eyes are important part of people portraits and eyes expressions, orientation or eye contact brings whole lot of difference to a photograph.

Eyes are important part of people portraits and eyes expressions, orientation or eye contact brings whole lot of difference to a photograph. 

Above photograph shows me and my niece. This photograph is clicked by Vibha and it's candid shot, which means I didn't know she is going to click our photograph. Urvi's expressions are priceless and that expression makes it one of my favourites.

Above photograph shows me and my niece. This photograph is clicked by Vibha and it's candid shot, which means I didn't know she is going to click our photograph. Urvi's expressions are priceless and that expression makes it one of my favourites. 

Have your subject look at something else but not into camera - Does that cliched shot comes to you head where someone look on the side with chin a little up. I am certainly not talking about that, but more about making your subject look at something which makes things emotional for subject and make subject feel special about that object/person. While doing so, you may want to include the other object around other edge of the photograph. You can even have other subject part of the frame. For example - you are clicking Dad with his kid both looking towards each other expressing some kind of emotion.

Have your subject look at something else but not into camera - Does that cliched shot comes to you head where someone look on the side with chin a little up. I am certainly not talking about that, but more about making your subject look at something which makes things emotional for subject and make subject feel special about that object/person. While doing so, you may want to include the other object around other edge of the photograph. You can even have other subject part of the frame. For example - you are clicking Dad with his kid both looking towards each other expressing some kind of emotion. 

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[Related to Subject] Expressions, Emotions and balanced acts can create memorable portraits

Many times you come across instances which offer great opportunities to click portraits which can become memorable for future. I clearly remember above photograph which was clicked at Stanford University in California. This photograph shows father-daughter duo. Father made some comment about his daughter's education in Stanford and daughter is pushing him to cover up her shyness about the comment in front of whole group of friends.     [Related to Camera] Experiment with different Perspectives and create something unusual :

Many times you come across instances which offer great opportunities to click portraits which can become memorable for future. I clearly remember above photograph which was clicked at Stanford University in California. This photograph shows father-daughter duo. Father made some comment about his daughter's education in Stanford and daughter is pushing him to cover up her shyness about the comment in front of whole group of friends. 


[Related to Camera] Experiment with different Perspectives and create something unusual : 

Many times we think of clicking portraits by keeping our camera at eyes level and that too by keeping camera parallel to the ground level. That's a default instinct and may times photographers just click photographs while standing while some may optimise the position by bending the legs a little or by sitting down to match positions of the subject.

Many times we think of clicking portraits by keeping our camera at eyes level and that too by keeping camera parallel to the ground level. That's a default instinct and may times photographers just click photographs while standing while some may optimise the position by bending the legs a little or by sitting down to match positions of the subject. 

Now that you know some usual ways portraits are clicked, let's talk about what all you can experiment with. You can get up & go a little high to shoot the subject downwards or probably lay down and click a photograph upwards. Not only your position but position of camera brings a lot of difference. E.g. - while standing, even taking the camera up and shooting downwards or while laying down, tilt the camera to get a great upward shot.  Such tricks give you a unusual perspective and hence makes your photograph different than the normal.

Now that you know some usual ways portraits are clicked, let's talk about what all you can experiment with. You can get up & go a little high to shoot the subject downwards or probably lay down and click a photograph upwards. Not only your position but position of camera brings a lot of difference. E.g. - while standing, even taking the camera up and shooting downwards or while laying down, tilt the camera to get a great upward shot.  Such tricks give you a unusual perspective and hence makes your photograph different than the normal. 

Above photograph is another example wherein I sat down and even then tilted the camera upwards to have an unusual view in this portrait.     [Composition Rules] Follow some rules of Composition

Above photograph is another example wherein I sat down and even then tilted the camera upwards to have an unusual view in this portrait. 

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[Composition Rules] Follow some rules of Composition

Some of the common rules of composition in photography can be applied to portraits and you may find those rules applied to most of the photographs shared in this blogpost.     [Composition Rules] Breaking composition rules in a creative way can be more rewarding !

Some of the common rules of composition in photography can be applied to portraits and you may find those rules applied to most of the photographs shared in this blogpost. 
[Composition Rules] Breaking composition rules in a creative way can be more rewarding !

There are a lot of rules in the world of Photography and it's important to understand/appreciate these rules of composing your photographs, but not following these rules or breaking these rules can be even more rewarding.     When you go check some of the powerful portraits on internet you won't believe that there are so many examples which don't follow any rule but still there are some very impactful portraits out there.

There are a lot of rules in the world of Photography and it's important to understand/appreciate these rules of composing your photographs, but not following these rules or breaking these rules can be even more rewarding. 

When you go check some of the powerful portraits on internet you won't believe that there are so many examples which don't follow any rule but still there are some very impactful portraits out there. 

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[Lighting] Understand different kinds of lighting conditions and be creative with it !

[Lighting] Understand different kinds of lighting conditions and be creative with it !    Kind of light and quality of light has huge impact on photograph you create. Certain kind of photographs can be clicked well in soft light while some in harsh light.

Kind of light and quality of light has huge impact on photograph you create. Certain kind of photographs can be clicked well in soft light while some in harsh light. 

When you observe some interesting light pattern, make good use of it. Above photograph is clicked around a spot where light was hitting a particular spot and area around that was dark. It create some interesting photographs. You can find such places inside your house and create some awesome portraits within your house.

When you observe some interesting light pattern, make good use of it. Above photograph is clicked around a spot where light was hitting a particular spot and area around that was dark. It create some interesting photographs. You can find such places inside your house and create some awesome portraits within your house. 

Side-lighting, backlighting, divided light, or silhouetting can be some specific kinds of techniques you can try with your portraits. Above photograph is clicked in sunlight but reflector is also used to have even lighting on face. If you don't have reflectors any good reflecting surface can be used for the same - steel plate, white-board etc.

Side-lighting, backlighting, divided light, or silhouetting can be some specific kinds of techniques you can try with your portraits. Above photograph is clicked in sunlight but reflector is also used to have even lighting on face. If you don't have reflectors any good reflecting surface can be used for the same - steel plate, white-board etc.  

Above photograph is clicked around sand dune where only sources of light were these lanterns. So use your creative thinking and create something exceptional.

Above photograph is clicked around sand dune where only sources of light were these lanterns. So use your creative thinking and create something exceptional. 

Notice above photograph wherein direct light is only hitting the face of this boat-woman. I was on other boat and was waiting her boat to hit this spot. Have differential lighting makes this portrait a bit special. It's more of an environmental portrait, in which you see more objects which define the story of your main portrait. Can you figure out the story of this lady from above photograph? Always keep in mind that photograph creation is also a story telling exercise and better photographs have interesting stories to interpret.     Lighting tip when you are clicking portrait at home - Window-side can be a great place to click portraits and the light from different durations of the day would create different kinds of portraits. Want to experiment - Click portrait of a family member every 3rd hour, starting at 8am till 5pm. This experiment would also make you appreciate the difference between soft and harsh light. When direct light is hitting face of your subject is harsh light and the light hitting body of the subject through reflection, it becomes softer.

Notice above photograph wherein direct light is only hitting the face of this boat-woman. I was on other boat and was waiting her boat to hit this spot. Have differential lighting makes this portrait a bit special. It's more of an environmental portrait, in which you see more objects which define the story of your main portrait. Can you figure out the story of this lady from above photograph? Always keep in mind that photograph creation is also a story telling exercise and better photographs have interesting stories to interpret. 

Lighting tip when you are clicking portrait at home - Window-side can be a great place to click portraits and the light from different durations of the day would create different kinds of portraits. Want to experiment - Click portrait of a family member every 3rd hour, starting at 8am till 5pm. This experiment would also make you appreciate the difference between soft and harsh light. When direct light is hitting face of your subject is harsh light and the light hitting body of the subject through reflection, it becomes softer.  

[About Environment] Background/props add lot of value to a portrait 

Blurring the background puts focus on portrait, while not blurring an interesting background is also a recommended thing. Figure out portrait mode in your phone cameras which usually blurs the background to experiment and when you have interesting backgrounds which you want to keep, move to normal photo click mode in your phone camera.

Blurring the background puts focus on portrait, while not blurring an interesting background is also a recommended thing. Figure out portrait mode in your phone cameras which usually blurs the background to experiment and when you have interesting backgrounds which you want to keep, move to normal photo click mode in your phone camera. 

Above photograph is interesting because of it's background, which adds a perspective. And almost every Indian can figure out that this photograph is clicked somewhere around Dal Lake in Kashmir. So at times you keep few things in frame so that viewers can connect well with your photograph. The dress, kind of boat, small water stream with house around it & trees. Combining all these factors help viewer conclude that it's Kashmir. Travel portraits typically look very different that ones stages at house, studio, offices, schools etc.

Above photograph is interesting because of it's background, which adds a perspective. And almost every Indian can figure out that this photograph is clicked somewhere around Dal Lake in Kashmir. So at times you keep few things in frame so that viewers can connect well with your photograph. The dress, kind of boat, small water stream with house around it & trees. Combining all these factors help viewer conclude that it's Kashmir. Travel portraits typically look very different that ones stages at house, studio, offices, schools etc. 

Above photograph shows an example where this bubble gun and bubbles are used as props to enhance the character of this portraits. Having relevant props in photographs enhance character of the portrait, but it's equally important to add appropriate/relevant props as props tell a story about the portrait you are clicking.     [ About Environment ] Natural framing makes portraits more interesting.

Above photograph shows an example where this bubble gun and bubbles are used as props to enhance the character of this portraits. Having relevant props in photographs enhance character of the portrait, but it's equally important to add appropriate/relevant props as props tell a story about the portrait you are clicking. 

[ About Environment ] Natural framing makes portraits more interesting. 

Above photograph shows a portrait clicked through pillars of a heritage building in Rajasthan state of India. Natural framing at times can be very interesting - it's associates the portrait with a place or environment along with enriching overall photograph.     Portraits of people in action :

Above photograph shows a portrait clicked through pillars of a heritage building in Rajasthan state of India. Natural framing at times can be very interesting - it's associates the portrait with a place or environment along with enriching overall photograph. 

Portraits of people in action : 

Portraits become more meaningful when humans in action are clicked and especially real action. Above photograph shows a priest distributing prasadam in a temple and one of the visitor extending his hands towards the priest to take blessings in terms of curd-rice prasadam.     At home, you can try clicking photograph of your parents reading newspapers while enjoying their morning tea.

Portraits become more meaningful when humans in action are clicked and especially real action. Above photograph shows a priest distributing prasadam in a temple and one of the visitor extending his hands towards the priest to take blessings in terms of curd-rice prasadam. 

At home, you can try clicking photograph of your parents reading newspapers while enjoying their morning tea. 


Portraits become more meaningful when humans in action are clicked and especially real action. Above photograph shows a priest distributing prasadam in a temple and one of the visitor extending his hands towards the priest to take blessings in terms of curd-rice prasadam.     At home, you can try clicking photograph of your parents reading newspapers while enjoying their morning tea.

Maintaining appropriate distance between Subject and Camera is important : 

Even if you want to click close-up, don't go too close to the subject and prefer using zoom. Maintaining good distance ensures that you have right perspective captured & overall portrait is balanced. If you go too close, it may distort the physical appearance of your subject. So remember to prefer Zoom over going too close to the subject.

Even if you want to click close-up, don't go too close to the subject and prefer using zoom. Maintaining good distance ensures that you have right perspective captured & overall portrait is balanced. If you go too close, it may distort the physical appearance of your subject. So remember to prefer Zoom over going too close to the subject. 

Finally here is a quiz for you, which of the following portraits do you like and why? Along with this quick, let me share the final tip. Click a series of portraits when you set the background, add props & know that you have desired lighting for the portrait. That way you have lot of options to chose from. You get to show multiple photographs to the subject and pick the ones which s/he likes. 

It would be interesting to hear from you through comments about your opinion about photographs used in this blogpost. Which one you liked the most and why?     With that, don't forget to check out our next blogpost about how some tips around how to do post-processing of People Portraits and in that blogpost we will some of the photographs from this post & see how to make these portraits more impactful through wise editing.

It would be interesting to hear from you through comments about your opinion about photographs used in this blogpost. Which one you liked the most and why? 

With that, don't forget to check out our next blogpost about how some tips around how to do post-processing of People Portraits and in that blogpost we will some of the photographs from this post & see how to make these portraits more impactful through wise editing. 

Comments

All the photos are so wonderful
Thanks Durga Prasad. Hope this post is helpful.

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