Top 6 Portrait Photography Mistakes And How To Fix Them

During the pandemic, it is quite difficult to get professional portraits: photo studios are closed, everyone is staying at home and keeping the distance. But if you take matters into your own hands, the result may look disappointing. When inexperienced photographers try to capture the genuine emotion or the inner beauty of their loved ones, they often forget to think of the right lighting, angle, background, and lots of other important things. We have prepared a list of the most common mistakes that you should avoid in portrait photos. 

  1. Taking Portraits in Harsh Light

Don’t put your model into bright midday sunlight: it creates an unflattering look with emphasized acne and wrinkles, deep shadows, and squinting eyes. If the sun is high in the sky, the model’s eyes can also look too dark and lifeless, without any catchlight. 

What to do: try to take portraits in soft light — the best time is in the morning or in the evening. If you have only daytime, opt for indoor photography, or find a suitable location in the shade.

  1. Using Direct Flash 

It is virtually impossible to take a good portrait using the built-in flash of your camera or smartphone. Why? The head-on direction of the flash totally erases shadows, and the model’s face features look flat and unnatural. Another unpleasant consequence is the red-eye effect, which makes your model look like a vampire.

What to do: soften the flash with the help of a translucent tissue or a piece of thin paper. Alternatively, take your model to a place where you can use soft daylight (recommended).

  1. Choosing the Wrong Location

The perfect location is not that easy to find. It should be visually balanced: attractive but not too cluttered, with enough light and shade to experiment. Remember that unwanted objects will draw attention away from your model: make sure that passers-by, dustbins, stray dogs, and other undesirable items will not get in the final picture.

What to do: think of a good location in advance. You may prepare it at home, in a room with a big window. Another option is to take a walk in the nearby park or forest and make mental notes of beautiful bridges, blooming trees, etc.

  1. Having a Distracting Background

This mistake might look like the previous one, but it is about something different: the brightness. sharpness, color, and contrast of the portrait background. For instance, if you put the model in a shady area to avoid direct midday light, a bright and sunny background will “steal the show” — especially if there is something colorful, like red buildings or yellow banners.

What to do: choose the background wisely. In some cases, it would be better to blur it, so as to draw maximum attention to the model.

  1. Putting the Model’s Face into the Center

It is a common composition mistake that makes even a good portrait look boring. How about moving your model to the side to place more emphasis on the face? 

What to do: apply the Rule of Thirds — you may do it mentally or turn on the grid on your camera or smartphone screen. It looks like this: two vertical and two horizontal lines divide your image into nine equal rectangles. There are 4 intersection points — in portrait photography, the model’s eyeline should be positioned in one of the upper two intersections. Leave more space in the direction of your model’s glance.

  1. Cropping in the Wrong Places

If you are new to photography, portrait cropping may seem somewhat tricky. If you “cut off” your model’s fingers or toes, it will look unnatural. By all means avoid cropping at the joints – knees, elbows, wrists, neck, etc. Want to take a close-up? You can cut off the top of the model’s head, but never the chin.

What to do: to make your portrait look better, use the time-tested cropping points: below the knee, at mid-thigh, at the waist, across the upper arm. If you want to take a waist portrait, the model’s arms and hands should be above the crop line.

If you have already made all those mistakes, do not worry: in most cases, it’s possible to correct them during post-processing. There are lots of smart photo editors for both computers and mobile devices. If you prefer to fix pictures on a smartphone, get Facetune portrait editing app to quickly retouch your selfies: remove red eyes and blemishes, blur the background, and apply digital makeup. 

For those who process photos on their computers, PhotoDiva portrait editing software will be just the right thing. It performs instant beautification of pictures: you can smoothen the skin, remove strangers and shadows, replace the background, and apply artsy effects and filters.

Now you know how to avoid the most common mistakes in photo portraiture. The next thing is to put this knowledge into practice. Good luck!