Any photographer that has even the smallest interest in improving their skills will attest to having the rules of composition beaten into their heads.  These rules are the foundation of what makes a good image good.  Portraiture is no different.  However, living within the boundaries of those rules can be a hurdle when trying to make your portraits stand out.

It’s good to have a portrait that follows the rules.  Sometimes, it can be great when you know those rules and purposefully break (or just slightly massage them).

Effectively breaking out of the compositional rule mold can give an image the punch it needs to stand out from the crowd.  Here are 5 way to use a bit of rule-breaking to your advantage:

1. Alter Your Perspective –

Most portraits are taken with the camera near eye level of the subject. While this is good common sense – completely changing the angle that you shoot from can give your portrait a real WOW factor.

Get up high and shoot down on your subject or get as close to the ground as you can and shoot up. Either way you’ll be seeing your subject from an angle that is bound to create interest.


2. Play around with Eye Contact

It is amazing how much your subject’s eyes can change the feel of an image. Most portraits tend to have the subject looking down the lens which does create a feeling of connection between a subject and viewer. But consider this:

Try having your subject focus their attention on something either outside of the frame or at something (possibly someone) within the frame.  This one small change can help your images tell more of a “story”.

3. Disobeying the Rule of Thirds

The Rule of Thirds is one of the rules that can be effective to break.  Putting your subject smack dab in the center can really add strength to an image.

The same effect can be had by slamming your subject way off to the edge of the frame.  If you know the Rule of Thirds and also know how to effectively break it, you can give an image a boost that’ll really make your portraits stand out.

4. Play with Lighting

Lighting adds a whole new dimension to an image.

Lighting from the side can create drama in an image while backlighting can really add depth.  You can go a step further with backlighting to create a silhouette which can completely change the feel of an image.

5. Be Candid

If done right, posing your subject can be quite effective.  If done wrong, posed shots look very….well…..POSED!  If you’re working with a subject that is having a problem loosening up in front of the camera, try letting them do their thing in a more natural environment.

Shooting your subject while interacting with family or doing something that they love keeps their mind off of the person with the camera and helps them relax. Getting shots of your subject smiling while interacting is a great way to make sure that the smile you get is genuine.

If you have the gear, use a longer zoom lens and shoot from across a room to stay completely hidden and really get some genuine emotion.

I hope these ideas effectively help you make your portraits stand out.

As always, thanks for stopping by and spending a few minutes with me this week.  If you like what you’ve read here, please subscribe and share via the social media links.  You can also find MTM Photography on TwitterFacebook, and Instagram so be sure to check out those pages!  I’ll see ya next week!