What is a Portrait?
The short answer is that a portrait is an image showing “the likeness” of a person by featuring his or her face. You've probably noticed that old photographs often look rigid and dull. Reason being, photographers would have to use neck braces and/or posing chairs to keep subjects from moving, due to the fact that old cameras had to have looonnng exposures.
Nowadays we have more creative freedom with our portraits due to the advent of digital photography and post-production processing tools like Adobe® Photoshop® and Lightroom®.
Even still, compared to a camera lens, our eyes are better able to process more color, shape, definition, and light. Knowing this, it is our job as photographers to manipulate the imperfections of a camera lens to offer the most flattering view of a subject or model.
The most important thing when taking portraits? Photographers need to be aware of the subjects chin and jawline. Digital images tend to flatten the subject; so if the defining lines of the chin and neck are absent, you could make the person look flat with no dimension.
What are the Different Portrait Camera Angles?
There are five camera angles that you should be aware of when taking portrait photos. Starting with the highest to lowest angles: Bird’s Eye View, High View, Neutral View, Low View, and Worm’s Eye View.
Bird’s Eye View: Great for capturing people lying down on the ground or floor, or a person’s upper body clothing/accessories. One fun trick is to have your subject pose with a smile and look down at a 45-degree angle. This pose is playful and gives the subject a sense of happiness and child-like innocence. It’s recommended to only use this angle to highlight hair or facial features, otherwise you could make people appear shorter than they actually are.
"A chicken is a bird right?"
High Camera Angle: This angle is best for head and shoulders shots because the jawline of the subject is strengthened; it also eliminates the risk of creating the dreaded double-chin. Most magazine covers use this angle to offer the most flattering portraits. Stand straight at the subject’s eye line to take this photo.
Neutral Camera Angle: This is a waist high angle used for most human subjects. This angle is the “safest” choice and works with all types of clothing. The angle gives no sense of scale for the subject, so it works well for people who are below average height. This is the go-to angle for passport photos, yearbook photos, LinkedIn profiles, etc. It’s probably the most “honest” camera angle—meaning the closest to what the person looks like in real-life. Stand in an “arrow stance” (front leg bent and one leg straight back) in order to get just underneath the subject’s eye line.
"This picture contains no chicken"
Low Camera Angle: This angle suits almost all print, that is—magazines, brochures, postcards, and gallery pictures. This is a popular angle for business portraits because it makes the subjects look powerful and strong. It’s good for full body pictures. Think Greek statues. This angle is achieved by the photographer getting down on one or both knees and sitting on their heels.
"This is a serious poultry errr...portrait."
Worm’s Eye View: This is the go-to fashion editorial angle, requiring the photographer to get down on the ground or floor as if he/she is a worm. This angle makes people appear even more statuesque than the low camera angle. I like to call it the power or “queen/king” angle (especially if the person is looking down at the camera). It’s a very difficult angle to pull off if the model isn't posed right, but it really highlights the body shape and outfit when done correctly.
"We run this coop."
Bird's Eye View
Worm's Eye View
Questions? Would love to hear from you in the comments. Looking for a photography camp? iD Tech offers a number of different photography courses for kids and teens. Good luck!