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Every on-location portraitist is faced with the challenge of paying attention to the details regarding his or her subject, such as posing, lighting, composition etc. Perhaps the greatest mistake made by amateur on-location portrait photographers is the lack of emphasis placed on a portrait’s background surroundings.
Photographers who do not closely examine the surroundings within the frame of their image are those who come away with images that have great distractions. No high school senior or bride will purchase a portrait in which a tree limb is sticking out of her head. Such distracting elements take emphasis off the subject, and are detrimental to the portraitist’s sales. There is nothing more painful for a portraitist than taking a portrait that is beautifully posed, gorgeously lit, and absolutely unusable … simply because no attention was given to background composition!
Posing and lighting both play enormous roles in the creation of a dynamic portrait. However, background composition is a forgotten component that requires an equal amount of time and thought.
Some things to consider when creating a perfectly composed portrait:
1. Fill the frame with your subject
A portrait is about the person, so don’t be afraid to zoom in close! Remember that zooming in does not mean capturing only face shots. You can also capture “tight”, close up shots of your subject sitting on a stool or leaning into a tree.
2. Keep eyes in the upper third
This is the most natural spacing for a portrait. Try not to divert from this rule unless you are deliberately creating tension. Another exception of this rule is when a subject is full-bodied in the bottom third of the frame.