Some Very Practical Tips For Choosing Subject In Portrait Photography

nomad boy


Simple Tips For Portrait Photography

Portrait photography looks simple but needs lot of techniques and artistic vision. But the initial and most important challenge is the selection of subject  Here we are discussing some very basic but inevitable points to shoot some awesome portraits of interesting faces specially in street photography.

Selection Of Subject

The most crucial moment for a portrait photographer is the selection of subject. Most of the time it is your personal decision and reflects your interests, education, vocabulary  and demand. A face having depth and shine in eyes, a girl with beautiful hair, a boy with gloomy eyes, an old woman with wrinkles on her face or an old man having turban or hat on his head may be the good subjects. Some time you are on an assignment and need a specific face which may be the key shot of your report. Picture of Sharbat Gula    or Afghan girl is an example here. No doubt it is a glorious portrait with expressions and deep sea green eyes but its real importance was attached to its link with world’s political situation.  When you are in a street for photography you must be keen enough to search for interesting faces. People walking around in the streets and festivals are mostly in a hurry and you have to decide quickly to have a candid shot of an interesting face.

Personally when ever I go for documentary photography in rural festivals like village fairs and seasonal celebrations, I always look for some face that is unusual, interesting and graceful. Your subject must reflect the grace of your land.

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Sometimes when I am in search of portraits of some malangs( mystic men ) I choose very clean, healthy and graceful faces. Subjects with big and attractive eyes are of my special interest. Bright clear eyes give a good catch light feel which is one of the most important element of a good portrait.

mystic man

Kids are very popular subject for portrait photography. Kids to be shoot must have innocent look. Crook and over smart children never be a good subject. On the other hand subjects must not have a stupid look.

a young nomad boy


A subject have depth and attraction in his eyes is always a good choice. Sunken, lifeless eyes are the worst element in a portraits and should be avoided unless you are shooting some celebrity with these features. As other elements of photography, choice of subject also reflects your personality, mood,state of mind and and environment in which you are living or shooting. A dirty nomad boy with running nose may be an interesting subject for some one but I personally never shoot such faces. I always go for some cleaner and presentable looks.

Shooting cultural portraits looks just easy and a point and shoot job. But I felt a tough choice while I was shooting in Kalash Valleys of Chitral District Pakistan. Kalash Girls are famous in the world for their beauty and cultural dresses but it gave me a tough time to select a unique face among the otherwise monotonous beauty. beautiful kalash girls

Any subject which do not have captivating expressions is useless  and in my opinion portrait photography is all about expressions. “How you shoot” is very important but “when you shoot” is more important in portrait photography. I normally take an initial picture of the subject which is not my final picture. Just a while after the first click, subject becomes relax, gives very natural expression and I shoot my final shot.

So while you prepare for portrait photography you must have lot of vocabulary of the subjects and faces you are going to shoot and must have a clear vision about the final pictures you want to have in your bag. Vocabulary is necessary not to copy the portraits you have in mind but to create something different and stunning following the basics of portrait photography.

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