10 Portrait Composition Tips to Frame Your Subject Perfectly

#2 – Use the rule of thirds

Portraits with the person smack in the middle of the frame feel a bit average, boring even. Using the rule of thirds, as you would for any of your photography, place the subject off-center to add interest. Let’s compare the following two versions of the same portrait. Portrait composition 03 In this version the model is dead center and the image feel static.

Just by cropping in a little bit and putting her off-center it puts more of the focus on her, and feels more dynamic than the first one. Here are a couple more examples using this tip.

Photo by Darlene Hildebrandt

As you may have noticed, I love horizontal portraits of head shots. But what if you want to shoot it vertically? In that case use the eyes for the rule of thirds placement. This is not set in stone, as we’ll see later about breaking rules, but a good starting point.

The camera is tilted slightly for a little interest, and they model’s eyes are roughly on the third line placement. So even though she is mostly centered side to side, think about where the eyes and face are in relation to the frame. If you are going to leave a lot of space around the subject, know WHY you are doing it. Have a purpose for the space and compose with intent. Here are some reasons why you want to leave some space and a look at how much space is enough.

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