5 creative portrait photography ideas.

Learn how to stage the most engaging portraits with these awesome, easy tips.

Portraits are a flexible art, ranging in sophistication from the casual portrait mode snap on your phone to yearbook photos, work headshots, magazine covers and more. The range of quality is vast because the range of creative opportunities is also vast.

Learn more about how to combine innovative ideas, artful poses, brilliant composition, and dramatic lighting to create striking portrait photography that stands apart in a world of faces.

Get inspired with these 5 portrait ideas.

To take your creative portrait photography to the next level, you first need to get a handle on the basics. So, what is it exactly that makes a photo? Light, composition, color, perspective.

Your lighting technique determines the range of lights and darks, helping you create fun contrast and shadows. Composition is how you put your image together. What's in the foreground? The background? What are you focusing on, and where is it? Color is self-explanatory but playing with different juxtapositions can produce dramatic effects. And perspective is how you're looking at it all: a close crop on a facial feature, a zoomed-out pose with a striking background.

The following ideas all play on these basic elements — take a look and find your inspiration.

  1. Build a theme. A fun kind of portrait shoot could revolve around a character or theme. Perhaps you want to stage a fairytale photoshoot in the woods with flowers and whimsical costumes. Or an underwater scuba scene. Determine a unique theme that can help you push your creative bounds.
  2. Let the model inform the photo. Or you can flip the paradigm on its head; let the model inform the shoot. Seek out faces that speak to you and build a composition around those features. For instance, you may spot someone with striking eyes or wild hair. Maybe you play with close-ups of the eyes or arrange the hair in interesting ways. You could even light up certain features to cast shadows on others.
  3. Use light as a background. Create whimsical patterns with simple light tools and camera settings. Place your camera on a tripod and slow your shutter speed. Then, use a flashlight to draw patterns or swing around string lights. The motion, captured through a slow shutter speed, becomes a pattern — and a brilliant backdrop for a portrait.
  4. And use light as a pattern. You can also make patterns with light and shadow by positioning your subject behind or amongst shadow-casting shapes, like slatted windows or a chain-link fence. It will create a pattern that plays out on your subject’s face, adding to the narrative and drama of your portrait.
  5. Experiment with reflections. Use props like water, mirrors, and windows to create reflections and spatial illusions. Seeing your subject's face through a reflection changes the perspective and helps you capture more angles while also adding dynamism to the setting or space.

The fun doesn’t stop there. Explore more photography tips and tricks for realizing your creative portrait vision.

Refine your portrait in the editing process.

Even more drama comes out in the portrait editing process. Enhance those images in Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom to fully realize your creative vision.