12 Creative Portrait Ideas

Chances are when someone hears the word “portrait” they think of something like this: “Plain, monochromatic background. Focus on the face. Everyone look at the camera now and say, “Cheese!””. (Very yearbook-ish, right?)

While a quality portrait should definitely highlight the subject, it should also capture the essence of the subject’s personality and best features.  Here are 12 creative portrait ideas that will take your headshots from “simple” to “extraordinary”…

Creative Portrait Idea #1:

Square Between the Eyes – By cropping in tight against the face, the subject’s eyes become the focal point and seem to fill the entire frame. A square shape provides a fresh twist on the standard rectangular photo.

Flickr: s-t-r-a-n-g-e

Creative Portrait Idea #2:

Become a High-Key Master – High-key means to shoot against a white background and over-exposing the subject. This artistic technique allows the subject’s finer details to shine through, creating a unique gallery-worthy photo.

Flickr: Ben Zvan

Creative Portrait Idea #3:

Get Emotional – There’s no rule that states portraits should only be taken of happy, smiling faces. Instead, make an effort to capture your subject’s raw emotion and invite your viewer to share in the subject’s joy or sorrow.

Flickr: wGGta


Creative Portrait Idea #4:

Line ‘Em Up! Break away from the traditional standing side-by-side group shot! By incorporating the use of vertical lines, the photo is automatically more interesting and engaging.

Flickr: slemmon

Creative Portrait Idea #5:

Mirror, Mirror – Give your photos a striking edge! Post-production techniques and filters such as mirror imagery help keep your creative juice flowing long after the camera has been put away!

Flickr: shannonkringen

Creative Portrait Idea #6:

Focus Away from the Face – Headshots are always nice, but by focusing on the baby’s feet and his mother’s hands, the photographer captures a tender moment that will be cherished for years to come.

Flickr: babasteve

Creative Portrait Idea #7:

Draw in the Details – This portrait maintains its focus on girl’s eyes by hiding the remaining two-thirds of her face with a large red flower. The bold use of color makes for a captivating work of art!

Flickr: 28045310@N08

Creative Portrait Idea #8:

Use Your Environment – Explore the use of depth of field and use your environment – or surroundings – to your advantage. In this portrait, the background allows the viewer to take in the crowd milling about, while the focus is on the child holding a bright bouquet of flowers.

Flickr: flydime

Creative Portrait Idea #9:

Up Close ‘n Personal – Don’t be afraid to get in close and tight! While doing so will likely cut off part of the subject’s face or head, this only adds to the dramatic effect.

Flickr: ammgramm

Creative Portrait Idea #10:

A Change in Perspective – Every now and then, a change in perspective is just what the doctor ordered. Here we see the subject enjoying the sunny day, while the seagulls soaring high above also remain in focus. Experiment by getting above, below and along-side your subjects for truly fantastic shots.

Flickr: mikelo

Creative Portrait Idea #11:

The Anti-Portrait – We all have those, “Don’t take my picture!” moments. But deliberately concealing the subject’s face can be a great technique for candid shots as well as fun editorial pieces. For example, this portrait could be used to illustrate the anti-social behavior many coffee drinkers exhibit before consuming their first cup of Joe…

Flickr: kyle92

Creative Portrait Idea #12:

Looking Away – Who says you should always be looking straight at the camera? Some subjects, like children, may prefer to look away from your lens as opposed to head-on. Respect their shyness and use it to your advantage. Note how the focus here is soft and light, creating an almost angelic appearance.

Flickr: frankjuarez


Whether you decide to use one or all of these creative portrait ideas, remember this: To truly get the feel for taking quality portraits, allow yourself to be photographed on occasion as well. You will not only gain valuable perspective from the subject’s point of view, but you’ll also be able to share your growing knowledge with others.

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