3 Keys to Amazing Portrait Photography

3 Keys to Amazing Portrait Photography

westchester on location family photographer_ jane goodrich

As a parent, you likely struggle to get consistently great images of your kids. Totally acceptable, it’s not like you don’t have other things to worry about, right? However, if you could just take five minutes to improve your images, would you? All you need to do is read through these five key points and try to incorporate one or two into your next portrait of your child. Here goes:


This one is a bit of a trick, as it means two things – not just one. First, you want your overall image to be in focus, or at the least your subject. This means learning how to use your camera to focus as well as overriding focus modes when needed (such as with action photography). If you have difficulty getting consistently sharp images it may be time to sit down with your camera manual and figure out how the different focus modes work, as well as how to set focus points manually on your camera so you can tell it exactly where to focus, rather than letting your camera decide.

Second is where you choose to focus. When you are taking portraits or images of people you are typically working with a shallow depth of field, so what you choose as the main focus point is important. For close-up portraits, you typically want the eye closest to the camera as your focus point unless something else takes precedence (such as a mouth full of food). For portraits that include more surroundings your subject becomes the focal point in most scenarios, so you want to ensure that they are perfectly focused.


Using colors in portrait photography can go a long way to creating a better overall image – simply by setting your subject (or even part of your subject) apart from their surroundings using color contrast. Think about where your photo shoot is going to take place and try to choose colors that are going to “pop” against the background. For example, at the park you wouldn’t want your child dressed in dark green as they wouldn’t stand out from their surroundings. Here are some suggestions:

–          At the park: Yellow, blue, pink and khaki

–          At the beach: Pink, yellow, green and white

–          In the city: Reds, blues, black and white (pastels too)

–          Blank white wall: Any color but white/beige, patterns too

For indoor photo shoots, you simply need to find something that stands out against your background. Choose brighter colors for older kids, pastels for babies and toddlers. By making an effort to dress your kids to stand out against the background, you’ll make them a more important part of the images you create.


When you are composing an image, try to include some space around your child, preferably to the side they are looking. This helps create a more dynamic image that encourages the viewer to look around a bit, rather than simply being ahead. The same goes for full-body portraits; try to leave some space around your subject. It can really help to read up on the Rule of Thirds for more tips on placing your subject (and focal) point in the frame to create a more interesting overall image.

That’s it! Now grab your camera and start creating some fantastic images of your kids! 

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