Portrait photography is one of the most popular iPhone photography genres. We love spending time and interacting with other people, and this love naturally extends to our photography as well. However, most iPhone users think of portrait photography as taking simple snapshots, and as a consequence their photos of people end up being nothing more than just snapshots.
However, with the right techniques and a bit of patience anyone can take amazing portrait photos, and in this article you’re going to find out how you can do that with your iPhone.
1. Show Candid Expressions
When most people are being photographed, they don’t particularly enjoy the process. They’re often conscious about their appearance, so they’ll either become uncomfortable or they’ll strike a pose (often involving a big fake smile) that they think will make them look good in photos.
The problem is that such photos don’t reveal the true character of the person, and even if the person looks good in such photos, they fail to convey the full story of that person. Because of that, you want to capture candid expressions in you portraits whenever possible.
2. Stay Unnoticed
One way to capture candid expressions in your photos is to simply stay unnoticed when taking a photo, and it’s relatively easy to do that with the iPhone since it’s such an unobtrusive device if compared to larger DSLR cameras. With the iPhone you can easily get closer to your subjects while hiding the iPhone or pretending that you’re using it for something else. And when the moment is exactly right, you don’t even have to touch your iPhone to take a photo!
Remember those white Apple headphones you got when you first bought your iPhone? If you press the volume up button on these headphones while the native Camera app is open, your iPhone will actually take a photo – and nobody will notice that you were taking a photo!
3. Keep Your Subjects Comfortable
Of course, there are times when staying unnoticed in not going to work, especially when you’re doing a portraiture session with someone you know. In these situations you should try to make your subjects comfortable so that they’re no longer concerned about their appearance. Simple things like complimenting their appearance and smiling can go a long way.
Besides that, it can be very helpful to distract your subjects so that they’re no longer focused on the fact that they’re being photographed and thus stop posing for you. One great way to do that is to start a conversation with your subject in the middle of the photo session so that their true expressions and emotions can be captured in photos. You’re going to get the best results if the conversation is engaging and if you talk about something your subject is passionate about.
4. Keep Your Distance
You don’t want to get too close to your subjects when taking portrait photos. Nobody likes being examined under a microscope, and your subjects are going to be a lot more comfortable if you stay an arm’s length away from their face.
Besides that, the original iPhone lens is relatively wide angle, and if you get too close to your subjects their facial features (such as the nose) will get distorted and no longer look natural.
5. Use a Telephoto Lens
Using a telephoto lens is a great way to enhance your iPhone portraits. With a telephoto lens you can get closer to your subjects while still keeping your distance so that your subjects stay comfortable. It also helps you stay unnoticed because you don’t have to get too close.
The photo above was taken with Manfrotto Klyp+ Portrait (telephoto) lens, which allowed me to get much closer to this subject without being intrusive and ruining the moment.
6. Follow the Eyes of Your Subject
In portrait photography it’s very important that you leave more space in the direction towards which your subject is looking. For example, if the eyes of your subject are pointed towards the left as seen in the following example, you want to leave more space in that direction.
If you take a closer look at all photos on this page, you’ll notice that every single one of them leaves more space in the direction towards which the subject is looking. If you try doing the opposite or simply centering your subjects, it just won’t feel right in terms of composition.
7. Keep the Background Simple
In portrait photos the subject is the most important part of the photo and your goal should be to make the subject stand out as much as possible. It’s best to use plain and simple backgrounds for your portraits so that they don’t take attention away from your main subject.
Brick or wood walls are great backgrounds for portrait photography as they don’t stand out on their own, but they still create an interesting pattern in the background of your photos. If I had a chance to take the following photo again, I would probably try to remove the red yoga mat from the wall to make sure that nothing takes attention away from the main subject of this photo.
8. Soft Light Makes Your Subjects Look Good
In portrait photography it’s important to know the difference between hard and soft light. Direct sunlight creates hard light with harsh shadows, which amplify any imperfections on the face of your subject and thus make them look less attractive. If your goal is to make your subjects look good (or if you want to look good in photos yourself), you want to take them in soft light.
You can find soft light with little or no shadows on cloudy days, in the shade, or indoors if the light is coming from a large window. Soft light is better for portrait photography since it results in even exposure on the face of your subject while also making the subject appear younger.
9. Don’t Crop at Joints
In portrait photography you’ll often have to make a creative decision about where you want to crop your photos and how much of your subject you want to leave inside the frame. In these situations, you never want to crop your subjects at neck, waist, knees or ankles.
If you crop your photos at any of these body parts, you’ll create an impression that an important part of your subject is cut out, and you don’t want that to happen. You can always crop your photos slightly higher or lower, but try to avoid cropping at neck, waist, knees or ankles.
About the author: Emil Pakarklis is the founder of , a website about taking better photos with iPhone. If you want to improve your iPhone photos, visit , which is a resource Emil created for everyone who wants to start taking better photos with iPhone.