What Makes a Good Portrait Photograph?

how to create good portraits

How do you create good portraits that have the wow factor? Capturing portrait photos might seem easy and straightforward but it takes a lot of skills and techniques to get right. If you want to know what makes a good portrait photograph, then you have come to the right place. 


What Makes a Good Portrait Photograph: 5 Key Elements

What makes a good portrait photograph? The best types of portraits are the ones that can showcase the subject and make it the star, so to speak. It is important to know the foundations of a good portrait, which can be summed up through five essential elements: 

  • Location
  • Lighting
  • Composition
  • Framing
  • Emotion

Discover more about what each of these elements entail in order to create the most stunning portraits.



The subject is the heart and soul of portrait photography. However, location is also a crucial element that impacts the overall quality of your portraits. The choice of location can tell a story that helps to make the subject stand out more.

Location serves as the setting of your portrait. It is important because it supports the personality and identity of the subject. It also contributes to the overall feel and mood of the portrait. 



Good lighting is the cornerstone of every great photo, not just portraits. The best photographers are able to manipulate natural and artificial light sources to make the subject stand out or to add drama to the portrait. 

Lighting can also be used to accentuate the features of the subject or to conceal problem areas. It takes an experienced and skilled photographer to be able to manipulate light in such a way that it adds to the quality of the portrait.

foundations of a good portrait


Composition refers to how the subject is positioned within the photo. One of the areas you need to think about is how you crop the subject within the photo frame. By cropping, the photographer can pick out details that they want to highlight in the photo. 

Another crucial element involved with the composition of a subject in a portrait is the pose. This will be up to the subject; make sure that the pose assumed looks natural. The type of pose can also be another way to accentuate the best features of the subject (or hide their least favorite features). 



Framing is the act of situating the subject within the portrait photo. The rule of thirds is one of the basic guidelines that are observed by photographers when it comes to framing subjects.

The rule of thirds refers to the image within the camera lens as forming a grid. The subject should be located right within the intersecting points of that grid. This is crucial to make the subject the focal point of the portrait. 



The last yet one of the most important elements on what makes a good portrait photograph is the emotion. In a portrait, emotions are challenging to depict because there is only one frame and no movement involved. However, a professional photographer conveys emotions in a portrait by the use of body language. 

Emotions in a portrait can be conveyed through a smile, facial expressions, and bodily cues. Adding emotional depth into a portrait can make it more authentic and visually impressive. 


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