Portrait Themes

Alayne DavisPortraits are one of the most common types of photos taken. Family portraits. Kids portraits. Even pet portraits! We all enjoy looking at photos of people. But, many times, the portrait can be a little boring. We’ve all seen the classic, standard portrait pose. Head and shoulders, slightly angled to the camera, and smile. There’s nothing wrong with those shots. It’s a standard pose for a reason. It works. It’s also very safe. To get more exciting portraits, we have to get out of that safe, standard pose thinking. How do we do that? By using portrait themes.

What Are Portrait Themes?

Portrait themes can be anything really. When shooting a bride and groom, all you’re really doing is shooting portraits with the wedding theme. Shooting your kids in their soccer uniforms are portraits with the sports theme, or more specifically, soccer theme.

But, you don’t have to wait for a wedding or have kids that play sports to shoot portrait themes.Alayne Davis Find out what your subjects interests and hobbies are. If you’re shooting someone that loves to cook, which would be a more interesting shot? A standard head and shoulders portrait? Or, a shot of them in their kitchen, standing behind a table with a beautiful dish they’ve prepared? The shot in the kitchen is more interesting because it tells the viewer something about the person in the photo. It says they love to cook. Maybe your subject likes working on cars. Again, which would be a more interesting shot? Head, shoulders, and a smile? Or, maybe them leaning against the fender of a car? A car with the hood up and a wrench in the hand of your subject gives the idea of a mechanic, or at least a mechanically inclined person.

How To Shoot A Portrait Theme

Alayne DavisThis doesn’t mean all of your portraits should be themed. Remember, in all portraits, your subject is the person, and should be the focus of the shot. Don’t let props and other things in your shot become distracting. You still want to use your standard portrait techniques, such as shallow depth of field and focus on the subjects eyes.

When deciding on a portrait theme to shoot, think about the shooting locations available to you. Talk to your subject about what outfits they may have. You can see some photos I took of Alayne Davis throughout this blog post. We went with a country portrait theme. Some of the shots even use the more specific theme of country music. It’s the same as the example I gave earlier of shooting your kids in their soccer gear. The theme is sports, but more specifically, soccer. Getting more specific with some of your themed shots forces you to really think about how you’re going to create the shot. The country theme is easy. The cowboy hat and boots, along with the rustic looking background and green grass helps create that theme. The more specific theme of country music forced me to add a more specific prop. In this case, the acoustic guitar. You can also get more creative with the pose. A shot of her playing the guitar is fine. But, a shot of her walking down an old country road while carrying a guitar really creates an interesting photo.

The outfit worn by your subject is very important as well. The white dress that Alayne wore wasAlayne Davis very helpful in getting a variety of shots. With the cowboy hat and rustic background, the shots clearly have a country feel. However, by removing the hat and shooting in a more garden-like environment, the shots have a much more serene, almost wedding day quality to them.

Ideas For Portrait Themes

Alayne DavisShooting portrait themes is a lot of fun! Take a look through some magazines or online and look at some portraits. Pick out the ones that have themes. Can you tell by looking at them what the themes being used are? This will help you come up with your own ideas for portrait themes to use. I’m sure you and your subject will find that shooting portraits with a theme in mind will create some very interesting and unique shots!

As always, happy shooting!


I'm Jason, and I have an obsession with photography. I love taking photos, as well as viewing others photos. As I grow and learn, I like to share tips and techniques with others.

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