5 winning portrait photography ideas

(Image credit: Ricardo Williams)

What makes a great portrait? Is it the sitter? Is it how the image is processed? Is it how they look into the camera? How they dress? Makeup? Pose? There are so many  elements to think about when it comes to portraiture. A portrait not only says a lot about the subject but also the photographer!  

Here are five pictures from the portrait category of Digital Camera magazine's 2019 Young Photographer of the Year and Photographer of the Year competitions that we have received so far. 

Make sure you enter your shots now to be in with a chance of winning your share of £30,000 worth of amazing prizes!

• Essential portrait photography tips

1. Be bold 

Image: Wayne Kliewer (Image credit: Wayne Kliewer)

Don't be afraid to think outside the box and try something a little different. Take for example Wayne Kliewer's image here. The use of an abstract prop, theatre costume and stage makeup, make an intriguing result that captures the attention. Wayne has also lit the portrait well using a cool background tone to contrast against a warmer pink tone casting over the model and prop.   

2. Eye contact 

Image: Bill Schild

Image: Bill Schild (Image credit: Bill Schild)

The eyes are the key to the soul so use this to your advantage. Bill Schild's shot here shows a great example of how you can use this technique to draw the viewer in. Bill has lit and styled the portrait to have an almost renaissance painting feel. However the modern day clothing and styling contrasts against this, and bring us back into the modern day world.  

 3. Light it right

Image: Wayne Kliewer (Image credit: Wayne Kliewer)

How you light your portrait will have a great impact on the end result. Whether you choose to use natural or flashlight, softbox, barn doors etc these decisions will shape the look and feel of your portrait. Wayne Kliewer has again selected a sophisticated set up with a powerful strip of light revealing the face of his model. 

 4. Tell a story 

Image: Yasser Alaa Mobarak (Image credit: Yasser Alaa Mobarak AFIAP AICS)

A portrait tells so much about a person so out on location use the background setting and surroundings to reveal something about your sitter. Yasser Alaa Mobarak has done just this in his image of a man bathing in the water. The temple in the background and his orange turban suggest the man is from a religious background. The final result works great in colour revealing more about the place and person than it would otherwise in black and white.    

 5. Make a splash!   

Image: Ricardo Williams (Image credit: Ricardo Williams)

When it comes to adding that extra layer to your portrait then consider using water! You don't need a fancy studio to achieve this effect. Ricardo Williams took this self portrait shot in his bathroom using a black sheet as the backdrop and two lights. Of course when you bring light into the equation make sure you protect your camera, lens and lights! 

Enter the competition here

About the prizes

Digital Camera Photographer of the Year is back for 2019, with an amazing prize fund worth £30,000 up for grabs! This year the awards are free to enter, thanks to the generous support of our sponsors, mpb.com and Affinity Photo.

The expert judge's chosen winner of the Urban Landscape contest will receive a Rohan jacket worth £249. The winner of the crowd vote will receive a year-long subscription to Digital Camera magazine.

The winners will be featured in Digital Camera magazine and on Digital Camera World, as well as sister magazines including N-Photo and PhotoPlus: The Canon Magazine, and they will receive additional exposure through Digital Camera’s social media. There will be an exhibition at The Photography Show in March 2019, and winners will be invited to attend a special gala reception.

The overall winner of Digital Camera Photographer of the Year 2019 will win an MPB voucher worth £2,500 GBP, a £2,000 Rohan shopping experience, a Sony A7 III + 28-70mm lens, a Rotolight NEO 2 kit and a CEWE print.  

The expert judge's chosen winner of the Urban Landscape  - 25 & Under contest will win £100 cash and Affinity Photo + Affinity Photo Workbook. The winner of the crowd vote will receive Affinity Photo and a year-long subscription to Digital Camera magazine. The top ten of the crowd vote will each receive Affinity Photo.

The overall winner of Young Digital Camera Photographer of the Year 2019 will win £3,000 cash, Affinity Photo, an iPad Pro, Apple Pencil, a Sony RX10 IV, a Rotolight NEO 2 kit and a CEWE print. 

It could be you! Find out more about the competition here

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Digital Camera

The sister print publication to this website, Digital Camera Magazine is Britain's best-selling photography publication – and it can also be purchased outside the United Kingdom as Digital Camera World. 

Digital Camera Magazine is packed with more expert advice and more inspirational images than any other title, with the sole aim of helping you become a better photographer. Every issue we also bring you a selection of great gifts which are designed to help you get more from your photography – everything from tips cards and cheat sheets to free software and bookazines. 

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