5 Ways to Make Your Portraits Look More Dramatic

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What often separates a good portrait from a great portrait is drama. No, we’re not talking about the drama that comes from working with a high-maintenance model, we mean creating a portrait that looks dramatic or even cinematic.

But how do you produce dramatic portraits that will turn heads? Professional portrait photographer Miguel Quiles has five dramatic portrait photography tips for you in the below tutorial.

In the video, Quiles photographs model Thirl Hupp while sharing the following advice. (Note: There is sponsored content from the 2:10-3:15-minute mark in the video if you want to skip ahead.)

#1 Get Them in Character

“When you’re trying to get that dramatic look, the person you’re photographing has to give off those dramatic vibes to the camera,” Quiles explains. “If you tell someone: ‘Look at angry at the camera,’ or ‘Look off in the distance somewhere,’ some people can do that just fine. But if you add the element of having them play a character from a movie or a show that they recognize, and then have them give that same look, oftentimes you get expressions that are truly magical.”

#2 Use Textured Backgrounds

“Every single time I’ve taken a dramatic portrait on a solid color background and then tried the same things with a textured background instead, I’m always amazed at how much more impact the textured backdrop has over other options.”

 #3 Shadow Play

“Any time I’m trying to take a dramatic portrait, I’m thinking not only about what I want to light within the image but what areas are going to fall away into shadow. Creating this shadow look is pretty easy when you’re using one light. Simply take you light source and place it either to the left or right side of your model and that should create some shadow on the opposite side of the face.”

#4 Get Low

“Get low when you’re taking your portraits. I’ve found that taking shots at eye-level with the subject can leave you with less drama. But if you get a little bit lower and you photograph slightly up, it adds drama.”

#5 Crafting Catchlights

“In case you didn’t know, catchlights are the reflections of the light source that you see shining in your subject’s eyes. These catchlights are what really draw the viewer’s eyes into the image and they’re really easy to manipulate.”

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