Whether you fancy yourself a seasoned shutterbug or just an amateur, snapping pics on your phone for fun, you probably already know that getting that perfect people shot can be a challenge.

Unlike still life, people move, blink and blur. This makes capturing a subject’s true likeness more difficult. It takes a passionate photographer to overcome these obstacles to take a truly memorable shot. 

If you’re committed to improving your portrait photography, we’ve put together a list of 4 simple tips to help you up your game. 

1) Shoot at eye level

As a general rule, the most flattering photographs are taken at eye level. Taken from the below, you risk creating the illusion of a double chin or casting strange shadows on the face. Taken from above, you can evoke feelings of 2005 Myspace selfies or dimmish your subject’s power in the frame. This photo is a great example of a photo taken at eye level. Notice how the subject’s gaze draws you in, giving the image more power.

2) Keep your background simple

While simple props, such as a book-case, can paint the story of your subject’s personality, steer clear of anything too complicated or cluttered as this will take attention away from the person in the frame. By placing your subject in the foreground or using wide aperture, you can blur out a busy background. This is a common and effective technique for people-centric photography. 

When shooting, don’t forget to look at the picture as a whole. Objects that cut through the horizon line or appear to pop out from behind the subject’s head (like trees or lamp posts) can create a visually discordant image that is difficult to edit.

3) Choose your lighting carefully 

Lighting can make or break a picture. A sunny day might make for great photo-shoot weather, but too much light can generate sharp and unflattering shadows on people’s faces or result in an over-exposed image. If you like to shoot outdoors, opt for a cloudy day.

If you’ve got the luxury of an indoor location and the budget for a basic lighting setup, try your hand at split lighting. Split lighting is a glamorous and dramatic lighting style that splits the face in two, one side lit up and the other in shadow. You can create this effect by placing your key light at a 90-degree angle on the right or left of your subject’s face.

4) Direct your subjects

Most people have a tried-and-true selfie pose, but it doesn’t always lend itself to portraits. If you’ve got great lighting and a perfect backdrop but your photos still quite right, it may be an issue with the posing. Don’t be afraid to direct your subjects into more natural poses. That doesn’t mean forcing them to smile, but it can help to chat with them casually to put them at ease. When your subjects are relaxed, snap a few casual shots for a more candid feel.

By using these 4 tips, you can begin to improve your people photography skills and start to create images that will really wow your audience.