Side Portrait Photography - Dramatic and Powerful Techniques

What’s your best side?  Chances are you have an angle that you feel is most striking.  It’s the angle you see yourself from in the mirror and how you imagine you look to other people. However, those other people also (literally) see your other sides as well.

There’s a problem with most portrait photography… It only captures that one side, the head-on view tilted a little right or left.  The angle that you like best, but not the angle that other people always see and appreciate.

We look at each other head on so taking photos this way does make sense.  But if you want your work to stand out, is doing the same thing everyone else does going to make it unique?  There are so many options for angles, why limit yourself to only the head-on and shoot it day in and day out?

Body Builder Side Portrait

Why You Should Shoot Side Portraits or Profile portraits.

So why does the profile / side portrait work?  First off, it captures the bone structure and jaw line like no other angle.  A strong jaw line conveys strength, courage, and power. 

It takes the viewer into the image and adds mystery to the scene.  Without going too far into details, a side portrait makes us ponder what the subject is thinking about and what they are looking towards.  This can convey the subject facing towards the future, or the past.

It adds depth to the face, especially if the right type of dramatic lighting is used. 

David Hobby Side Portrait

Tips for Photographing Side Portraits

Using a softbox just above the subject’s face and a little towards the camera will add great, smooth shadows and depth while retaining a soft overall look.

Side portraits with a silhouette can convey a very strong message.  Simply set up your lighting towards front or back, and a bit behind the subject.  Use a snoot or grid to help isolate the light and make sure it doesn’t spill around to the front.  Power the flashes up and underexpose the camera to help drop the background.

Silhouettes are most commonly used with artists in the music industry.

Have your model look up a little and it instantly adds a look of “hope”.  This is great when you wish to convey a person thinking about something big in life or an entrepreneur who has come up with a major idea that could change things in a big way.

Build up your photo by first focusing on your models position and angle until it’s just right, and then fine tuning your lighting to create shadows in the way that best suits them.

Experiment and have fun shooting this style.  It will dramatically expand your portfolio and impress potential new clients.  Please let us know in the comments below if you have any additional tips!

Recommended Light Modifiers for Profile / Side Portraits:

Snoot XTR
SoftBox III
StripBox LTp

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