If you break down the elements of a portrait, you will have a better understanding of how to get a particular concept across. Let’s face it – there are some parts of a portrait you just can’t control, the most important being your subject. But there are parts you can control. Once you learn how to better control these aspects, this is when you start seeing the results that every photographer desires – the kind of results that get your photos on the cover of greeting cards, magazines, and maybe even billboards.

Intense and haunting portraits can be difficult to pull off with results that come across as forced or unprofessional if you don’t know what you’re doing. This collection explores focal point, lighting, and setting as methods for increasing the intensity of a portrait shot.

Keep in mind that one of the best ways to improve your skills is with practice. continue to play around with the tricks that professionals use and eventually you will be handing out the advice to the amateurs.


Changing up the lighting can have a major impact on the perception of a portrait as being intense. While much of lighting can be manipulated in Photoshop, the real key is getting solid photographs on the front end. Notice how these portraits use lighting to set the mood for the shot.


Changing up the point of focus can also change the tone of a portrait. Note how the different focus techniques in this section change how the image strikes. This group is organized from least to most intense use.


The angle from which a portrait is taken makes a big difference. Try to imagine this set of portraits had they been done in the more classic, straight-ahead pose.


The location, background, make-up, clothes, and other aspects that make up setting can dramatically change a portrait. Often this is where it all comes together. A beautiful backdrop with the wrong perspective or focus means you may not create the idea you’re going for. Notice how this part of our collection ties it all together, and the setting just enhances the concepts being captured.

About The Author