Creating a compelling portrait can take a lot of thought and design. But here are three practical tips you can use to improve your image.

Choose the right lens

Choosing the correct lens can make a huge impact on your portraits. Traditional portrait lenses are 85 mm, 100 mm, and 135 mm, but I much prefer the focal range offered by a 24-70mm zoom. At its widest setting of 24 mm, it allows you to capture a lot of environment around your subject. Select a longer focal length if you are closer to your subject. Zoom to 70 mm for an intimate portrait.

A 24-70mm lens is one of the most versatile lenses for portrait photography as it covers the range from wide to moderate telephoto. On the left is the 24-70 mm lens at 24 mm, and on the right is 24-70 mm lens at 70 mm

Know your lens for better portraits

Different focal lengths flatten perspective to various degrees. Understanding the feeling that this creates is another tool in creating memorable portraits. Filling the frame results in different looks — and feeling — depending on focal length. Shooting a tight portrait with a slightly wide-angle lens results in rounder facial features than you get when shooting with a longer focal length.

Note the difference in perspective and background between similarly cropped portraits shot with a wide-angle 35 mm lens on the left, and a telephoto 135 mm lens on the right — Both shots 1/200 sec. at f/2.0.

Zoom with your feet

Never forget that the best zoom lens you’ll ever own are those things at the bottom of your legs called “feet.” Don’t forget to shoot both tight and loose even when shooting with a prime lens.