What is the best angle to photograph from when shooting a portrait? Photographer Ed Gregory puts some effort into answering that question in this video from his YouTube channel Photos in Color. While he admits he couldn’t control the conditions for this portrait survey perfectly, he does as much as humanly possible, and we can learn a lot from his analysis of the resulting portraits.
Basically, the straight on, eye-level portrait provides a perfect, honest looking portrait, and is a good place to start a portrait session. Looking for a little more innocence to the shot? Elevate the camera by 8 or 16 inches. Want the shot to look a little more intense, try lowering the camera by 8 inches. Something still missing? Try moving the camera left or right by 2 or 4 feet to give the image a more dynamic look.
The sweet spot rests in the shape of a smile, where the lower center of the smile is a straight-on, eye-level portait, and the smile edges move the camera left or right 2 or 4 feet and raise the camera 8 or 16 inches. Following that advice will produce fine, honest portraits.
NOTE: The measurements are based on the camera being 6 ft. from the subject and a lens focal-length comparable to an 85mm lens on 35 mm film camera (commonly called a portrait lens). Your wide-angle phone camera will yield very different results. Portrait lenses tend to zoom in a bit to prevent distorting/enlarging facial features like the nose, which happens a lot with wide-angle lenses when you get close enough for a portrait.