Midjourney is a powerful but finicky tool that can help you generate stunning photo realistic portraits, but creating them is an art form unto itself that requires a keen eye for detail, a great deal of practice and a lot of patience.
A portrait image is described capturing the personality and emotions of a person or group of people by using effective lighting, atmosphere, and poses.
There are 5 core elements that make up a good portrait: Location, composition, emotion, lighting and technical settings. In this article we are going to give you some tips and prompts for these core elements to help you create stunning photo-realistic portraits with Midjourney.
Note: all prompts in the captions
Patience Is Key
Before we get started, you just have to understand that when you are creating in Midjourney, patience is key. Despite some of the incredible images you may have seen floating around online, and all of the controversy about people worried that Midjourney will put photographers, designers and artists out of work because literally anyone can use it, it’s not as easy as it looks.
Those fantastic images you’ve seen are a culmination of hours, sometimes weeks of work, prompting and re-promting, fine tuning, re-generating and sometimes editing, until they get their final image that you end up seeing.
But if you take the time to experiment, know how and what to prompt, and go in with the understanding that the first image you make is probably not going to be ‘the one’, you can create some stunning photorealistic portraits.
Use Midjourney Version 5
The default version of Midjourney used on the Discord server is Version 3. Unless you specify which version you want, it’s using the older model.
Midjourney Version 5 was just released on March 15th, and among its new features, the most impressive of which, (besides no more 6 fingered hands) is how crazy realistic you can get images to look.
So if you are going for a photo realistic portrait, use Version 5.
To use the newest version of Midjourney, add “–v 5” to the end of your prompts. Depending on what kind of image you are trying to create, you may also want to experiment using “–v 4” and see how the images compare.
If you’ve just signed up to Midjourney, Version 5 is not available on the initial 25 free image plan before you pay a subscription.
A Guide to Midjourney Prompts for Portraits – the 5 Core Elements for Epic Photorealistic Images
We are going to give you some tips and prompts for the 5 core elements of a good portrait image, so you can get the most out of using Midjourney. For an even more detailed guide, see our article How To Create Photorealistic Images With Midjourney – A Prompt Guide.
The first three elements (location, composition and emotion) will all have to do with the descriptive prompt you are going to write, using detailed and specific language to describe your image and set the scene.
Your prompt will start off with a description of your image, and then you can add the lighting and technical prompts, which we will get into a little further down, at the end.
We are going to give you some examples of descriptive prompts to give you a push in the right direction, but the prompts you use will have to be specific to the image you want to create.
The location, or setting, of the image is an integral element of any great portrait. It includes the foreground, the background and everything in between. A good location contributes to the overall feel of the image while supporting and drawing attention to the subject(s).
Prompting “photorealistic image of a couple holding hands walking down a city street at night” will get you as vague and generic an image as that description.
These images aren’t bad, but they’re certainly not great.
On the other hand, if you try something more like – “a couple walking hand in hand in the foreground, with a bustling city street at night in the background, neon glow, people, cars and activity, photorealistic, shot on fujifilm” – you are a lot more likely to get a much more interesting image.
As you can see, these are much better.
Portrait composition describes the framing and where the subject is in relation to everything else in the image, and how the subject is posed. These elements work together and are key factors that will determine whether or not it all visually flows.
Let’s start with a basic image prompt: “Old man feeding ducks at the park.”
Not bad… some of them look like Gandalf! But this prompt doesn’t quite paint the same picture as:
“An older man feeding ducks at the edge of a pond, children at play in the distance, tranquil, with trees and greenery in the background, Natural light golden hour, photorealistic, shot on Sony α7 IV”
Body language and facial expressions are how your portrait communicates. A good portrait tells a story. What story do you want to tell?
It’s important to get the descriptive details to convey not only the emotions of your portrait subject, but the descriptive details to evoke the emotions of the viewer. What do you want people to feel when they look at the portrait?
Rather than prompting something, like “photorealistic image of a woman looking out the window on a rainy day”, describe the scene, the emotions she is feeling and the mood you want to convey.
Example: “portrait of a woman in her mid-30s with shoulder-length, curly red hair, deeply sad expression on her face, gazing out of a rainsoaked window, subdued colors, photorealistic, shot on alpa gold 200 –v 5”
The details are what make a portrait truly photo-realistic. If you are making a face forward portrait, also pay close attention to the eyes, nose, mouth, and other facial features. Add subtle details, like wrinkles or freckles to give the portrait a sense of realism.
Lighting is one of the most important elements of creating a photo-realistic portrait and can make all the difference in the world as to how an image makes you feel when you look at it. Here are a few lighting prompts to give your portrait a sense of depth and dimensionality that you will want to experiment with to see how it changes your portrait.
- Soft lighting – Soft light is diffused light that avoids casting harsh shadows on its subject. Instead of hard-edged shadows, the division between light and dark becomes gradual and even.
- Volumetric lighting – sometimes referred to as “God rays”, volumetric lighting is a beam (or beams) of light that maybe comes through a window or the opening in a forest canopy.
- Ellipsoidal Lighting – this is basically just a spotlight effect that is generally in a vertical elliptical shape.
- Dappled light – Dappled light is produced when sunlight is filtered through the leaves of trees creating patches of light and dark shadow areas.
- Studio Lighting – this is a pretty broad term that refers to the different lighting effects that can be created with studio lighting equipment. Used on its own will create an image that looks like it was shot in a studio, meaning that It will be generally well-lit. But if you want a specific effect, you will have to add another prompt, like:
- Dramatic lighting – or High contrast lighting – this will generate an image with high contrast areas of dark shadows and bright highlights.
- Rim lighting – This refers to a light source placed behind a subject that exposes the outline or ‘rim’ of the subject with light. This lighting highlights the contours of a subject and creates a dramatic and mysterious effect. Try experimenting with “backlighting” to see if it gives you different results.
- Cinematic lighting – This simply refers to the use of various lights on a set or location to give a scene a particular appearance once it is captured on film. This is actually a very broad term, but it can garnish you some interestingly epic results.
- Chiaroscuro – This is a dramatic lighting effect that creates deep shadows.
- Golden Hour – This captures the light at sunset, with long shadows and a golden glow
5. Technical Settings
Quality prompts let the AI know how detailed of an image you’re looking for. Try some of these prompts for a high level of detail to see how it changes the results.
- Extremely detailed
- Insanely detailed
- Hyper detailed
- Intricately detailed
- Ultra HD
- hyper resolution
- Hyper realistic photography
It’s important to assign an aspect ratio prompt to Midjourney so that your ‘canvas’ is the shape of the image you want to end up with. The aspect ratio refers to the ratio between the width and height of the image.
Midjourney’s default is a square image. If you are looking to have a final image with a vertical orientation, define the aspect ratio using the tag “–ar” and then the image ratio. For example, “–ar 2:3”, or “–ar 9:16.” For a vertical orientation, try and aspect ratio of “–ar 3:2”, or “–ar 16:9.”
Each time you try out a prompt and get a return, you can fine tune that image by adding things that you think are missing, or taking out things you don’t want.
You can remove unwanted elements by negative prompting, adding: “—no (whatever).” For example, if the image rendered has a plant on the window sill you don’t want, you can add “—no plants.”
Describe from which angle you want your subject to be seen. You can use prompts like “from below” or “from above” if you want to be looking up at or down on the subject. “Long shot” is a commonly used prompt if you want to get an image that shows the entire body, but it doesn’t always work. If you want a full body shot of your subject(s), be sure to add an appearance description that describes the shoes they are wearing or what they are standing on, which will ensure you get a full body shot. “Medium shot” will give you an image of the character from about the waist up. “Close up” will have the subject(s) occupying most of the frame.
You can get the same effects by prompting different shutter speeds for your AI portrait, as you would get using different shutter speeds when using a real camera to take a photographic portrait.
The shutter speed refers to the length of time the shutter is open and how long the film or digital sensor inside the camera is exposed to light when taking a photograph.
The faster the shutter speed, the less light is let in and the darker your image. Shutter speed is measured in fractions of a second. The shutter speed also affects the clarity of the image if there is movement.
Your subject (if your description doesn’t specify that they are moving) will be in focus, but it will create a motion blur effect if there is any movement in the image, like cars driving by. Try “shutter speed: 1/60 second.”
On the other hand, if you have an image where your subject is moving around and you don’t want it to be blurry, go for a faster shutter speed prompt, like “Shutter speed: 1/500 second”.
Depth of Field
Depth of field is the distance between the closest and farthest objects in a photo that appears acceptably sharp. A shallow depth of field can create a striking portrait image as your subject will be in focus, but there will be a much quicker transition to out of focus on the rest of the image.
To adjust your depth of field use an aperture prompt of the f-stop you want to use, like “aperture: f/8,” for a shallower depth of field in which the emphasis in on your subject and is in sharp focus while more of the background is less in focus. If you are creating an image in which you want more of the whole image focus, use a lower setting, like “aperture: f/2.8.”
Camera and Lens
You can get a great deal of variation by choosing different cameras. Specifying traits like “shot on Polaroid” or “”shot on Agfa Isolette1” (a popular 1950s camera), or “shot on Fujifilm” can capture different aspects of the film grain, lens quality, etc.
You have no doubt seen for yourself some of the incredible portrait images that have been created with Midjourney. So although creating a photo-realistic portrait is a time-consuming process, you know the end result will be worth the effort.
By following these tips and prompts and a lot of fine tuning, you too can create stunning photo-realistic portraits with Midjourney that will leave a lasting impression.
And as you use Midjourney, particularly in a public server, you’ll be able to see other people’s prompts, and how they’re producing their images. This can provide a great deal of inspiration!