Every Beginning Portrait Photographer Should Know these 8 Tips
Why are some people considered photogenic and others not? What can a novice photographer do to avoid this when making a portrait?
Portrait photography can be one of the most difficult forms of photography. Capturing an image that looks natural and reflects the subject's personality is a skill that requires patience and practice.
CAPTURE THEIR PERSONALITY
The good news is that it is not based on sophisticated or expensive equipment. Portrait photography is about giving an idea of a person's character rather than producing a technically perfect composition.
The following tips will help you go beyond simple "snapshots" to take pictures of really interesting portraits. By following them, it will be easier to highlight the unique characteristics of your subject. You will also begin to develop an eye for a good portrait and learn how to turn an average shot into an excellent one.
A good way to get a natural-looking portrait photo is to photograph the person who is not on guard or who does not pose. When you put any person in front of a camera, they automatically put their "photo face". Keep talking to them to help them relax, and to distract them from the fact that the camera is there; you'll end up with a much more natural photo that exposes their personality.
Shoot loads of photos. Shots are cheap, particularly when it comes to digital, so fire off as many as you can. Not only does this improve your chances of getting a good portrait shot, but your relentless snapping will make it impossible for your model to keep up their posing, no matter how hard they try. When they finally relax, that's when you'll likely get your most telling shots.
CHOOSE A LOCATION THAT SUITS YOUR SUBJECT
A study environment with a smooth background is a popular choice in portrait photography: it is perfect for isolating the subject and eliminating annoying background elements. If you do not have access to a professional study, you can always set up a home study with a modest budget.
However, you can often create a more intimate portrait by telling your subject in an environment that reflects your personality. Get to know them, and find out about their hobbies, interests and favourite places, and then see if you can somehow incorporate one of these into your portrait.
Photographing your subject in a place that reflects your character can add a real interest to a portrait photo, helping the viewer to build a mental image of this person, which "will allow you to know him better".
Regardless of the background you choose for your portrait, always remember that the main objective of your photo is the person, not the place. Keep the background away from distraction, use a large aperture to focus it and keep the subject high in the frame.
TAKE A STEP BACK
If you take a portrait in the foreground, it will distort the face of the subject, turning it around and around, with a huge nose. This can be very embarrassing, not to say completely unflattering.
Go back as far as your lens allows and expand your subject. The further back you are, the less distorted your face will be and the more "attractive" your portrait will be.
If you have the option of changing your camera's lenses, you may even want to consider using a telephoto lens. These will reduce the distortion even more and they have the added benefit of a narrow depth of field, perfect for separating your subject from the background. Most professional portrait photographers use long lenses when shooting portrait photos, and some go so far back that they actually need to use a walkie talkie to communicate with their model!
LIGHTING YOUR PORTRAIT
To lighten a portrait photo, do not rely on your camera's built-in flash. If you illuminate your subject from the front, you will completely eliminate the shadows on the face, leaving their features flat and uninteresting. In addition to that, you can also throw annoying shadows on your background.
If you are filming in the studio, use a combination of lights and reflectors to illuminate your model. Try to get a little more light on one side of the face than on the other, this will give depth to your features.
If you do not have study equipment, take your portrait in an area with lots of natural light. Shadows can become a problem, so use a reflector (or a large piece of white card) placed on the other side of the subject to complete the shadows.
You can complement your adjusted light with a flash burst of your camera to enhance your eyes. This can give a real life to your portrait photo. If your flash is too strong and hard, try covering it with paper towels or thin paper for a smoother effect.
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