Jul 08 2009

Some Portrait Photography Tips

Published by at 6:23 am under General

Portraiture can be very rewarding. It is an opportunity to display someone’s best side (literally), to create an image that says something.

The first rule of good portrait photography is LOOK at your subject.

Although this may sound obvious take a look through all the photos you have of friends and family to see if there is a certain “sameness” about them. Cut off head and shoulder shots, uncomfortable posing, goofy expressions, mug shots, empty staring, frozen smiles..?

Everyone has some individual feature that should be photographed. It doesn’t have to be perfect skin, a remodeled nose, pouting mouth, stunning eyes. But it should be some quality that best communicates the person’s individuality.

Sound difficult? It isn’t if you follow some basic tips.

Don’t Use Direct Flash.

Flash light is light in it’s most boring incarnation. On rare occasions it can really lift a shot into dazzling life, but most of the time using available light is better. A flash firing removes any relaxed atmosphere you may have built up with your subject and gives the shot a bland look.

Use a Telephoto Lens. 105-135mm is best.

Never use a wide angle.

Compose Vertically.

Tilt the camera to one side. A protrait photograph generally encompasses the head and upper body and sometimes includes the hands. Portraits almost always look best when taken vertically. Horizontal framing leaves you with wide open spaces either side of the subject that can detract from the feel of the shot.

Dress Your Subject Up if Possible.

If this is to be almost a formal portrait photo you may be able to suggest what clothes. Solid, dark or light colors work best. Stripes, checks, swirls, and patterns confuse the viewer’s eye. Strong colors can can overwhelm the skin tones. A vee or scoop neck is better than a round neck. For a man or older woman, cover the shoulders, for a young woman leave them bare.

Try to use the available light to good effect.

Try to place your subject in a postion where there is soft light coming mainly from one direction. This can give a moody feel and usually gets the eyes more attention. You can use a reflector on the shadowed side to ‘bounce the light’ if the contrast between highlight and shadow is too strong. You can make a simple reflector using aluminum foil on a sheet of cardboard.

Choose Your Subject’s “best side”.

Everyone really does have one. Have one shoulder slightly turned towards the camera favoring one side. Test the pose another way and try to figure out which way is the best.

Let Your Subject be Seated.

This helps put them at ease by haviing somewhere to “be” and assists you in being able to direct them more easily. Give your subject directions.

In a portrait photo, you’re dealing with minor movements and shifts of position and angle. Try to get the shot from a little above the subject to open the eyes more. Lower the shoulder closest to the camera, get the head straight or at an engaging angle. Take the chin down a little.

Some people look best when they smile and some don’t. Often you achieve far more interesting nuance and expression with no smile. Tell the person to think of something they like doing. This will highlight the eyes and accentuate the mouth lines.

If the hands are in the shot, take a good look at them. Hands can sometimes look awkward or even ugly. A lightly closed fist is usually neutral. Place the hands in the lap on resting on a knee and see how it looks. Cut them off later if they don’t work.

If you’re shooting candid portraits the same tips apply but in these shots you have to move around to get the best angle.

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2 Responses to “Some Portrait Photography Tips”

  1. […] well as family to see if there is the sure “sameness” about them. … Read more: photos by richard » Some Portrait Photography Tips Share and […]

  2. […] Read the original post:  photos by richard » Some Portrait Photography Tips […]

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