In portrait photography, the person being photographed is the main focus of the picture. When taking a portrait, either the whole body or just the face of the person can be photographed. You can also use your camera’s focus in a multitude of ways depending on your personal preferences. We’ll give you some simple tips on how to take brilliant portraits without having to hire a professional.
The Right Lighting Conditions
For those of you who aren’t taking professional-grade photographs in your own studio every day, you probably don’t have fancy lighting equipment at your disposal. Luckily, there are some simple tricks available that will ensure you make the best of the lighting you have available and that you’ll be able to showcase your subjects “in the right light.”
Should the photo session take place outdoors, you should make sure that the subject doesn’t stand directly in bright sunlight since this can cause shadows to appear on their face. Also, the glare from the sun can cause problems when photographing. It’s better to photograph your subject in a bright location that isn’t directly illuminated by the Sun, like in front of a wall. When taking pictures outdoors, photographing during the morning or afternoon is more ideal than midday since the light shines at more of an angle during these times of day.
If you’re photographing indoors, on the other hand, you can use windows to provide a source of light. When the light shines through the windows, it is a limited amount of light when compared to lighting conditions outside. Also, this light is shining in a distinct direction and can be used to purposefully illuminate your subject without unnecessary glare. For those of you who shoot portrait photographs more often, you can always buy a cheap portable floodlight in order to provide more light in the room. It’s recommended to use at least two different light sources from different directions (in relation to the subject being photographed) in order to avoid the formation of shadows.
You can of course purposefully use dark shadows or backlighting to produce photos with interesting effects. When employing the use of shadows, you can create especially dramatic photos. When doing this, however, you should be sure to use “attractive” shadows, i.e. no shadows that appear under the eyes or that block out too much of the face.
The Right Background
When shooting portrait photos, the face of the subject is the main focus. Accordingly, you don’t need any kind of fancy background. Using such a background can actually detract attention from the subject being photographed and disrupt the image composition. The background shouldn’t be too boring or too loud. You could use a background like curtains blowing in the wind or slightly textured walls. When selecting a background, you should also make sure that the colour scheme doesn’t clash with the subject you’re photographing. You can purposefully use colour, for instance, to accentuate the subject’s eyes.
You can create brilliant effects in portrait photography by only focusing on the face of the person you’re photographing with the background blurred out. Playing around with the depth of field like this is possible by adjusting the focal length and the aperture. This kind of effect is most easily created by photographing the subject from very up close with the background as far away as possible. You can also ensure that your background will appear blurry if you use the widest aperture opening possible.
The Picture Detail
Portrait photos that appear very similar to passport photos can be quite boring to look at. To make your photos grab more attention, you can display the face of the subject really up close. Perhaps their whole face won’t fit into the photo, but the picture detail will be much more interesting. When taking such a close-up photo of the person, you can accentuate their expression and facial features.
The Right Lens
When shooting portraits, it’s best to use a lens with a long focal length. You should steer clear of using telephoto lenses when taking portraits. When using a lens with a focal length of 50 – 100mm, the facial proportions can be best depicted. If you use a wide-angle lens (i.e. a lens with a focal length of less than 50mm), the face can often appear slightly distorted.
It’s instantly recognisable when looking at photos if the person photographed didn’t feel comfortable. Complicated poses, an uncomfortable atmosphere, or being in a bad mood when photographed all have a negative effect on the photo. Thus, it’s essential to speak with the person you’re photographing ahead of time about what kind of picture they’d like and to provide the most comfortable and relaxed atmosphere possible.
Many people venture outside of their comfort zone very rarely. So, after taking a couple of photos of them flashing a subtle smile and slightly smirking, it’s the job of the photographer to make them relax a bit more and step a bit out of their comfort zone, because there is nothing better than a portrait showcasing a hearty laugh or an unexpected expression. Once you’ve got the right settings on your camera, ensured optimal lighting conditions, and have found the perfect background, it’s worthwhile to sometimes press down the shutter release without warning.