Tips For Great Portrait Photography
Trying to improve your portrait photography? Here are some great tips on photographing people and making your portraits shine.
Check The Lighting
The first thing to consider in good portrait photography is the lighting. As a general rule, the midday sun is the worst kind of light you can have. The sun is shining straight down, creating harsh, unflattering shadows and exaggerating wrinkles, pimples, and blemishes.
It can also create difficult metering conditions, resulting in images where an arm may be perfectly exposed, but you can barely see the face. Instead, look for softer light, shining at angles so that faces are not in shadow. This also brings out better skin tones and allows your subjects to open their eyes wide instead of squinting against the sun.
If you have no choice but to shoot in the middle of the day, such as when you’re out on vacation with the family, find some shade and get them out of the harsh sunlight.
Use fill flash, a wedding photographer’s secret portrait photography weapon. It fills in the shadows, creates catchlights in the eyes and adds greater impact to your photos, especially if you’re shooting against a strong light source, such as a sunset.
Why stop at one? Take two or three, or more. It’s only pixels. It improves your odds of getting at least one great shot. What you see on your computer later may be different from what you see through your viewfinder now. Try it both ways—horizontal and vertical.
Fill The Frame
Is all that background necessary? Does it add value to your photo? If not, eliminate it. Fill the frame with your subject instead. After all, that’s what portrait photography is all about—your subject.
Count It Down
“1… 2… and 3!” Click!
Counting down to the shot is a great trick to use in portrait photography. It gives your subject a chance to prepare, open their eyes and flash that winning smile. It also gives you a final chance to check your focus and make sure your frame is free of unwanted distractions and clutter.
Here’s a bonus tip: if your subject is particularly sensitive to bright sunlight and blinks a lot, or has a tendency to squint, tell them to close their eyes and open them on the count of three. Delay your shot just a fraction of a second after counting “Three!”, then shoot. Voila! Eyes open!
The Eyes Have It
Speaking of which, “the eyes are the mirror of the soul,” as the saying goes. Highlighting your subject’s eyes is one of the most important things to remember in portrait photography.
If your subject has eyes, whether it’s an animal or a human, light them well and shoot them sharp. Blurred eyes are disturbing to the viewer and can ruin the shot, regardless of how good everything else looks.
Having said that, however, there are times when you may want your subjects to close their eyes for the shot. These are situations when this is the perfect thing to do. It creates a great mood and enhances the feeling of a photo. Try to be aware of those moments.
If in doubt, as mentioned above, take several. Try different things.
Capture The Moment!
Shoot first and ask questions later! Don’t delay! That perfect moment only comes once. Don’t miss it!
Yes, definitely use devices like counting down to the shot, as mentioned above, but if the moment is there, don’t think. Snap it! It’s only pixels.
Facial expressions can change in a fraction of a second. Often, it’s your second or third shot in a quick sequence that’s the keeper.
Sometimes, it’s the unplanned moments that capture the essence of your subject. More often than not, it’s the mistakes that can make the most memorable photographs of the day.
Roll with it. Keep shooting. Have fun with your subjects and your portrait photography.