Photography Basics – Portrait Photography Tips

People are easily the number one subject for photographs. From party snaps, to photos of children and travel shots of family members in front of famous monuments, millions upon millions of people photographs are taken every single say of the year.

Portrait photography is a little different to general people photography. The intent of portrait photography is capture and display something of the ‘essence’ of a person; to say something about their character, personality, or life.

The three most important things to get right in portrait photography are camera settings, lighting, and your relationship with your model.

Camera settings for portrait photography

Because taking portrait photographs is all about a person’s face (or if it’s a wider shot, their head-and-shoulders), classic portrait photography settings seek to remove anything distracting from the background of the shot. This mimics the effect of looking at someone’s face from very close up, and makes the subject ‘pop’ (this is photographer-speak for ‘stand out and capture attention’).

The way to achieve a distraction-free portrait photo is to use a wide aperture, often as wide as possible (f/2.8 or f/4 are popular choices). Wide apertures produce a shallow depth-of-field, which renders anything far from the plane of best focus – i.e. the background – as a soft blur.

Aside from a wide aperture, the only other important setting is ISO. This should be as low a number as possible (e.g. ISO 100), as higher ISOs will lead to digital noise, which is particularly ugly in a portrait.
There’s one offshoot of portrait photography where the recommended settings are different, and that’s environmental portrait photography. Environmental portrait photography seeks to show a person in their ‘natural habitat’, which is often their workplace. Here you want to show the background, so a smaller aperture is appropriate.

Lighting for portrait photography

Lighting in portrait photography can be as complicated as you like. Professional portrait photography is almost always done in a studio, where the lighting can be 100% controlled. If you’re reading this, chances are you don’t have your own photography studio, so let’s discuss a simple lighting scheme you can set up at home.

First, position your model at a window. The light coming from the window should be bright, but not direct (i.e. not coming directly from the sun). You model should be facing you, side on to the window. Light from the window light will obviously light up the side of their face that is closest to it. Then, position something on the other side of your model that will bounce reflected light from the window onto the other side of their face. Anything white or reflective will do, for example a piece of white cardboard or a sheet of aluminum.

Now you have a basic, flattering light scheme, with the main light source on one side of your model’s face, and ‘fill’ light from the reflector on the other. Don’t forget that you should frame the shot close enough that the reflector is not in the shot.

Interacting with your subject

Portrait photography inevitably says something about the relationship between photographer and subject. Unless you’re shooting professional models, the hardest thing about taking portrait photos is not in fact camera settings or lighting, but ensuring that your model is comfortable and relaxed enough to give you good results. A model who feels awkward, uncomfortable or self-conscious will not photograph well.

Often the best strategy to relax your model is simply to engage them in conversation, as this will take their mind off the camera. They’ll probably get more comfortable with the process after you’ve rattled off a few shots, so schedule a decent amount of time and plan on taking your best shots towards the end of the session.

How To Take Perfect “People Pictures” In Digital Photography

One of the things people ask me most about digital photography is how to take perfect “people pictures.” Digital photography is great for people because you can simply delete the ones you don’t like, and show them, on the spot, what the digital photo looks like.
In any digital photography session, whether it be portrait photography or photography at a birthday party it takes prior knowledge to getting “perfect people” digital photos.
So here are the digital photography secrets to this type of photography.
People Photography Secret number 1:

Horizontal vs. vertical

Most people who do digital photography of people hold the digital camera horizontal. Not sure why this is; most likely because the digital camera is built that way, but really you can do well with holding the camera vertical as well. Horizontal digital photos of people are ok, but work best when taking a group photo rather than a single photo of someone. A vertical angle for your digital people photo can give you a great composition for close up and it tells you a lot more about that person that a horizontal will. Horizontal angles in digital photography of single people tends to increase the amount of potential clutter and irrelevant objects in the frame.

People Photography Secret Number 2

Where to put your people in the frame

In digital photography, pictures of people work best by creating some interesting composition. Don’t put your person in the center of the frame just because everyone else does their digital photography that way; be unique and creative and you’ll get a much be result. And good digital photography is all about capturing that special moment of someone to last and reflect something positive about that person, right?

People Photography Secret Number 3

Go Candid. Personally, in my experience as someone who does digital photography for a living, I can tell you that candid digital photographs work so much better then staid photos. It’s so much better to capture someone just as they laugh at a funny joke, or see their friend for the first time in a while, or even talking quietly to others, it so much more interesting and creates a positive photo of someone than a shot of them looking into the camera with a posed shot; hey anyone can do that. But do take that digital photo with them laughing and not knowing they’re being photographed captures a side of them that not everyone sees. It’ll show them in good spirits and create a positive image for all those who see that digital photo from now on. Get creative with people photography; try black and white and sepia. And even try taking the digital photo of them doing something they love, like playing an instrument for example.

Good luck!

How to Take Good Pictures of People – Photography Secrets Revealed!

Unlike animals or inanimate objects, we’re very picky when it comes to how our photos come out; which is why it is so important to know how to take good pictures of people. It’s not everyday that someone brings a camera, right?

Usually, we take pictures in order to preserve memories. And who wants to keep a memory of a bad shot in their photo album? No one, right?

As the photographer, you have to know how to take good pictures of people. If you need a little help with that, here are some tips to improve your shots.

1) Find the best angle.

People have different angles. Sometimes, one person looks better from the left or from the right. That person may not know it himself/herself, so it’s up to you to determine the best angle for the picture.

It’s not only about left and right though. It’s also about how high or low you angle your camera. For example, positioning yourself too low will only catch the unflattering view of say… your cousin Leah’s nostrils and your sister Tammy’s double chin. Do that and you’ll never be allowed to touch the camera again.

2) Catch candid moments.

One way on how to take good pictures of people is by catching them during candid moments. Sometimes, people have a hard time smiling naturally in front of the camera. The photo then becomes stiff and boring.

However, by catching them mid-laugh or mid-talk, you’ll have a better chance of scoring beautiful images. Just be sure to time the moment right because candid moments can also make for unflattering pictures.

3) Try different positions.

Old-school photographers like to take pictures of people by lining them up side by side. While there’s nothing really wrong with such a composition, don’t you think that that’s a little too boring?

If you want to take good pictures of people, I suggest trying out different positions. Group them together like a bunch of flowers and take their picture from above so their faces are the ones in focus. Be as fun and as creative as the situation allows you to.

Frankly, it’s easy to learn how to take good pictures of people. You don’t have to buy the latest camera model to come up with fantastic photos. All it takes is a little bit of ingenuity and an understanding of the overall composition of the photo.