Portraiture: A truly great portrait goes beyond simply photographing a face. It’s more about capturing a personality with your lens, enhancing what makes that person unique and amplify those qualities to bring out their best features and elements.
Welcome to the third part of Fashion Potluck’s photography series. On the first part we covered all the technical basics that you need to know I order to understand your DSLR camera. On the second part we went to a more artistic and creative direction as we talked about composition and several ways to shoot eye catching pictures.
And in case you are wondering how to cultivate your aesthetics and improve your artistic vision we have a whole other post on that topic which I think you will seriously enjoy.
Today we are diving into the artful virtuosity of shooting beautiful portraits.
The challenge with portrait photography is the subject itself. Human nature.
No one really feels photogenic and most people tend to get uncomfortable –which translates to stiffness- when they see a camera pointing at their direction. And there lies the challenge: To make them feel relaxed and confident, to loosen up as if there’s no one watching. Make funny faces, allow them to take their time, talk, play some music. There is always an ice-breaking song that will save the day!
The proper use of light is once again crucial for a great photo. Natural light is very flattering as long as you avoid direct sunlight which will make your portraits overexposed and harsh. A cloudy day would be ideal since the light is being diffused through the clouds. When the weather does not cooperate and our rain spells refuse to work, fear not. Shoot backlit images by turning your model away from the sun.
If you are shooting indoors avoid using flash. And by avoid I mean whatever you do, do not use the flash unless there is someone holding a gun to your head. Go to your aperture priority (check out part one of our series to refresh your memory on shooting modes) f/2.8 (or the widest possible for your lens) ISO: 800 or less. Shutter Speed: 1/100 sec. or higher. That’s a good start, but experiment to see what works best for you at a given setting.
Try framing your subject to create an interesting visual focal point. Have them look through a window or a gap. A lot of models like to use their hands to frame their face and that works really well too. It’s an easy way to highlight the eyes and make an image look fierce.
Have your model look directly at you, through the camera. It’s one of those classic strategies that need no alteration, no innovation, no bending the rules. And it gets even better when it’s unexpected. I work with a lot of bands and a part of my job is to shoot them while they are performing live. Before we get going, I give them a few directions and the one that always helps us get stunning shots is eye contact, mainly because during a live gig it’s highly unlikely to capture that moment, and it’s unexpected. When you ask them to keep an eye on you and try some eye contact the result is creating a sense of connection between the artist and the audience.
Introducing props to your portrait photography is a tool that will help you more than anything. Give them something to fiddle with. Something to take the edge off. Even if it’s not within the frame, give them something small to hold and play with.
Change your perspective and try shooting from different angles to get a striking, unconventional portrait. Shoot from above (use the eye contact tip here as well, it works great) or get on the floor and use the rule of thirds to add dimension and variety. Try holding your camera on a diagonal angle for a more fun and playful approach.
We are looking forward to read your suggestions in the comments below, please feel free to share your tips and tricks and also give us an idea about the topics that would interest you the most for the upcoming photography series posts.
Until the next one,
shoot them, frame the, hung them on the wall.