portrait photography

How to Nail Your Photography Portraits

Are you someone who loves to take photos of people? Maybe you regularly get the family together and love to take some photography portraits of them to remember the special occasions.

We are here to help you take these shots from something that end up in the back of the drawer to something that sits pride of place above Grandmas fireplace.

These tips and tricks will push you on quickly and skilfully.

1. COMPOSITION

Great photography portraits need great composition. The subject will usually be the picture’s centrepiece. Don’t hesitate to zoom in on your model for a close-up. Zooming in can really bring out facial features and hidden details.

Think creatively for a more interesting picture. If you have the time try some different angles and lighting areas. If your participant is a natural get them to pull different faces or hold their body in different angles. Your job is also to make the person in front of the camera as comfortable and at ease as possible.

Don’t forget to correctly compose the background to!

Girl in play area

2. CAMERA SETTINGS

Classic photography portraits often have a blurred background allowing the viewer’s eyes to focus on the subject. If you are still learning and want to quickly achieve this effect, set your camera to Aperture Priority. Select the largest aperture on your camera lens, such as f/2.8 – f/5.6. You’ll get a shallow depth of field and a blurred background for effect!

When shooting in Aperture Priority mode to control your depth of field, your SLR should set the shutter speed (at least 1/150) for you. This will help produce the correct exposure and to counteract camera or subject movement. Your Autofocus should be configured to single shot and make certain your focal point hovers over your subject’s eye when you frame the shot.

Don’t forget to use the exposure triangle if you are not to sure on how to make your images come together. Read about that here

3. EYE CONTACT

Traditional portrait photography involves good eye contact between the subject and the camera. Even if you’re looking to shoot a more creative composition, ask the client to make eye contact with the camera first then turn in the direction you want. It’s usually best that the subject’s eyes remain in the upper third of the picture because it creates the most natural balance and spacing in the shot.

Photography Portrait natural girl

 4. LENS OPTIONS FOR PORTRAITS

  • A 50mm lens makes images sharper, but you’ll need to move around to fill your frame as you won’t be able to zoom in with the lens.
  • A wide-angle lens (about 18mm) is best for a large group. You will be able to fit everyone into the picture without having to step too far away from the group.
  • A telephoto (70-210mm) lens restricts the angle of view, but it could be worth it like when taking the picture of a wedding couple in the church from a balcony. The telephoto lens let you zoom in from above without sacrificing image.

Interested in how depth of field effects images? Have read here

5. STRIKE A POSE

How you pose your subject can dramatically affect a portrait. Whether it’s their expression or how they stand, it can change the feeling or the emotion of the shot. It’s always a good idea to try different poses and expressions, so your clients have a variety from which to select. You’d be surprised what customers end up choosing!

Girl laughing at camera

6. LIGHTING

The best (and easiest to work with) light possible is natural, diffused lighting. The best times to take pictures are the early morning hours and early evening hours just before dusk. If you are learning try to avoid the bright sunlit hours or you’ll need to consider exposure and flashes. Bright sunlight, even directly overhead, can cast shadows either across the face or behind the subject! Cloudy days are ideal for portrait photography. If you need to shoot in direct sunlight, use flash to fill in the shadows and light your subject’s face. 

 7. RAW FILE FORMAT

Most photography portraits benefit from shooting raw even if it means larger file sizes. If you plan on printing or enlarging the picture, shoot raw because it allows you to edit the file without compromising the original. JPEG is a compressed format, and you lose valuable image data. While it’s easier to work with JPEG, raw best preserves the image which can make all the difference when editing or printing the photo.

Whats the difference between RAW and JPEG? Is it that much better? Find out here

8. POST-PROCESSING

The beauty of digital photography is the ability to edit your photos on your computer. Lightroom or Photoshop are two of the best for advanced photo editing software. You can correct a lot including colour and lighting and you can even smooth out imperfections. Photo editing software can be a lifesaver with portrait photography!

Photography Portrait

Black and white portraits can transform your capabilities! This incredible guide will leave you shooting the best black and whites you have ever seen!

9. YOUR SUBJECTS AND THE PHOTO SESSION

THIS is the best advice you will ever receive when it comes to photography portraits!

Make your subject as comfortable as possible! Put them at ease in front of your camera. Talk to them before and during the session. Explain in lay terms what you’ll be doing and tell them about the equipment you’ll be using. Remember that shooting children’s portraits isn’t the same as an adult’s picture. Be sensitive to their needs.

Stuck for ideas? Create the perfect backdrops with this blog.

10. EDUCATION & INSPIRATION

Check out other photography portraits and learn from them! Take classes and look at what others are doing by looking through magazines and websites! Check out the styles and elements you like. 

Portrait Photography can be incredibly rewarding as a photographer. It can be poignant and powerful, and it can elevate your photography skills to a new level. It’s a challenge most photographers happily seek out at some point because they understand its rewards.

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