Ten Portrait Tips

Here’s ten important portrait tips for you today:

  1. Use the right lens. A lens in the 35-100mm range is best (on a crop camera). A 50mm f/1.8 lens can be had very affordably, and this length (equivalent to 80mm) is great for headshots.
  2. Think about your lighting. Natural light is best (from a north facing window). Avoid direct flash: when using flash, bounce it off a white or near-white wall or ceiling or use other modifiers or off-camera flash. Use a hair light when needed to separate a person from the background. Consider adding a splash of colour. Match the light to the mood, and realise that good light is all about the shadows.
  3. Closest eye sharp. Ensure that the eyes are sharp. Nothing else needs to be sharp, but the closest eye in particular has to be in focus.
  4. Think about the environment. If this is an environmental portrait, use a wider angle lens and show the subject interacting with, or surrounded by, that background. But if the background is not meaningful, blur it.
  5. Get the Moment! Shoot a lot, so you will catch the right moment, not the cheesy expressions.
  6. Catchlight: ensure the eyes show a little catch-light. If not, they look lifeless.
  7. Off-centre composition: do not put your subject, or your subject’s eyes, in the centre of your photo: Uncle Fred does that. Instead, use off-centre composition (“the rule of thirds”).
  8. Directing: never tell your subjects you are posing them: say “positioning” instead.
  9. Positioning: Angle your subjects unless they are very thin. In multiple-person groups, make little groups, use a combination of “sit”, “stand” and “lean”, and use joiners to join the groups. having a subject lean into the camera is often flattering.
  10. Props – consider using props that are meaningful (an author holding a book, for instance).

An environmental portrait sample:

Victoria Fenner

Audio Expert Victoria Fenner in the studio

And another one: a headshot, but still environmental:

Christy Smith of Studio Moirae

Christy Smith of Studio Moirae

And here’s a traditional headshot:

A Female Soldier

Army Reserves Private

There are of course legion more tips and tricks, but the above will get you going. There will be more tips coming!

If you want to learn more, and “hands on”, then come for a short, effective, course – send me an email to hear when and where. Like the all-day Advanced Lighting course on May 30 in Mono, Ont: there are still spaces.

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