We are surrounded by interesting photo opportunities, whether it be the landscape around us or the places that we visit. But one of the most popular subjects is photographing people. Here are some helpful tips for taking a great portrait.
They say that one of the keys to having a successful business is location, location, location. Well…one of the keys to a good photo is light, light, light. Ask any professional photographer and they will tell you that it’s the most important element, regardless of whether you’re shooting a portrait, action shot, or landscape photo. Try to avoid direct sunlight on your subject’s face. Why? First, if the sun is high in the sky, it will cast harsh shadows on your subject’s face, usually resulting in dark raccoon eyes. Second, if the sun is directly in front of your subject, you will get a whole bunch of images with them squinting. Not a good look for most people!
Professional trick: If you have no choice but to shoot pictures with your subject facing into the light, ask them to close their eyes, count to 3, and then open their eyes as you shoot the picture. This will give you a better chance to get their eyes wide open. Also, a shady spot can give nice, even lighting to your subject, helping you avoid those splashes of sunlight on their face or torso.
In addition to good lighting (avoiding mixture of harsh sunlight and shadows), the key to selecting a great location is to make sure the background is interesting. You should avoid having anything too distracting in the background, and you may want to experiment by having your subject move to different spots at the location.
Professional trick: If you really want to impress your friends, scout out a place that reflects the personality of your subject, and shoot your photos there. For a woman, maybe it’s a field of flowers. For a man, maybe it’s an old building or rustic fence.
Focus on the eyes
They say that the eyes are the windows into one’s soul, and when taking a picture, this could not be more true. It’s very important that when you take a picture of a person (or even your pet), that you focus on their eyes. Unless you are trying to take an artistic picture and trying to blur your image, the eyes must be in focus.
Professional trick: Take more than one image, and make sure that your subject’s eyes are not only open, but wide open. If you take 10 images of someone, you will be amazed at the subtle differences in the shape and position of their eyes. It is that subtlety that can make the difference between a good picture and a great picture.
Your camera has all kinds of buttons and menus, some of which are helpful when taking portraits, and some that don’t matter. The best camera setting for photographing portraits is the aperture setting. Aperture lets you determine how much of your photo is in focus and how much is not.
Professional trick: Many good portraits will have the subject in perfect focus with the background blurry. This can be achieved by setting your camera’s aperture to the lowest number possible, and then focusing on the eyes of your subject. If this seems too advanced, try using the portrait mode (most cameras show that as a person’s face on the dial), which adjusts the settings for you.
Don’t be afraid of your flash
Taking pictures indoors poses different challenges than taking pictures outside. For one, you will generally have less light to work with, and you may want to use the flash on your camera.
Professional trick: If you have an external flash, it is usually best to point the flash towards a wall of the ceiling and bounce the light to get a more natural look. There’s nothing worse than overpowering your subject with too much flash and making their skin look pasty white. If you’re taking your photo with a built-in flash, see if you can turn down the power to add subtle lighting to your subject without making it obvious. Believe it or not, your flash can be used outside, as well.