Are you looking for a few tips to improve your portrait photography skills? Look no further! Here are 10 tips written by professional photographer (and regular Telephoto.com contributor) David Taylor.
Softly Does It
An out-of-focus background will help to focus attention on your subject. Use a fast prime lens set to its largest aperture to maximise blur. Lenses longer than 85mm are particularly good for creating this effect. Take care to keep the eyes of your subject pin-sharp though, as depth of field will be limited.
Portraits don’t alway need to be just the head and shoulders of your subject. Use wide-angle lenses to shoot body portraits to show the subject in the context of their surroundings.
A reflector, held below your subject’s face – but out of shot! – will help to soften and reduce any hard shadows under their chin and nose. Reflectors come with different finishes. White reflectors are neutral in colour and are subtle in their effect. Gold reflectors bounce more light into shadows and add warmth to the light too.
Did They Blink?
People blink roughly 15-20 times a minute. The odds are that your subject blinked when you pressed the shutter button. After shooting, check that their eyes were open in playback and re-take the shot if necessary.
If you do use a wide-angle lens don’t be tempted to get in close to your subject. Get too close and their facial features will be distorted. They won’t thank you for it later…
Speed It up
Use a relatively fast shutter speed whenever possible. This will help to freeze any movement your subject may make as you shoot.
Some people really don’t like having their picture taken. Try to help your subject relax before you begin shooting. Explain to them what you’re going to do and how they can help achieve that. Be friendly and don’t criticise if they don’t pose exactly how you’d like.
Take care to check to see what’s behind your subject before you shoot. A classic mistake is to shoot so that your subject appears to have a tree growing out of their head. Find a background that is relevant to your subject, and isn’t too distracting.
Flash fired directly from your camera is a frontal light and isn’t ideal for portraiture. Frontal light tend to flatten a face, making it look less three- dimensional. If possible use off-camera flash, moved to produce a more flattering effect.
Do It Yourself
The problem with portrait photography is that you always need a willing subject for you to photograph… and sometimes it is just not possible to find one available at a a time which is convenient for you. Fear not, you are always available when required so why not try out some creative self portraits shots like the ones featured in this article.
This article was first published on Telephoto.com.
David Taylor is a British award-winning landscape and travel photographer, who was born and raised in Newcastle upon Tyne and now lives in the ancient market town of Hexham, Northumberland. He took his first photograph at the age of 14, when his parents gave him a Kodak Instamatic for Christmas, and he has been taking photographs ever since.
His landscape photos have been used in publicity materials by local businesses, councils and tourism organisations, such as the Northumberland National Park Authority. He has also supplied images and articles to both regional and national magazines including Living North, Countryfile, Black & White Photography and Outdoor Photography.