How to take great portraits
Portraits are a fantastic way to capture the spirit and personality of a loved one. Yet despite how easy the professionals make it look, taking portraits requires a bit of preparation to be successful. To help you transform your amateur headshots into high quality portraits, I’ve put together a list of useful hints and suggestions that you should take into account.
Shake up your perspective
Eye level for a strong connection
To create a strong connection with the viewer, placing your camera at eye level will create a striking portrait and help connect with an audience. The people looking at the portrait will feel a direct connection with the subject.
Place yourself lower to imply power and superiority
You will see this type of picture with models and athletes, there’s a reason for this, shooting from below will make the subject look taller and imposing, it’s best to be lean for this type of image as it is not very forgiving if you have curves!.
Getting above the subject and shooting down will help you make your subject look leaner, don’t over do it though, the angle can make or break your image, look for distorsion, does the image still look credible?
Lose the eye contact
Eye contact can be incredibly powerful however it is not always essential. If you want to experiment with a new technique, try asking your subject to glance down, gaze into the distance or turn to the side. These looks may not be traditional but they’re definitely interesting!
Experiment with lighting
Flat light is the most flattering but also the most boring. Flat light means the subject is light evenly over the face with the light coming from behind you. Flat light is very flattering to the skin to decrease texture and wrinkles, it will soften the skin appearance and take away blemishes.
If you’re opting for a more contemporary portrait, the world is your oyster! Side lighting is a great way to create a moody feel while backlighting and silhouettes add intrigue and mystery. Harsh shadows create drama but will not suit everyone.
Shoot candid shots
As well as snapping staged shots, make sure that you also capture the subject acting naturally. A flicker of a smile, spur of the moment laugh or absorbed frown can sometimes be the winning shot!
Choose a fast shutter speed Whether you’re shooting a posed portrait or a candid subject, humans have a tendency to blink, move and fidget. To avoid blurs and unfocussed shots, make sure you increase your ISO, especially if you’re shooting indoors in soft light.
For portraits with added depth, adding a prop can have a wonderful effect. The extra point of interest captures the attention and adds an extra element of interest to the finished product. When used correctly, relevant props can also add complexity to the subject in question.
Embrace your apertures
In general, good portraits are shot with a small depth of field that blurs out any background distractions. This helps to emphasise the subject and create a high impact shot. To achieve this look, set your camera to maximum aperture in order to decrease depth of field.
Set yourself a project
Practice is your friend, if you’re planning to take portraits of your family or friends practice in advance, learn to read how the light falls on a face, but also expressions to understand how your subject is feeling in front of the camera. Set yourself a project, photograph your nieces and nephews, or shop owners in your village.
Learn to guide your subject
Nothing worse than standing in front the camera not knowing what to do, it will not only show how uncomfortable your subject is, but also make them look tense! Learn to communicate, guide and have fun with your subject. You will help them forget that they are in front of the camera and enjoy the experience.
Share in the comments how you’re getting on!