Tip of the Day: Top Ten Portrait Tips | Popular Photography

Tip of the Day: Top Ten Portrait Tips

1) Get the light right. Good light is one of the most important aspects of a good portrait. When you are indoors, try having your subject sit next to a window that is not in direct sunlight. This light is not too harsh and allows shadows to define features.2) Focus on the eyes. The eyes are the first place people look when viewing a portrait of someone’s face, so make sure they are in focus in your image. If you are shooting too close for your auto focus to work, use the autofocus lock to ensure

1) Get the light right. Good light is one of the most important aspects of a good portrait. When you are indoors, try having your subject sit next to a window that is not in direct sunlight. This light is not too harsh and allows shadows to define features.

2) Focus on the eyes. The eyes are the first place people look when viewing a portrait of someone’s face, so make sure they are in focus in your image. If you are shooting too close for your auto focus to work, use the autofocus lock to ensure sharpness.
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3) Try different perspectives.** Everyone takes portraits straight on at the eye level of the subject. Make your images stand out by mixing it up—try shooting from above, below, or profile.

4) Focus on something other than the subject’s face. Sometimes the most compelling portraits aren’t of a person’s face, but of something else interesting about them—their hands, clothes, etc. What’s left out of an image can say more about a person than what’s included.

5) Make them laugh. Most people are at least a little uncomfortable having their photo taken, and the worst portraits are those where the subject looks like they wish they weren’t there. Talk to the person your photographing and if possible get them to laugh, then when they’re guard is down, snap the photo, they will look relaxed and happy without posing.
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6) Try using a prop.** Even if it’s just a cup of coffee, giving your subject something to do will make them much more relaxed than if they feel like they have to strike a pose. Keep chatting and taking photos the whole time.
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7) Pay attention to the background.** You want the viewer to look at your portrait subject, not the what’s behind them. The easiest thing to do is place your subject in front of a clean simple background such as a blank wall. If you can’t find a blank wall, try simply moving around them to see if there is a less cluttered angle. If you are still battling the background, open up your aperture (a smaller f number), this lets more light in, causing the main focal point to be in focus while the rest of the photo is somewhat blurred.
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8) Make you subject look thinner.** Ask your subject turn their body partially toward the camera and put their weight on their back foot—it will make them look thinner. Advise the person to move their shoulders back and their head and chest slightly forward, this will improve their posture and help eliminate a double chin. Separating their arms from their bodies will give them more shape.
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9) Think about complementary colors.** Plan the colors of your shooting environment and your model’s outfit ahead of time. Ask your subject to wear clothes of all the same color, it will elongate their bodies, and make for a cleaner looking photo. Selecting colors that work with a person’s skin, hair, and eye color is also important.

10)  Move. Rather than asking your subject to change position constantly, move around them, it will help you see potential for different types of images, and allow your subject to be more comfortable and follow you naturally with their eyes and head. Do try shooting in more than one location however, even if that just means a different room, even small changes in location can effect mood and give you more ideas.

—Kathleen Davis
Assistant Editor

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