HOW TO TAKE STUNNING PORTRAIT PHOTOGRAPHS
John Watson Photography
Photography, Portrait Photography, Digital Photography
The key to photography is understanding lighting as explained in our earlier post, The Significance of light in photography.
In a studio you should strive for 3 point lighting with a key light source coming from to one side of your subject; a weaker “fill” light coming from the othe side of your subject to reduce shadowing and a “backfill” or “rim” coming from behind your subject. Often studios use cooler more efficient LED lights; though if you have a good window this can be used as one of your light sources.
Outdoors be aware of natural lighting conditions. Portrait photography is better in overcast lighting rather than bright sunlight. Your camera settings should be optimised by adjusting the exposure triangle. Your ISO should be set at 100 if shooting in bright sunlight and perhaps at 400 on an overcast day and boosted to 800 for indoor photography. I like to use a Light-sphere diffuser with an external flash to get a good soft light for portraiture.
How your camera uses light can also be influenced by shutter speed and aperture as well as the ISO setting explained above. For shooting portraits in really bright conditions, you can minimize the risk of over-exposure by using a faster shutter speed e.g. 1/60th of a second and by using a smaller aperture (signified by a higher f stop, though ou don’t wan to increase this too much as this also influences your depth of field as explained next).
Depth of Field (DOF) is typically shallow in portraiture and higher in landscape photography. In portraiture we want our subject or model in focus and our background blurred. So where should you set your aperture or f.stop depending on how many subjects you are trying to capture? I recommend that you set your f.stop as low as possible for your lens when shooting a single subject. I like to use an 85mm lens for portraiture, though others use 100mm or 105mm lenses. A decent portraiture lens has an f stop that goes at least down to 2.8 and if you have a lens that goes as low as 1.8 or 1.4 even better.
To add interest to your shots try applying the “rule of thirds” and position your main subject in either a horizontal or vertical one-third of your total frame area; rather than in the centre.
When shooting 2 or 3 subjects try moving your aperture setting to f/4 to increase the depth of field, i.e. the focal length that is in focus. Even with only 2 subjects standing beside each other there is a good likelihood that the eyes of one of your subjects are behind or in front of the second subject’s eyes.
A pro-tip is to focus your camera on the eye of your main subject that is closest to the camera.
to get the best effects with portraiture try shooting with a prime lens, rather than a zoom. You will need to move around and you can try crouching down or shooting from above to learn what effects you like and this will help you develop your own unique style.
While getting your camera settings right will go a long way to achieving the best look from your subject; there are some secrets that you need to learn to get the best expressions from your subjects and make every shot a celebrity shot without ever using the “s” word (smile). Find out how in our recent blog –How to take a celebrity shot every time!
If you find this photography tips blog to be useful, I’d be honored if you would share with your friends and connections, thank-you!
johnwaptsonphotography.co, raising the standard of portrait photography in Brisbane, Queensland!
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