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Do you have any tips for shooting portraits?
Quality portraits can be made with any camera. There are basically three types of portraits: formal, environmental and candid.
The formal portrait is a posed and carefully arranged photo of an individual or group that emphasizes their best qualities. It is usually shot in a controlled environment such as a studio, with attention to detail.
The environmental portrait is shot in a setting that tells the viewer something about the subject’s interests – their profession or hobbies. Like the formal portrait it can be posed and carefully arranged.
The candid portrait is usually shot as if the subject was unaware they were being photographed. An example would be portraits taken while someone is being interviewed.
Here are some tips to help you make quality portraits.
With formal portraits it is best to have a neutral background – a wall or a fabric drop. If you use a fabric drop, be sure it is ironed. It can be draped to make folds for dramatic effect. The background in the environmental portrait is, of course, the environment. Pay attention to the placement of accessories in the shot. Candid portraits read better if the background is free of detail or out of focus.
If you don’t have lots of lighting equipment, the best light for portraiture is a soft window light from a window facing away from the sun. In the early days of photography, portraitists had a large window facing north in their studios so they could take advantage of the “north light” – a technique still widely used. Place your subject in a position so that they are lit by this soft light. You can use a large white poster board or sheet on the shadow side of their face to bounce fill light into the shadows. Remember to turn off the flash.
If you are doing a head and shoulders portrait, it is best to zoom the lens out and move back. Using a wide or normal focal length lens makes the face look bloated, whereas a telephoto lens keeps the facial features in proportion. Using a longer focal length also blurs out background detail. Three quarter length and group shots don’t require a long focal length, because the distance between the subject and the camera is greater and the proportions of their features look normal.
Confer with the subject prior to the sitting. Have clothing options of light and dark clothes and avoid prints, which may make the image busy. A fan off-camera can make hair more lively. Make the subject comfortable and involve them in the process. Try various poses. If the subject wears glasses be aware of the reflections in the glasses and have the subject move their head to better position the reflections.
Everybody appreciates a little “magic” from post-processing. Be aware of glare on the forehead, chin and the tip of the nose and take them out or reduce their brightness in post-processing.
Depending on your camera, you may have features that lend themselves to portraiture. There are PORTRAIT Scene modes and some cameras have a BEAUTY shooting mode that finds a person’s face and gives the skin a smooth look. In the Playback menu, your camera might have a BEAUTY FIX function. BEAUTY FIX has four options for “retouching” a portrait in-camera.
- ALL – Applies all of the function below at once.
- CLEAR SKIN – Makes skin look smooth. The levels are SOFT, AVG, and HARD.
- SPARKLE EYE – Slightly enlarges the catch light in the eye.
- DRAMATIC EYE – Slightly dilates the pupil.
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