We all have beautiful people around us. It’s not a beauty contest – everyone has something that makes them absolutely marvellous, either a smile, a look in their eyes, a passion or even feelings that can truly make you look completely different.
And there are those, professional and amateur photographers, who feel inspired by the inner and outside beauty; that’s why they try to capture that something. It’s not easy and it’s not always about the right equipment – it’s more of a combination of little technology, instincts, and a very good eye. Here are some topis that may help you become a master portrait photographer:
Play with light
The best way is to make use of natural daylight, especially if you don’t own any professional lamps. It usually gives a soft and warm touch to your subject’s natural colours, though you should pay attention when it comes to direct sunlight – sometimes it can create a golden glow around the photographed person (which is desired) but other times you will get a lot of shadows or over exposition, that spoils everything.
It’s better to avoid these shots on sunny days by finding some light shade. Taking photos directly into the sun will require you to get some fill light to bounce the sunlight back to your subject’s face. If you don’t have a lamp or a white card, you may go with your flashlight.
To shoot portraits indoors, it’s best to place your subject close to the window and play with the light going in from the outside. If it’s too dark, you can use some lamps (even regular ones); if it’s too late because your photoshoot is already over, don’t you fret, all is not lost. Then it’s time to play with the settings or use ready filters such as lightroom portrait presets.
Think about the background
The portrait is all about your subject so you shouldn’t aim for any busy backgrounds – you don’t want to draw the attention of an observer away from the person. It’s best to choose something simple, e.g. a wall, whether it’s a wallpaper that somehow matches your subject or a plain white wall. Sometimes it may be interesting to include an object (or more) in the background to make a connection between it and the person in the photo.
For example, a shepherd with his sheep behind him, a musician and his instrument or a hiker with a mountain looming in distance.
Make sure your subject is ready
There are many people who don’t feel particularly comfortable in front of the camera. If you want to take a good photo, you have to avoid awkwardness and nerves at all costs (uneasy feelings really can spoil everything). Take care of a person you want in your picture – make sure they feel relaxed and at ease. You will see that the results will be much better then.
Talk to them, make jokes to make them laugh, say a little compliment and not only when you’re working with a stranger; even your best friend may feel tense while being photographed by you. Don’t push and don’t impose anything – say what you expect from this photoshoot but also listen to what they have to say. They may have some interesting ideas. Plus, don’t always tell them to pose – very often photos taken unexpectedly are the best.
Don’t be afraid to pose them
Don’t command because that will put them under pressure, and make sure your requests are clear and simple. Don’t be afraid to ask them to raise their chin, put their head on a hand or straighten their back – hardly anyone is a natural-born model.
After all, you’re the one looking at them through your camera, they can’t really see themselves. Make sure you try different things – standing, sitting, leaning against the wall, even laying down; shoot from below and from above. You never know when and how you will find the right angle.
Remember the right focal length
Image distortion may improve or break your photo, so it’s good you can control it thanks to the focal length. Look at your lens barrel to see what focal lengths it has to offer – they are always displayed in millimetres – and rotate the zoom ring or use plus and minus buttons on the camera body to change it.
However, if you have a prime or fixed lens, there will be no choices, only one focal length. If your camera has more than one length, it’s basically the process of trial and error to find the right one. With time you will get to know your equipment and you will be able to tell what works best and when.
The most important thing is to take your time. Don’t rush – let yourself and your portrait subject know each other. Don’t plan too much in advance; you can have some ideas and props but let yourself be inspired by the person you’re taking photos of. After all, it really is all about them – you have to see their beauty to capture it with your camera. These tips may help you achieve it but your good eye is crucial.