Photography could be a hobby for you, and/or a profession. But learning the ins and outs of portrait photography will help you stay ahead of the curve, in any case.
I am an outdoor portrait photographer, who has been doing this professionally for the past 2 years now. The following are 10 tips to start clicking better portraits (in random order), when you’re just starting out.
1) Know Your Subject
Before you begin shooting, it is important to know your subject. This is particularly important, when you’re clicking someone who you’re not really friends with. We don’t want to see awkward poses and faces, do we?
Take some time, talk to them, develop a relationship and make them feel comfortable.
Once you do that, you will notice how much more confident they are in front of the lens, and the results would be amazing.
2) Work on your angles
Look through your lens, and understand which is the best profile of the subject, and work your angle according to it.
One should know, that every angle has a different meaning attached to it; like the usual eye-level angle is the most neutral angle among all, while a low angle can signify superiority or domination, etc.
So work on your perspective, and don’t hold back from trying new things.
(We’ll look more into angles and the meanings associated with them, in future articles.)
Unless for creative and artistic reasons, one usually tries to keep the subject in focus.
While clicking portraits, where the subject is looking straight into the lens, try and focus on their eyes. This will help you obtain crystal sharp faces, and help your portraits come out better.
4) What’s in the background?
Before pressing the shutter release button, always be wary of what is in the background. Check your frame twice, before clicking. We don’t want a garbage bin or a random person walking by ruining the essence of our portrait, don’t be afraid to ask the subject to move to avoid something not-so-appealing/unwanted in the background.
5) Separate the Subject from the background / Blur out the clutter
In a portrait, in usual cases, our emphasis is on the subject and hence, it is important to separate the subject from the background because backgrounds can be very distracting sometimes.
To do this, we blur the background out, by creating a shallow depth of field. (Depth of field is how much part of the frame you want to be in focus in your photo.)
This can be done in a number of ways, one of the ways to do this is by using a wide aperture; another is by shooting at higher focal lengths (70-135mm is medium telephoto, which is optimum for portraiture).
6) Use Aperture Priority Mode
I widely make use of Aperture Priority while clicking portraits. It helps you easily control the Depth of Field. AP mode (Av in Canon Cameras) allows you to select your aperture, while the camera automatically decides the shutter speed. This is very useful, especially in quickly changing situations, such as a family event or wedding.
This one is almost a necessity to get good posed portraits.
It is important to realize that most of the people you are going to click, would not be professional models. So, they really do not have much idea of which poses are going to look good on camera and which ones will look unnatural. This is where direction comes in. You have to direct the subjects, sometimes even show them what pose you want by doing it yourself.
Once you obtain the required pose, work on it. Try different angles and profiles.
8) Keep it Candid
Candids and natural photos are loved by almost everyone. Anticipation is important to clicking good candid photos or the moment may pass. This can be done either by interacting with the subjects; or just by being the observer in some situations.
This is the most important aspect, when it comes to portraits and photography in general.
Lighting is key to making splendid and brilliant portraits. Understanding light is a bit of a complicated task, and one learns with experience. Choosing the right lighting conditions, filling up harsh shadows, etc. all need to be considered.
So, work on your lighting to achieve the desired look of your photo.
(I’ll do a separate article on lighting for portraiture soon)
10) Keep Experimenting
This one brings me back to one of the most iconic Coldplay lyrics, “If you never try, you’ll never know.”
This is the key to keep growing and evolving in the field of Photography.
Keep experimenting, keep trying concepts you have in mind and you will learn from your own mistakes. Trust me, I know, because I did the same.
I repeat, keep trying until you get it right.
If you are able to fathom your vision into the photographs you are clicking, then you’re doing great!
PS: Enjoy The Process
Having Fun – because this is what we’re all doing it for!
I believe that studying the concept of something, helps you understand it better, which in turn helps you enjoy the process more, while you’re working on it.
So have fun on your photoshoot, and spread positivity all around.
You will get better results, and your photographs will definitely thank you later on.