Portrait is a discipline of photography that we all practice at some point, even if we only take family photos. But if you have a certain requirement and you want to succeed in quality portraits, you quickly realize that the recipe is a little more complicated than waiting for a smile and triggering the camera. Let's see what you need to know, but also to feel for a good portrait.
For a beginner, as for a more experienced photographer, it is not always enough to handle the camera correctly and get the right portrait. What settings should you choose? How to get the right light? What position should the model have? How to add value to the portrait with carefully selected decor elements? Quite often, the recipe for a portrait is more complicated than you think. We offer you some tips to learn how to photograph and become a true portrait professional.
Choose the right equipment
Today, most people just take their phone and capture an image in an instant, without first thinking about the frame, depth, light. But nothing beats a good camera and a tripod to get a really valuable result. Also consider using an appropriate lens.
A focal length of 50 mm or more will be the most interesting. Indeed, a wide angle could distort the model. Then, you are free to choose if you prefer to photograph your model indoors, in a photo studio and use reflectors, or outdoors, in daylight.
Prepare your settings before the photo session
It will not benefit you at all if you make it clear to the person you are going to photograph that you are not sure of your technique. He would lose all the confidence he could have in you, and this will not help you much to feel comfortable. So, better prepare your settings in advance.
Decide the depth of field. This is the basic setting for the portrait photographer. To have a background that helps you focus on your subject and give power to your image, opt for a large aperture (maximum f / 4). But if your subject is complexed by certain defects on his face, try to alleviate them through large openings. Finally, in general, however, avoid using too large an opening (1.4, 1.8) because it will not give a completely clear face.
Avoid using AUTO mode. Also, avoid enlarging the ISO too much; if the exposure is not good enough, you can play a little with speed, because in the portrait the subject is rarely moving.
The background is very important in portrait photography
Before you think about the person you are going to photograph (relatives, strangers or professional models), you must choose a background. Consider it as a framework whose mission is to highlight your subject. Colors, shapes, light are elements that will be decisive for the image you will produce. The background will serve as the basis for the work. Try to imagine the frame of your image in the next photo. Your model will simply be placed in it.
Relax your model before and while you photograph it
The human relationship that is established between the subject and his photographer, who is yourself, is crucial to your success. In general, no one likes to be photographed. Nobody likes to be in front of a goal. Above all, each is considered "non-photogenic". Which is absolutely false. The photographer must emphasize this photogenicity.
During the session, it is important to focus only on your model. Everyone likes to be flattered, listened to. People get emotional quickly when you listen to them talk. So make your model express itself. This conversation will also have the benefit of allowing you to learn a lot from each other.
Adjust the number of photos to the person you are shooting
In the context of a photographic portrait, it is necessary to know how to adapt the amount of photos taken to that person. Some like to hear the sound of a repeating shutter. This reassures them. If nothing happens, it is a source of anxiety. For others, it's the other way around, every trigger is stressful. For these people, it is better not to press the button too often. It's up to you to know how to dose.
The success of a portrait very often depends on the quality of the ambient light. To get the best images, look for a soft, warm light, for example at the end of the day in good weather. You can also choose a strong light; very often shooting near a large window gives an excellent result.
You may even cheat. If you do not have the sun on your side, you can always use accessories to produce the right light: a reflector, which will help you direct the light in the direction that suits you or a flash, which can produce shadows. The flash is an essential accessory for the photographer's set, and if you don't have one yet, we advise you to buy it.
Choose the best posture and attitude
Pay attention to body tensions: a relaxed model means a successful portrait picture. It is interesting to include hands in your portraits. A hand on your face will immediately give more strength to your images. The face of your model can be tilted, straight, bent forward or backward. Therefore, the position of the head is very important. Each movement is likely to trigger a different emotion.
The look must not be forgotten. Always try to keep eye contact, this is the determining factor in rendering an expression, a face. A portrait sometimes also means a macro, focused on the eyes, for example.
Practice making portraits
For this, if you have already exhausted the patience of family members and friends, you can turn to the statues. The idea may seem surprising, but there are many advantages when photographing sculptures: they are the most obedient models, they do not move, they do not get impatient, they do not judge you. In addition, it keeps the same expression. Therefore, they can be ideal models to test yourself as an artist and to test your technique for portrait photography.
Sometimes it's a good idea to ignore the classic compositional rules. Use them, but leave them aside from time to time to let your imagination run wild. As you can often hear, think outside the box! Feel free to underexpose or overexpose the portraits to create interesting effects. Remember that a "stolen" pose can sometimes be more successful than a well-thought-out and planned portrait with the model. Use not only light but also shadows to highlight the subject.
So, take your photo bag ( models in a comparative list here ) and be Pygmalion!