Tips for Better Portrait Photography

The difference between amateur and professional portrait photography is vast.  I have tried my level best to compile the top tips for portrait photography from my experience and expertise.

Whether you're capturing your friends portraits or you've been commissioned to photograph a family, or you're shooting in a pristine studio or in a outside location, I believe my tips will help you become a better portrait photographer.

Connect with your subject as best you can well before the shoot.

Find a common ground, interests that you share with your subject. This will help to put them more at ease with you.

Remember to engage and direct your subject. I'll often say something offbeat just to get a reaction, while my finger is trained on the shutter ready to get the shot.

I never filter the lens, always the light. Your lens is going to be as good as the last piece of glass in front of it.

Background

Background plays a vital role to a portrait. As you know, portrait is all about someone’s face. So it is important to have a background which is not interfering with the subject. A simpler and less cluttered background works better for portraits. However, sometimes surroundings may need to be considered to bring out the personality of the subject.

Light. You can create beautiful lighting situations anywhere quite inexpensively using Natural light and a reflector or a diffuser.

However, shooting outdoors may be tricky, as you may not be able to control the light in most situations. Make sure that you don’t pose the subject right in front of the sun. This may cause unwanted brightness or deep shadow. Shooting in mid-day also should be avoided as much as possible. For best results, position the subject in such a way that sunlight falls on the face from the side. You may also use reflectors or an external flash to light up some parts of the face.

Another way to get a great beauty light on your subject is by "bending light." Place your subject in an open shade area by using a garage, carport or overhang. This also creates a beautiful, even light on the face.

If you are shooting indoors, make sure that you use a soft, evenly distributed light source to light up the subject.

When using flash indoors or out, expose your subject with the aperture and your background with your shutter speed. This will equally balance the mixture of light.

You can control your strobe light but you can’t control your existing light

Lens

Choosing the proper focal length is very important. The focal length has the potential to distort the subject’s head in one way or another. The longer the focal lengths, the more flattering it is for the subject and the shallower the depth of field will be. Personally, I find that the 85mm on a full frame camera and the 50mm on a cropped sensor to be the optimal portrait lengths. Both are wide enough to capture the surrounding scenery with the appropriate distance and also with a few steps forward, they can achieve tighter portraits. Fixed prime lenses such as the 50mm or 85mm are fast lenses with wide apertures that will help shoot at wide settings. This is important when you want to melt away distracting backgrounds

Composition

The purpose of composing an image is to draw the viewer's eye to the essential details of the portrait.It could be the eyes,smile, the face or could be what one sees interesting.The important rules matter largely like the rule of thirds and depth of field but sometimes this can be broken if needed.Its all subjective.

Expression

People tend to forget that a portrait without a REAL expression does not connect to the viewer. Humankind wants to see genuine emotion and not a posed, cheesy smile. This is more important than location, light and expensive gear. Clients will more often than not choose the blurry images with bad compositions if it means those images are honest portrayals of themselves.

Angle and Posing

Pose and the angle of the body and face play a key role.Play attention to the details like the placement of the hand.It can make or break a photo.

Get high or get low. Taking a portrait is not always shooting at the eye level. Positioning the camera high or low while keeping the focus on the eyes brings out interesting features and adds different flavors to the portraits. So make the model sit, stand up, climb up to the stool or ladder or stairs and shoot. Or you go high, climb up, or position your camera high and shoot. You will have more and more interesting options.

Remember to have fun, and you will always take great pictures.  The biggest piece of advice I give is to get out and experiment.