Portrait Tips

April 01, 2012  •  2 Comments

A few weeks back I went on a night shoot with a friend who couldn’t get her camera to work when we were set up.  My first question to her was “Did you take your lens cap off?”  I asked that because it is the reason my camera wouldn’t work on more than one occasion.  She had her lens cap off but she had her DSLR set on automatic with the flash turned off.  My first response to this was “you don’t use this camera in auto do you”.  She shoots with a Nikon D90.  We adjusted her settings and she shot in Aperture priority and well and in manual and was totally amazed with her results.  (To be honest I was amazed with mine as well. I hadn’t done any night shooting since my days of using film.)  After she saw her results she asked me to help her with her camera and photography and I agreed.  That in part is the reason for the theme behind this blog.

One of the areas that I still need to learn a lot more about is portraits.  I do not shoot a lot of people, and if I do they are usually candid shots.  I have on occasion shot portraits (head and shoulder shots when I have been asked) for friends and family and here a few things I have learned to far.

  1. Shoot on the same level as your subject.  If you are shorter than your subject stand on a stool or ladder so you are the same height.  You do not want your subject looking down on you or you looking down on them
  2. Have them stand far enough away from the background so you do not get a shadow, or use a fill flash.  Do not use your on camera flash for this unless you use a diffuser when you are shooting with existing light.  (On camera flash is just too harsh of a light for portraits).  If you are shooting with studio lighting you probably do not need to read my pointers.
  3. When taking photos of the entire person be sure to include the person's feet, shoes and enough room around them to look like they are able to walk away.  Tight crops are good with head and shoulder shots but not on full body portraits.

These are both mistakes that I made with the portraits that I have done and will remember for the next time I am asked to do a portrait.


Comments

2.Your auto friend(non-registered)
Yes I leave my camera on auto far more than on settings because I really have never understood all that this camera is capable of BUT with Sylvia's help I'm learning more things and I do not leave it on auto as much as I use too. I did take some photo's with weekend of a sweet, young pregnant couple and some of the pics I took were off the auto settings but I found that my couple was a little impatient waiting for me to figure out a thing or two. But I did get some great pictures and I even got some wildlife pictures
1.Pamela Kennedy(non-registered)
My portraits tend to be head & shoulders or, at most, torso based. I don't think I've ever taken a serious 'full bodied' shot (that's something that should be left to red wine experts?)

What a good tip you've given in #3 Sylvia . . . . 'to leave the figure room to walk away' is so sensible & I will remember it. It seems to me to be one of those "Why didn't I think of that?" moments!!

Thank you.
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