There are five really handy tips that you can use in your portrait photography. The truth is that it’s easy to get high classy, imaginative and exceptional portrait photos. You may have heard that there are only two methods of lighting used when taking healthy portrait shots; soft and romantic lighting or dramatic lighting. While this, you may have heard, is a key to brilliant photos, it can be fairly limiting in more ways than one.
(Not to negate good lighting of course!)
Light is one of the most fundamental aspects to good photography. You may have heard the term “studio/portraits”. This is generally referring to placement of light, in a studio, on the person you are photographing. It’s a preferred option for many photographers to do portraits in a studio because of the control the photographer has over the situation; mainly the lighting, as lighting can be a hard issue to work with at social functions and even outside. So for the purpose of this article, I’m focusing (excuse the pun) on portraits done in the studio, although some portraits are done at a person’s home.
You can use lighting in your studio portraits to make the persons eyes bigger, check bones more defined or make them appear longer or shorter. Depending on where you place the light, such effects can be gained with minimal effort and expense. Most of this is about the right angle of light.
But studio portrait lighting is not what gives someone their personality in a photograph. With a human being, as photographers, we need to be able to capture the essence of a person. Once that is seen then you are almost there. Lighting provides an important sense of mood overall, but the best thing about the photo is the persons energy. This is why candid or playful shots make great photos. Here’s more articles on portraiture and posing.
Once you have all the technical aspects of your portraits you can work on gaining your beautiful portrait shots. If you do want to create certain effects such as slimming the face then you can cast an angular light over them with some shadow. If you want to broaden the face you can have a fairly front on style of lighting. Depending on your person, this may be quite boring and sitting for the shoot might be as exciting as waiting for the dentist.
Okay, so let’s have a look at the five ways to create a fun and lively portrait shot. Before I tell you my five suggestions, just remember the space you have to work with. Preferably your person will want to have the choice to move around an area of at least a meter without restriction. What this means for you is that your lighting won’t be dependent on taking the photo from a definite angles. So here are five tips to help you;
1. Capturing natural and fun, or candid expressions can be hard work. If you want to have something that’s fun and energetic, then perhaps put some funky music on, some comedy audio, or take the shot with a few people in it doing some fun things. This is a fairly extroverted method of portrait photography.
2. If it’s a candid style portrait shot you are after, then have that person or people bring in something that makes them feel relaxed such as playing their instrument, reading, knitting etc. Or perhaps they might like to paint or draw. You can get some great close ups this way too.
3. You have to think on your feet. Don’t worry about looking at each photo as you shoot, such as looking at the photo after each shot and saying “oh yeah that’s good” or “could be better”. And don’t give in to temptation when someone asks to see what you’ve taken after each shot. (That gets really annoying and time consuming.) You can let them know that you won’t be looking at any photos as they are being taken but you’d be happy to show them once the job is done. You can also use a short flash cycle because having to wait while the flash charges itself again is going to be a spontaneity killer.
4. Your focusing technique must be practiced. Become skilled at this for studio portraits and the rest of your photographing people will become so much easier. Constant focusing is a quick skill you’ll need to master. Even the most experienced of photographers can miss an in-focus shot if that person is moving around fast. And sometimes you can find that even the auto setting to start off with isn’t fast enough. Just practice.
5. In order for someone to feel relaxed as much as possible around you, don’t assume anything about them. Learn, prior to the photo shoot, what the person likes to do, what their favourite foods and entertainment is for example. For example if someone loves to cook, you’ll have more chance if you initiate a conversation about the best meals to cook than if you had no idea about that they liked and disliked.
Just remember, your lighting isn’t the first and last success factor in studio portrait photography. It’s the person you want to capture first and foremost.
People that feel relaxed and happy are such dynamite photographic subjects. You’ll see a whole world of possibilities in that persons face. Don’t be hasty with your experience. Patience is a huge requirement especially if you are photographing kids.
Finally, make sure you are relaxed yourself. Nothing worse than having your picture taken by someone who’s uptight! You can open this link to see and learn more in-depth technical information on photography.
And have fun!
Happy shooting, Amy Renfrey.