20 Great Tips To Create Better Portraits
1. Take lots of shots:
Before the digital age came along, photography was expensive, rolls of film and their development cost money so many photographers took images sparingly. Thankfully each digital image costs you nothing so don’t be afraid to blast away, even if its just to check your settings.
2. Research poses:
If your just staring out with portrait photography posing your subject can be a bit overwhelming. However, you can research other portraits either online or in glossy magazines for quick inspiration! do this ahead of time however, as your model may become bored whilst your flicking through a magazine on a shoot.
3. Avoid Very Low or Very High Angles:
Unless your after a certain look, it’s best to avoid shooting from very high and low angles when your first starting out. Extreme angles distort your models proportions which can look odd and unflattering.
4. Shoot Straight:
When first starting out with portraits it’s best to shoot at a ‘straight on’ angle, that is with the camera parallel to your subjects head or slightly above it. This will help simplify your shoot whilst your still learning how to interact with a model, pose them and work on your camera settings. When your more comfortable you can experiment with different low and high angles.
5. Relax Your subject:
One of the keys to great portrait photography is a relaxed model, if your model is relaxed then your images will appear more natural. Talk to them and show them any good images you’ve taken, commenting that the photo is good and that they look great. Don’t show them any bad images though as this may lower their confidence!
6. Good Posture:
Now that you’ve relaxed your subject, make sure their not TOO relaxed! Keep an eye out for slouching, make sure necks are stretched out and shoulder aren’t drooping.
7. Pay Careful Attention To Colours:
Is your models purple and green dress clashing with your yellow background? Choose a suitable coloured background for your models attire. If your starting out, you can’t go wrong with black or white. Simple colour schemes are very effective, so try to play with shades and tones of one or two colours and look out for small background objects or accessories that don’t fit in well. If your shooting outside then try and find a background that goes with your models clothes . If you have a certain location in mind then ask them to wear something suitable, planning ahead will pay dividends.
8. Avoid Busy Backgrounds:
When shooting outdoors your background can make or break an image so be careful where you shoot and make sure there’s not ‘too much going on’. Doorways and archways can often provide simple backgrounds and add framing to an image.
9. Use Wide Apertures On Problem Backgrounds:
If you have no control on your background for whatever reason, then using a lens with a wide aperture can help blur it out and create subject separation from it.
10. Professional Hair and Makeup:
If your just doing portraits for fun, then hiring a makeup artist for every shoot won’t really make sense but once in awhile for a special shoot could make the world of difference to your images. If your heart is set on portrait photography then may be well worth seeking collaboration with an artist early on, this will help elevate your photography from the start.
11. Mind The Hair:
Even if you’ve you’ve hired a pro to create a stunning hair style for your model, one stray hair across the face and eye can ruin the perfect shot. Take a close inspection of your model before you photograph them and review images carefully. This goes triple when working outdoors!
12. Soft Focus Filter:
If your having particular trouble making yourself or a model look good then you can try a soft focus filter. This will slightly blur the image and is good for covering up wrinkles, uneven skin tones, blemishes and spots. The effect was used heavily on television in the 1960’s to make women’s skin look soft and clear.
13. Use Wide Angle Lenses Sparingly:
Using a wide angle lens is great if you want to include the surroundings in a full length portrait but using the same lens close up to your subject will result in distorted features! Noses will appear bigger and whilst this can be used for for comical effect, the result is rarely flattering.
14. Invest In A Portrait Lens:
Any camera or lens can be used to take a great portrait, so don’t feel the need to start obsessing about gear. Having said that, if you own a DSLR, buying a good ‘portrait lens’ can give you more creative options like the ability to blur backgrounds out and working in lower light. Lens with a focal length of around 85mm to 135mm are considered perfect portrait lenses.
15. Steer Clear Of Camera Flash:
This goes for the little popup flashes that you see on DSLRs or pocket cameras. Avoid using them if your shooting indoors because they create a harsh light that isn’t very flattering. They can also tend to create strong shadows on facial features, like under the nose, as well as dark backgrounds that are horribly underexposed.
16. Use Camera Flash!:
Like most ‘rules’ in photography, they are made to be bent and broken! Using a flash the right way can help eliminate harsh shadows caused by the sun and other strong light sources. They can add extra ‘pop’ to your subject and make them stand out better against bright backgrounds. External units are way more flexible and provide better results than a popup or on camera flash.
17. Diffuse Your Flash:
Learning to use flash effectively can take your images to the next level but the first step to that next level would should be to diffuse your flash. This creates a softer light that is generally more favourable for portraits. You can purchase soft boxes for studio strobes and small flash units or you can jury-rig something yourself by placing thin paper or tissue over the flash bulb.
18. Avoid Strong Midday Sun:
Many people think that this is an ideal time to take photos as the sun is at its highest and brightest. In reality, midday sun bearing straight down on your model on a clear day will create strong shadows on the face. If you find yourself out in these conditions then shoot in the shade or use a strong flash to fill in the shadows.
19. Use A Tripod In Lowlight:
Using a tripod can often feel restrictive, especially if your one that likes to be constantly moving around searching for interesting angles and compositions. However if your shooting in low light they are a godsend, allowing you to get the shot blur free! Just remember to tell your model to stand still as possible whilst your taking the photo.
20. Have Fun!:
Your not shooting for vogue with a 4 hour deadline, so try not to get too stressed! Things will go wrong and they’ll be days where you won’t be happy with any of your images but take it in your stride. your images will suffer if your not enjoying yourself, so keep learning and practicing but remember to take a break if it ever stops becoming fun.