10 portrait photography tips every beginner needs to know.
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Pixean
December 28, 2018

You may be a beginner in photography, an amateur or even a professional. You might be shooting wildlife or landscapes for a living. Even then you need to have the basic knowledge of portrait photography. Whenever people will get to know that you are a photographer, they will request you for portraits. “I am a wildlife photographer and hence I cannot shoot portraits” – this is a very lame excuse and is nowhere close to professional behaviour. You may not be interested in making that a profession, but you surely need to know the basics. So let’s get down to the intricacies and discuss the 10 following portrait photography tips every beginner needs to know…

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Image courtesy Light Chasers

  1. The technical aspects: You need to get everything right in the camera itself. It may not be easy at first but with proper practice you should definitely get there quite quickly. Portrait photography is a lot about the so called background blur or bokeh effect. It depends on a variety of factors like aperture, focal length and the camera to subject distance. A wide open aperture like f/1.8 or so can give you a lovely background blur. You can also use a telephoto zoom lens to achieve the background blur since the longer focal length can give you very shallow depth of field even with a smaller aperture like f/5 etc. Make sure the distance between the subject and camera is not too long. Very long distances actually increase the depth of field. Use shutter speeds of 1/250th second of faster while taking candid portraits of children. For adults however, shutter speeds around 1/100th of a second will suffice. In case you want the dramatic long exposure portraits, use slow shutter speeds along with a neutral density filter. Keep the ISO at minimum.

  2. Posing you models / non models: In portrait photography, you may have to deal with models as well as non-models. Non models, being commoners might not have an idea about the different poses and hence you will have to step up. Ask your model to push their face a little forward and shoot at eye level to improve your images straightaway. This will also eliminate the double chin effect. Instead of facing towards the camera straight, ask your models to pose at an angle which will make them look a lot slimmer.

  3. Angles and their importance: The angles of your shots carry a lot of significance. When you are shooting someone from an elevation, the person may look dominated. Low angle shots expand the stature of the model and thus introduce a dominating sort of a feel to the image. Make sure the model doesn’t face the camera with a straight face. Introduce some angles in their poses to make your portraits look better.

  4. Using the surrounding: Natural frames always look good in photographs. Check out the surroundings for any such element that can be the natural framework of your image. You may find several other natural props around that can be of great help. For example, you can use the green leaves of a plant as an out of focus foreground for your image. The out of focus greenery can give you a very beautiful look.

  5. Props: When you are going out for a portrait shoot, make sure you carry different types of props. Colourful and vibrant props can introduce a different dimension to the images. On top of this, props can also make your model more comfortable. You may have to work with people who are quite camera shy especially kids. In this case you can engage the kid with the different props in your kitty. The playing kid will give you the opportunity to shoot some nice candid portraits.

  6. Theme and clothes: Every shoot requires a theme. When you go out there with a specific theme in mind, it helps you achieve much more. The clients also feel quite connected to theme if you can find something that they can easily relate to.

  7. Communication: Communication is important for any business and the same goes for photography. You must have prior information about the exact requirements of your client. It is preferable if you know a bit of their life story too. This may help you design a customised theme for the shoot. Customisations attract a lot of clients. This can be great for your business as well as hobby whichever is applicable.

  8. Helping hands: You can always do with an extra set of helping hands. Use of reflectors requires a lot of help. It won’t be possible for you to shoot as well as hold the reflector. As much as you want to be an all-rounder, it is not going to be smooth if you are going alone.

  9. Practice: Portrait photography like all other genres requires immense practice to master. The different poses are not always easy to remember on the field. That is the reason why you should prepare a shoot card before the actual shoot. This will have the details of the various types of shots you want to capture as well as the ones your clients want to get.

  10. Simplicity: You may have a huge plan for a portrait shoot. But there is no point if you neither have the knowledge to carry that out nor the gear required. In such a case, the best thing is to plan simple. Simple yet attractive shots will help you as well as your client. It will be easier for you shoot since such shots will not actually require a lot of gear. Similarly it will be easier for your clients to prepare for shoots without a lot of fuss. You certainly don’t want a shoot in which there is a lot of confusion amongst yourselves regarding the complicacies of a particular shot.

Portrait photography requires a lot of hard work to master. But then it is also the demand of the generation. Get involved with the above guidelines to master the art of portrait photography.

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