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Home / Tips and Tricks / Do not Say 'Say Cheese': 7 Portrait Photography Tips For Beginners

Do not Say 'Say Cheese': 7 Portrait Photography Tips For Beginners



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Daven Mathies / Digital Trends

Portrait captures a person – great portrait captures a personality. While portraits are a staple of the photography industry, they are much more than simply pointing and shooting. From posing to framing, several elements must work together to create a good image.

Awkward subjects mean awkward smiles

One of the keys to capturing a subject's personality is to feel comfortable in front of the camera , News flash: No one feels comfortable in front of the camera, at least not at first. As the photographer, it's your job to help the subject relax and feel confident. Do not just toss out a "say cheese" and expect a genious smile.

 Sigma 135mm F1.8 Art Sample Portrait Woman Shallow DOF
Daven Mathies / Digital Trends

First, use casual conversation – silence is awkward. Learn more about your subject and ask what they are interested in, what makes them happy, what irks them. Keep up conversation as you shoot. Avoid a forced smile. Tell stories, ask for their stories or tell jokes to get a genuine smile.

Photographers do not need crazy.

Wide angle lenses tend to be flattering.

Photographers do not need crazy expensive gear to take great portraits, but that does not matter. A camera with a larger sensor – like a mirrorless camera or DSLR – wants to help create a soft background typically found in portraits bokeh after the Japanese word for blur. The lens, however, is the most important part of the equation.

Wide-angle lenses create distortion and accentuate distance, which is to make your subject's nose look bigger than it really is – and that's not usually what people want. 50mm (in full-frame terms, see our guide to working with crop factor to find the appropriate focal length for smaller-sensor formats), with 85mm and longer lenses even better ,

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Daven Mathies / Digital Trends

That's not to say wide angle lenses do not have a place in portrait photography. The angles are okay for full body shots and environmental portraits. Just try to keep your subject closer to the center of the frame and farther from the camera to reduce the effects of distortion. Other times, the distortion may actually be desirable – as in concert photography.

Use in many portraits,

a blurry background is ideal. This is the result of the Shallow Depth of Field, which refers to how much depth in the photograph is in focus (see our depth of field explainer for more information). That's created by using a wide aperture (longer focal length lens so help). To get that background blur you want a wide aperture, denoted by a small f-number. Set your camera to priority mode or manual mode and a low f-number, like f / 2.8 or lower.

 Sigma 135mm F1.8 Art Sample Portrait Woman
Daven Mathies / Digital Trends

So, note that not all lenses can open to f / 2.8 or against. Most kit lenses top out at f / 3.5 or f / 5.6, depending on how zoomed-in they are – in this case, just use the widest one available.

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Hillary Grigonis / Digital Trends “/>
19659003] In environmental portraits, the background plays in the story of the image, as photographing an artist in a studio or a newborn in his nursery. If you do not want to blur that background to oblivion, use a narrower aperture (larger f-number). The larger the f-number, the more the background wants to be in focus. Try on f / 5.6 or f / 8. Focus on the eyes.

The eyes are key to a good expression, so getting them in sharp focus is key to a good portrait. For best results, set your camera's autofocus area to single point autofocus. This allows you to set the focal point exactly where you want it: On the subject's eye. Ideally, you should get both eyes in focus, so if the subject's face is turned towards or away from the camera, you'll want a bit narrower aperture to get both eyes sharp.

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<p> Alternately, if you are using a good eye-detection autofocus mode, you can simply use this to automatically focus on the eyes. </p>
<h2> Find – or create – good light </h2>
<p> All the great expressions, camera settings and tack can not make up for bad light. Beginning portrait photographers should look for soft light that's easy to create great shots with. Full shade on a sunny day or anywhere outside on an overcast day is great light for beginning portrait photographers. An hour before sunset with the sun on the side or the subject makes good portrait lighting. It's slightly trickier to get a proper exposure, but can more dramatic. Indoors, across from or just to a window so works well. </p>
<p> While flat, even lighting is the easiest to work with, it can be a good way to make the portrait pop. A darker background will naturally draw the viewer's eye to the subject. </p>
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Daven Mathies / Digital Trends

As you gain more experience, you'll learn to create your own light. A simple reflector bouncing back some of that golden hour light is easy to get started on manipulating light – or use a diffuser to create your own shade on bright days. From there, you can zoom in on a flash.

Learn to pose and don'ts

Posing can be an artform itself. But even just getting started, you should know a few basic dos and don'ts to posing to create flattering portrait images. One key concept to remember that is closest to the camera. Sounds like a no-brainer, but this is actually an important concept to keep in mind. Unless you are photographing maternity photos, you probably do not want to shoot from the belly-level , Most people may not find that too flattering.

  • Do not "foreshorten" limbs. If an arm, leg, or finger are pointed directly towards the camera, that limb will look awkwardly short. It is a phenomenon known as foreshortening, and is especially common with telephoto lenses (which compress distance, the opposite effect of using a wide-angle).
  • Do not crop at joints. Portraits do not have to be full body, but when they're not, make sure you do not cut people's arms or legs off at the joints. Cropping at the widest point of the body is not as flattering as cropping where the body narrows.
  • Do understand the differences between feminine and masculine poses. While this obviously depends on each individual, men and women typically prefered in different ways. Feminine poses often create curves with the placement of the arms or position of the body, while masculine poses tend to emphasize straight lines.
  • Do give them something to do with their hands. "Where do I put my hands?" Is a common question coming from portrait subjects. Help them feel comfortable by giving them directions for their hands. Separating the arms from the torso can make the subject appear less wide.
  • Do not leave the feet flat. Flat feet creates stiff poses.
  • Do not expect everyone to appear skinny. Standing with the torso at an angle to the camera helps the subject appear thinner. But that's not ideal for every subject. An athlete, for example, looks powerful and dominantly standing straight to the camera.

"Posing is important, but do not get so caught up in posing that you" back at the subject feeling stiff and uncomfortable. Action poses can create more natural poses that still flutter. Walking for example, is simple and relaxing. For women, ask them to put one foot directly in front of the other as they create more curves. Jumping is also a good action pose, which can help people loosen up.

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Hillary Grigonis / Digital Trends

Portrait photography and capturing someone's personality can be tough at first. But with some practice, you can create memorable portraits that will leave your subject smiling even after the shutter clicks.






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