Portrait photography is a popular and rewarding genre of photography that involves capturing images of people, using a variety of lighting techniques and creative photography skills to capture the most effective, dramatic images of your subjects.
There are many opportunities today for portrait photographers to succeed in their craft, from website marketing, magazines and social media campaigns, many businesses require strong portrait photography for their marketing.
Whether you’re a professional photographer looking to improve your portfolio or an amateur looking to improve your skills, mastering portrait photography is an essential skill as a social photographer, but can take time and practice, as there are several technical aspects to consider.
Here are some tips to help you take stunning portraits:
Find the right lighting:
Proper lighting is essential for good portrait photography. Soft, diffused light is generally more flattering than harsh, direct light. Look for natural light sources such as windows or open doors, or use a reflector or flash to fill in shadows. Avoid shooting directly into the sun or other strong light sources, as this can create harsh shadows on your subject’s face.
Position your lighting around your subject to flatter their face. I always start with one key light, positioned slightly to the side of where I’m standing, so it come across their face. Next, I would look to add a fill light from the other side, directly across the side. This simple lighting set up will enable you to create some powerful photos.
With portrait photography lighting, less is often more. On many occasions I just use one light, and this ca produce fantastic results. Practice with lighting at home before you take on any portrait sessions, and watch how the light changes your photos as you move it around the subject.
As you progress with your lighting skills and feel comfortable with creating a beautiful portrait, you can start to use more lighting to see how it transforms the photo. Make sure to experiment and have fun with it as that’s the best way to learn.
Read about how to start your own photography project here
Use the right lens:
Different lenses can produce different effects in your portraits. A wide-angle lens can be used to capture a person’s environment or create a sense of intimacy. This type of lens is often what is used to create environmental portraits as it allows you to capture the whole scene to document the room or place the subject is placed in for the photo.
A telephoto lens, or a lens from approx 85mm and higher, is great for isolating your subject and creating a more flattering perspective. The compression that’s created by the lens at 85mm is very flattering, and if you use a shallow depth of field it will enhance the photo too.
Experiment with different lenses to see which one works best for your style of portrait photography.
Pay attention to composition:
Composition refers to the way you arrange the elements in your photograph. In portrait photography, the eyes are the most important feature, so make sure they are in focus and well-lit. You can also use the rule of thirds to help you compose your shot. Simply divide your frame into nine equal parts and place your subject along one of the lines or at one of the intersections. This can help create a more balanced and dynamic image.
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Communicate with your subject:
Communication is key when it comes to portrait photography. Talk to your subject and give them direction to help them feel more comfortable in front of the camera. Encourage them to relax and be themselves, and try to capture genuine expressions.
I often take time to chat with my portrait subjects before taking any photos. It helps to create the right atmosphere where they can feel relaxed enough to be natural in front of the lens. It also helps me to understand them and capture them in a way that they’ll be happy with.
Experiment with different poses:
Pose your subject in a way that is natural and comfortable for them. Avoid stiff or forced poses, and instead, try to capture candid, relaxed moments. Experiment with different angles and perspectives to add interest to your shots.
Edit your photos:
Once you’ve captured your shots, take the time to edit them to your liking. Adjust the white balance, contrast, and saturation to bring out the best in your images. You can also use editing software to remove blemishes, smooth skin, and enhance your subject’s features. Try to edit in a way that keeps the subject the hero, and keeps them looking natural. Be carful to keep their skin tones accurate in the software you edit with. I find Capture One to be very good at skin tones.
Read more about how to master flash photography here
By following these tips and practicing regularly, you can master the art of portrait photography and capture beautiful, meaningful images of people.