How To Take Great Portrait Photos

Portrait photo
Professional Portrait of Beau

How To Take Great Portrait Photos

Professional Portrait of Beau

Cameras today have become more available and handy. People are now able to take pictures of anyone, anytime, and anyplace. Most of the pictures people take are snapshots and few are able to take great portrait photos. Portrait photographs are great for capturing the mood and character of a person. Portraits highlight the personality of the subject and make the person more intriguing. Here are some pointers you can use to take professional looking portraits.

Composition
Composition is simply a way of guiding the viewer to focus on the subject of your photo. You can achieve this by moving the subject or objects around a particular setting. Anticipation is essential in some cases where control of movement is limited like street photography. To achieve good composition, use the following as a guide:

Rule of Thirds
A rule of thirds grid

Rule of thirds
When we look at an image, our focus is mostly drawn to four particular sections near the center of the image. By placing the subject at or near these sections, there is emphasis on the subject and the image looks more natural.

To apply the rule of thirds to your composition, break up your image into three parts – both horizontally and vertically – with imaginary lines. This will create nine boxes and four intersections. The four intersections identify the important elements of the image. Some cameras have a setting that overlays the rule of thirds grid on the viewfinder or the LCD.

Depth of field
Depth of field is the distance between the nearest and farthest objects in a scene that appear acceptably sharp in an image. A large depth of field will keep the whole image sharp which is ideal for taking photos of landscapes. A small depth of field will emphasize the subject and the background and foreground will be out of focus. A small depth of field is ideal for portrait photos to keep the attention away from the background and put emphasis on the subject.

Many digital cameras come with a Depth of Field Preview button. However, there are other ways to control depth of field. You can use a long focal length or lens with large aperture. Longer focal lengths are good for reducing depth of field. You can also decrease the depth of field by setting the aperture at a very wide setting (smaller f-number). If you are using a point-and-shoot camera you can try moving closer to the subject. You can also move the subject as far away from the background as possible.

Lighting
When taking a portrait photo, there are many lighting patterns that you could apply but basically, you just need to use soft, even light to eliminate harsh shadows and highlight your subject’s features. If you want to learn more about lighting techniques, you can read about the 6 portrait lighting patterns.

If you don’t have lighting equipment, you can try some of the DIY tips to make your own lighting solutions. Alternatively, you can experiment with the flash or the room’s lighting to achieve your desired effect. Better yet, you can go outdoors and use natural light. You can use the sunlight, camera flash and a reflector in various combinations and positions to light up your subject.

Camera Settings
Most cameras have intelligent auto mode. This allows users to simply point and click without bothering with the technically challenging aspects of photography. While using this mode can be effective, it is still not perfect. So learning to tweak the settings would still be a good idea.

AF (autofocus) point
Take control of the AF point by using manual AF selection. By doing that, you’re making sure that you’re focusing on the important features of your subject.

Shutter speed
The shutter speed should be equal or faster to the focal length. If you are not sure about what shutter speed to use, put the camera on aperture priority on the modes dial.

ISO
ISO 100 is normally used if you’re shooting in a place with sufficient lighting. In darker places, you can set your ISO to 400 or above. To prevent motion blur, you can bump up the shutter speed by increasing the ISO setting.

Exposure Compensation
Exposure Compensation can adjust the brightness of your image. If your shooting in a place where there’s too much light, you might want to reduce the Exposure Compensation.

You can experiment with other camera settings to tweak the appearance of your image. You can make adjustments to your camera’s brightness, color and saturation to produce an artistic look to the shot.

People
People are the most important element in your photo. You can either make your subject pose or you can take their pictures in their natural behavior. Make the person comfortable when you’re posing them. The pictures will look more natural when they are relaxed. Try to bring out their most defining characteristics. (i.e. smart, sexy, tough, etc.) If you’re taking natural photos you might want to direct your subject’s attention away from the camera. Having the person look at something off screen can add an intriguing effect to the image.

Once you’ve learned the proper techniques, you can probably do some experimentation and break some of the rules. Just make sure that you’ve had enough practice before you do this. You probably won’t produce great results unless you know the rules that you’re breaking and why you’re breaking them.

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