Taking Portraits (Rough Notes)

(Rough notes from Wednesday, 31st August 2016)

What elements are important to consider as far as portraits, say for a business or web site?

  • Lighting
  • Expression
  • Posing
  • Technical – Exposure, In focus, Depth of field

Our two main requirements are: planning and communication. Setting the camera on Portrait mode should put the background out of focus a little and make the image of the person sharp. Putting people at ease, being in control of the situation, and exuding confidence. Ideally we want soft lighting such as an overcast day. If not, not in the middle of the day where we have top lighting.

Not slouching, comfortable. Props make people feel at ease, especially if its something to do with the business. Turn shoulders slightly side-on but with facing the camera still can be a simple way to avoid the mug-shot look.

Force-to-flash would be on. Make sure on the same eye level as the person. If we crop the picture, don’t crop at joints, half-way down the thigh. Also don’t crop at elbows or wrists. Avoid awkward angles. How are they dressed? This would depend on what you’re trying to portray. Make sure there is space between the person and the background, especially for indoor shots. Put as much space as possible between you and the subject. Don’t photograph on a wide lens. Use the longest focal length that you’ve got. Use the lowest ISO that you can get away with. Shoot on the highest quality that you have on the camera.

Use combination of available light and the flash on your camera.

Possibly demonstrate how you want them to be, though when people are nervous it can be hard for them to follow instructions. Avoid touching people, but as long as you tell them and they are ok about it, then you can.

With dark-haired people avoid dark backgrounds to make sure there is good contrast. You can use help with white cardboard to bounce light back into the photograph if you have help.

You may have to photograph a group. Try to make sure you have some kind of triangle happen (with tallest in the centre, shorter on the outside). Turn of the shoulder helps to avoid mugshot look, also helps to not have them spread too wide. People can quite easily stand stiffly, but get people to relax, put their hands free, or even put weight on one foot, etc.

Portraits that tell a story about the person are good. Being in their own environment helps to put people at ease. Side lighting can be quite effective, and you can even just use windows for this. Having people not quite facing, but then turning to the camera with their eyes can look strange, having their eyes on the corners. Also red-eye reduction on the camera is good.

Be careful of shiny reflections, angle of incidence = angle of reflection.

Basically, the best thing for learning to take portraits is practice.


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