Portrait photography isn’t easy, and fact, there are many components that go into a great family portrait. You have to think about the technical stuff like exposure and focus, along with the non-technical stuff like composition and working with a live subject.
If you’re just starting out with portrait shooting, all this can be pretty daunting. That is why I’ve broken this down, piece by piece, into the 10 crucial components you need to think about when doing portraits.
Starting with number one:
1 . Lighting pattern
The lighting pattern refers to how the gentle falls on your subject’s encounter. Note that your lighting pattern will determine the feeling of the final portrait plus whether or not the subject is flattered. Therefore , it’s a critical bit of the portrait photography puzzle, one you must get right for impactful results.
There are four major types of lighting patterns:
- Split lighting
- Loop light
- Rembrandt lights
- Butterfly light
Plus there are two lighting pattern styles:
- Short lighting
- Broad lighting
For a sense associated with what lighting can do, take a look at these examples:
So study different designs. Test out different options. And note what works best in different circumstances!
2 . Illumination ratio
The ratio is a comparison of just one thing to another; here, the ratio compares the darkish and light sides of your subject’s face. How much distinction is there from the shadow to the highlight side?
Higher lighting ratios lead to greater contrast and improved moodiness. On the other hand, lower proportions lead to less contrast and will give your portraits a lighter, fresher feeling.
Look at the following good examples:
The ratio on the leftmost image is very strong, regarding 16: 1 (four stops). The middle image ratio is all about 4: 1 (two stops), and the rightmost image percentage is almost 1: 1 (even).
Note that, as I took these photos, the only real difference from one to the next was obviously a reflector (the more even the ratio, the more I incorporated the reflector). And take note how the mood and really feel of the portrait changes as the contrast is adjusted.
3. Quality associated with light
Another aspect of lighting you need to consider when shooting? Whether you want your light to be hard or smooth .
Hard light is made by a small source and is characterized by high contrast, enhanced subject matter texture, added drama, and harsh, well-defined shadow sides. Examples of hard light resources are:
- The sun (yes, it’s huge, but it’s far sufficient way to be fairly small)
- A bare light bulb
- The small built/in flash on your camera
- An unmodified speedlight
Listed below are two portraits with tough light. Which use of tough light is more appropriate for the topic?
Soft light is produced by an extremely large light source. It is low contrast (i. e., flat), less texture-enhancing, and is more forgiving and flattering for individuals photography. Examples of soft lighting sources are:
- The sky with an overcast day
- Large studio softboxes
- A large reflector
- An on-camera flash that has been bounced off the ceiling or wall
Here are two portraits done using smooth light. Which use of gentle light is more appropriate for the topic?
Along with the lighting ratio, the quality of light will have a major affect on the mood and feeling of your portrait. Choose soft light designed for flattering, beautiful portraits, and choose hard light for an edgier look with more grit and drama.
4. Lens selection
Your lens will alter the appearance of both the subject and the background.
A wide-angle lens can introduce distortion and trigger the subject’s face to look abnormal and stretched. It will likewise give you a large, sweeping watch of the background.
Take a look at the example above. Notice how the shape of my subject’s face and her features are usually distorted by a 17mm zoom lens? This is not an effect most folks will appreciate!
However , there may be instances when you need this look: a humorous family portrait, kids having fun, or an editorial-style portrait of a street vendor at a market where you want to see both the subject and the environment.
Telephoto lenses, on the other hand, compress perspective, which does two things:
First, it is usually more complementary to the subject because their facial features look much less distorted.
2nd, it simplifies the background – both by showing less and by defocusing background elements. This particular, in turn, puts more emphasis on the subject, which is what you want.
The image below has been shot at 70mm. Compare it to the portrait in the beginning of this section, which shows the same subject in the same setting but at 17mm. Do you see how the face is less distorted and the history is both out of concentrate and more compressed?
Here’s an additional portrait, this one shot on 105mm:
The long lens has compressed the background, also because it is so far away (on the other side of a river), the particular grass is really out of focus and provides a soft background which makes the subject stand out.
One thing many photographers are not able to think about is the background . It’s very easy to be focused on all the other stuff that you forget to even look at the background, which then damages an otherwise great picture.
Two queries you should ask yourself:
- Does the background seem sensible with the portrait?
- Does the background distract the particular viewer from the subject?
There are 4 background elements that can distract the viewer:
- Bright colors (warm tones are the worst, like red-colored and yellow)
- Shiny areas
Watch for these in your viewfinder and adjust your camera position and composition accordingly. After all, the eye is attracted to the brightest and sharpest area of an image – so if you can keep the background dark, fuzzy, and low contrast, your own subject will take center stage.
Put simply: Get your portrait subject away from the background (far enough to obtain trees and grass from focus), and watch for hot-spots that grab the eye. Sometimes, simply moving your camera a foot or 2 to the left or right may eliminate trouble areas and provide you a cleaner background that lets the subject shine:
6. Exposure and metering
For a family portrait of a still subject, We almost always use the following camera settings :
- Guide mode
- Single-shot drive mode (that is definitely, I press the button to take a single image)
- Single Point AF
- One-Shot AF (i. e., AF-S focus mode) to focus and locking mechanism
- Shade whitened balance (I am generally working in the shade, but if you’re in the bright sun, you might choose Direct Sunlight rather. Just pick one that fits your lighting condition and leave it. )
- RAW format
Why do I like these settings? They give myself the most control over one important things: capturing a consistent exposure from one body to the next . If you ever decide to do portraits for a buddy or have paying clients, you want to be able to show images around the back of your camera without worrying about that random shot in the middle that was black because you forgot to adjust the exposure.
(These settings also make editing much faster. )
So set your publicity, do a test shot (review it utilizing the histogram ), then don’t make adjustments until you move to a new location or maybe the light changes.
I already mentioned my concentrating settings above, but I’d like to recommend one more choice:
Back-button focus , which allows you to engage your camera’s concentrating mechanism by pressing a button on the back of the camera, rather than the shutter button.
That way, you can lock focus on the subject – on their eye, if you’re shut enough – then recompose the portrait and capture away. Unless you or the subject matter move, there is no need to refocus.
Of course , if you’re shooting a moving target, like kids in action, you will want to choose different concentrate settings. Try continuous focusing (AI Servo/AF-C) plus your camera’s fastest burst mode.
8. Posing the subject
Getting your subject or model into a comfortable yet flattering pose can be tricky. People are generally nervous when being photographed and will look to you for guidance on how to stand, hold themselves, turn their head, and adjust their hands. And that means you need to have a few posing suggestions at the ready.
Here are some tips:
- If it bends, bend this. In other words: Get your subject away from a stiff body place by bending one leg slightly, bend the elbows, and bend the wrists.
- Ask your subject to shift their bodyweight away from the camera to get a more flattering pose.
- Ask your subject to turn their body when standing up. You can tell them to turn plus point their feet (the body will follow naturally).
- Turn your subject’s shoulders slightly to narrow the body width; this is complementary for most people.
- Allow your subject pose normally at first, then make slight tweaks or adjustments. View how they move on their own so the final pose looks like them.
9. Facial view and camera angle
How you position the subject’s face can be another factor that determines the portrait’s beauty and feeling. Some people look really great completely face view (facing the camera directly), but most take advantage of turning slightly to one aspect, thus narrowing the face just a little.
People are not able to see their profile watch in the mirror, so many subjects have no idea what they look like from the side. Only simply by trying it out are you able to determine whether it’s flattering for them.
The key in order to choosing the right face angle would be to observe your subject. Perform they tend to turn slightly whenever talking to you? Take note; that is probably the side they unconsciously prefer.
The images above display three different views from the same woman’s face. She gets a really gorgeous profile along with a square jaw. I think the profile and last image (¾ face view) are the most flattering, but the girl looks great in any picture.
You must help your own subject look their best getting into comparisons and making choices, and if you’re in doubt, just shoot various poses plus choose later (or let them pick).
As for the camera angle: This will determine what you emphasize on the subject. A low camera angle can show elevation and make someone appear taller, but it also emphasizes the body more, which is not a good option if someone wants to show up slimmer.
On the other hand, a slightly-above-eye-level angle can emphasize the face and minimize the body, a good choice for most people. It also makes kids look smaller sized and can be effective if that is the look you’re after. A really high angle will make the forehead more prominent (perhaps not the best choice for topics with a receding hairline).
Just know that where you place your camera will certainly affect the final look from the portrait.
Okay, this is the thing you need to get right for great portraits. You can nail all 9 points above, but if the issue has a bad expression, they do not like the image.
Here’s my big tip for getting the best expressions :
Talk to the subject plus interact with them. That’s could got this shot:
I’ve photographed Greg (below) many times. He is the volunteer at an old coal mine where I do the workshop twice a year. This individual was a miner way back within the day and is as spry in his 70s as many people in their 40s! He loves telling stories about the mine and ghosts, so I just get him talking and allow him to go. We have fun, he loves being my model for a day, and it shows in the images.
Pro tip: Instead of putting your digital camera to your eye, try talking to your subject with your digital camera on a tripod, then shoot with a remote trigger. This way, you can have eye contact, which will considerably enhance your subject’s expression!
Portrait photography necessities: putting it all together
Whew! See, I told you doing portraits has a lot to think about. But you can do it. You got this. Just take it one step at a time. In case you aren’t at the stage of getting all 10 of these matters right, just pick one and work on it. Choose patient models that will help you practice. The only method to get better is by doing!
Now over to you:
Which usually of these portrait photography necessities do you struggle with the most? Are you experiencing any tips for improving portraits? Share your thoughts in the remarks below!