Everyone loves to shoot photographs of friends and family, but we only need so many images of you and your nan grinning and squinting straight into the flash. Luckily, there are a few simple techniques to help you make your portrait shots look timeless.
Portraiture isn’t just about pressing the button, it’s about establishing an affinity with your subject. If you’re comfortable and relaxed, your sitter is more likely to be too, which will make it easier to get them to strike the pose you need.
Look Away From the Light
If you’re using natural light, make sure that enormous ball of flaming helium isn’t shining directly into your subject’s eyes — nobody likes a squinter. Instead, try to shoot away from the light source, directing it over your sitter’s shoulder or off to the side.
Try a Reflector
Forget complicated (and expensive) lighting rigs; this big bit of shiny material is the simplest, most effective trick in a photographer’s kit. By directing natural light back on to your subject you’ll achieve serious improvements in exposure and eliminate dramatic contrast. White delivers a natural tone, silver brings out highlights and gold emphasises a warm skin tone.
A classic trick used by portrait photographers is the 45/45 technique. Set the light source (like a window) at a 45-degree angle to your subject, 45-degrees higher than them. It’s easy but achieves impressive results.
Take a Trip
Take your subject out somewhere fun for the day. They’re bound to relax — and you’ll be there to photograph them when they do.
You don’t need ’em when the sun looks so damn great. Experiment with different angles at different times of the day. Natural light through a window quickly falls away, allowing you to capture a gradation from light to dark.
Focus on the Face
Try getting in close to fill your frame with what you’re really interested in anyway: the human face. If you’re willing to be bold, remember to carefully consider your f-stop value.
Photographers make a shot as much as they take a shot, so don’t be afraid to say what you want.
The Right Spot
Rather than shooting front-on, try asking your subject to sit sideways and look over their shoulder into the camera.
Try It Twice
Compose your portrait in a couple of different formats during the same shoot. First, take a full-length shot capturing your subject head to toe, then come closer and capture only the face.
Don’t Say Cheese!