Shooting classic portraits is an often overlooked area of photography that can be very rewarding with a little practice. It is very easy to start shooting portraits with friends and family and can be great fun. We have compiled a few tips on how to get started to take a look!
Although a must for high end and commercial photography this is not needed for simple artistic portraiture. Some of the most memorable portraits photos have been of local people taken during their everyday life.
Avoid the cheese
Portrait photo’s should be as honest as possible with minimal set up beforehand. Forced images with props and hard flash’s can sometimes appear quite edgy but age quickly and mostly just look cheesy!
Use of flash’s
Flash guns are an important tool for some photography but are rarely needed for natural portraits. Lights with diffusers tend to be much more complementary to the average human face. This type of light also doesn’t have to take the form of expensive studio lighting units as there are many free sources such as morning and evening sunlight.
Depth of field
Using a shallow depth of field softens the background bringing the focus of the image to the subjects face. By using the lowest F stop possible for the shooting conditions and paying close attention to focus this will really help your subject stand out from the background.
When shooting in monochrome and Raw file formats cameras tend to be a little more sensitive to the electromagnetic spectrum and can begin peeking into the infra-red spectrum. If you are able to shoot in true monochrome then it is possible depending on the camera that you may have access to a slightly higher dynamic range and thus deeper detail in shadows and highlights. As a big bonus it also looks very cool!
When trying to take a natural portrait especially in a street or social environment it is better to use longer focal lengths as this will allow you to shoot a bit further away from your subject and thus not intruding into their personal space. Although it would make a great photo using a lens such as a 35mm f1.8 your subject may feel awkward and thus the honesty of the photo is lost. A great starting point is of course the “nifty 50” 50mm focal length but it may be even better at 75mm to 100mm. As a bonus there are some great value prime lenses at the 75mm focal length.
As previously mentioned by using a longer focal length for portraiture you put a bit of space and breathing room between your subject making it a little less formal. It does however become a bit of an ethical issue when using much longer focal length such as a telephoto lens where the subject does not even know you are taking a photo. As much as possible you must attain a subjects permission to use a photo once taken and as a courtesy when possible ask before shooting. Obviously this is quite a grey area as by asking permission first you may ruin the moment such as when shooting travel photos. Try and always use best judgement in these scenarios.