Learn How To Take Great Portrait Photographs

Learn How To Take Great Portrait Photographs

Everybody wants to be able to take great photos of people. Many get upset because they just can't seem to get it right – what is it that professional photographers do that they can't? Don't worry, there are a few simple tips that will have you on your way to great portrait photography in no time.

  1.  Lighting

This can solve MAJOR problems. Most people with digital cameras don't pay enough attention to their lighting. First: Don't use your flash. You'll get really dark backgrounds, really bright subjects, ugly shadows, and uneven yet even light. Unflattering on anybody. Instead, take advantage of the light available to you. If you're doing photography for a job, invest in some good studio lights. If you're just doing it out on the town with some friends, use a streetlamp nearby. Some interesting ideas I've seen have been people wrapped in Christmas lights, or holding a camera near their face to create a glow. Natural light during the daytime is beautiful. But don't just rely on your flash, or your photos will come out terribly.

  1.  Posing

Another big step is posing. One of the most often overlooked thing is hands. If your subject is posing nicely but the hands are just sitting there, not placed or anything, it's rather distracting and takes away from the image. Make sure the fingers aren't pointed towards the camera; you should only see the sides. Also, fingers should bend at all joints. Never rest a head on a first. Another thing: Shoulders. Never have the subject's shoulders square with the shot. Tilt them away, or angle them. It makes the proportions look better and keeps the photo balanced. You can do all sorts of creative poses, but pay attention to how it looks in the frame before you snap the picture.

  1.  Backgrounds

Pay. Attention. To. The. Background. A photo of a pretty lady would look much nicer with a background of pink flowers than a trashcan in the neighbor's yard. Look at the whole background – across the street, above your line of vision, whatever's in the frame. You don't want an ugly van in the background of an otherwise nice shot.

  1.  Composition

There are many "rules" for composition, but rules were made to be broken. These rules, when followed, are usually pretty good, but are not set in stone. One is the "rule of thirds" – if you divide your photo into thirds both ways, your point of focus should fall on an intersection of lines. Another rule is "give your subject space to look into". If you have the subject off to the side and they're looking in some direction other than the camera, make sure the negative space is where they're looking. Don't have them looking off the side of the frame that they're closest to. As I said, nothing is set in stone, so play around with angles and composition. Fill the whole frame or only a tiny bit of it. Do something unique.

  1.  Camera settings

First off, I HIGHLY recommend getting a DSLR camera. They're expensive, but worth the money. Canon, Nikon, and Olympus all make very good cameras. These allow you to manually adjust settings, change lenses, and do many many things that you can't do with point and shoots. I do understand that it's not necessary or possible for some people to get DSLRs though, so in that case, most point and shoots allow you to manually adjust some settings. Learn about aperture, exposure, and shutter speed. Here's a quick overview: Aperture is how wide your lens is open. If you have a wide aperture, you'll have a small depth of field, and vice versa. Aperture is expressed in f-stops; f1, f2, f3, etc. F2.8 is a wide aperture, f32 is a narrow aperture. Exposure is the amount of light that goes into the camera in a single shot. If you expose too long, the photo will be white and washed out; expose too short and the picture will be dark. Shutter speed is the amount of time the shutter is exposed to light and is usually measured in fractions of a second. Learn how to use these and you'll be well on your way to better photos. If you're taking headshots, a wider aperture is suggested: it'll give you a blurry background and an in-focus subject. Also, while we're talking about focus, if you can manually adjust the focus point on your camera, try to put it on the subject's eye. This will make that part very sharp and makes very interesting photos. If you do get a DSLR, make sure to invest in a good lens too.

  1.  Post-processing

Yes, I said it: Photoshop. Most photographers do edit their pictures; they don't come out of the camera as amazing as you see them. Color, levels, contrast, etc. is all adjusted in graphic design programs. Some people can't afford Photoshop or Adobe Lightroom, and that's understandable. I personally prefer Paint Shop Pro by Corel. It is MUCH cheaper and does the same things as Photoshop. It's easier, in my opinion. Learn about making adjustments to your pictures – they don't have to be full-out edited, but if you adjust the contrast or bump the saturation once in a while, it'll improve your pictures a tenfold.

  1.  Props

Props can make or break a photo. They add interest and tell a story. If you have a little girl looking out the window with a sad expression, the picture would be so much better if she was limply holding onto a raggedy stuffed animal. See what I mean? Props are important.

There are millions of photography books, magazines ("Popular Photography" is my favorite) and internet tutorials that are amazingly helpful. Look up a few of them and see what you find. I hope you've learned something from this article; good look on your photography!

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