Portrait photography is real fun capturing subjects close quarters in different perspectives. The joy of portrait photography though is absolutely different from other forms of photography. Here you are almost in communication with the subject constantly and nice rapport with the subject is of great importance in getting a good portrait.
The other comfortable aspect of portrait photography is that you have your subject in control unless it’s a baby or a kid; so you can very well direct the subject and get the best out of your portrait photography. So, portrait photography offers you a lot of advantage compared to sports and wildlife photography – you eventually have great room to innovate and be creative.
One important thing though here is to think out-of-the-box and come out of any dogmas or pre-set standards – the more you experiment the better it is. So without further ado let us get into the 10 secret ways to master portrait photography,
Focus – Portrait photography being heavily subject oriented, you get appealing portraits when you focus on your subject. This is achieved by placing your subject in focus and blurring the background; this ensures the features of your subject are crystal clear and the expressions are naturally translated into the photo.
Aperture – using the right apertures are crucial to achieve proper focus of your subject and to get a decent portrait. Generally wider the apertures better it is, wider apertures give shallow depth of field blurring the background. Typically apertures ranging from f/1.4 to f/5.6 would do the job.
Shutter speed – most of the portraits are taken hand held and it is possible that the subject might move, so to avoid blurring due to movements high shutter speeds are to be used along with gearing-up your ISO (International Standards Organization) settings; an increase of ISO from 100 to 500 is fine. High shutter speeds with wider apertures and increased ISO will ensure blur-free portraits.
Lens – lens selection plays a crucial role in getting good portraits. Usually, wide-angle lenses capture more depth of field, so the whole frame will be sharp; but it is the subject who is of importance to us in portrait photography so choose telephoto lenses over wide-angle lenses for portrait photography. Telephoto lenses capture narrow angle of view and only the subject is focused blurring the background; this helps the subject to stand out from the background.
Experiment with angles – besides the usual basic stuff mentioned above it’s always a great idea to experiment while shooting portraits. In portrait photography as mentioned earlier, you will have great room to experiment and make the portrait more appealing. Never stick to a basic face-to-face perspective while taking portraits; you can have great portraits taken profile and even a little low-angle. Just ensure that your portrait photography doesn’t look monotonous and try to get yourself away from the pack by experimenting with various perspectives and angles.
Light – without a need to mention, light is the key factor to any form of photography. Use lighting to make your portrait more special. Also people look different with varying sources of light; it would not be an exaggeration to say that somebody not so good looking in bright sunshine might turn out to be gorgeous in the golden-yellow dusky light. Lighting just changes the whole look of the subject, by tweaking with light you can impart different personas to a single individual. So take as many shots as possible with your subject under different lighting conditions. Besides you can use side-lighting and silhouetting to impart moods to the portrait. Using light to your advantage in portrait photography is the easiest way to make your portrait photo into an absolute masterpiece.
Shadows – trying shadows on the subject is yet another possibility to make your portrait creative, try different types of shadows coupled with sunlight on your subject to make the portrait more creative; shadows can be cast through grills of a door or a window or any other source you find convenient, a dimly lit subject with shadows impart your portrait with a surreal meaning.
Go monochromatic – come out of your prejudice (if you have one) that color photography is everything. Monochromatic portraits at times make masterpieces. Besides being beautiful they also give a nostalgic touch to the portrait and the subject will love looking at it after a few years. Also close-up portraits taken in black and white are good in covering any specks or blemishes that the subject has on his/her face when proper color filters are used. Red and green filters are generally used with black and white photography to enhance and cover-up certain aspects of the subject’s face and the portraits then look absolutely great – your subject will love them. Experiment with different color filters at your disposal along with black and white photography and see the results for yourself.
Background – background of the subject is another aspect you can experiment a lot. Try and be creative to choose a variety of backgrounds that are possible for your subject. Backgrounds may vary from plain colors to anything like walls, bricks, trees so on and so forth. Each background you choose conveys a different message to your portrait. If you want the portrait to be rustic and earthy try getting the subject before a bricked wall or a stony background. If you want the portrait to be peppy choose bright colored backgrounds like red or yellow for your subject; and the choices here are plenty, the more you experiment the more options you discover!
Experiment with framing – this is one important aspect which is ignored the most. Do not stick to framing your shot in horizontal frames all the time keep changing it; take a couple of shots with horizontal and vertical frames you will notice the difference yourselves. Also experiment using the ‘rule of thirds’, this is simply placing your subject at the edge of the frame rather than the center – which is a routine. Framing your subject at the edge brings in other elements of the frame into role and it conveys a much stronger meaning to your portrait.