Search This Blog

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Making Great Portraits

One of the most commonly photographed shots is the so-called "head and shoulder" portrait. You see these portraits everywhere: with job promotion notices, in passports, and accompanying resumes.
Digital cameras combined with some basic photo-taking techniques can make it easier than ever to take successful portraits. When you shoot digital your ability to interact with your subject is greatly expanded. You can instantly show your subject the results on a screen and elicit an immediate response, making the subject more involved in the process. As the relationship improves between you and your subject, you'll become more relaxed and your actions more fluid. Also, with the ability to preview an image you can be confident that you've got the right smile and the right look without spending any more time than necessary.

 Before you shoot I strongly suggest that before you start shooting you get to know the capabilities and limitations of your digital camera. You will be more confident and your subject will likely pick up on your confidence and relax.

l. Know your camera's lag time. Many digital cameras have an annoying pause between the time the shutter release is tripped and the moment the shutter actually releases. This is frustrating, but if you are aware of the lag you can anticipate the right moment and improve the odds of getting the shot you want.

2. Know your digital camera's power requirements. Earlier digital cameras were energy hogs. Newer ones are better. Still, starting with fresh batteries and bringing backups can make a photo shoot go much smoother. Keep in mind that the more you share your LCD image with your subject the faster the batteries will drain.

3. Know how many images your camera is capable of recording. This is a function of the size of the on board memory, the actual image size, and your choice of file formats. Although the precise number of images you need will vary depending on your subject, it's best if you don't have to stop in the middle of a shoot to erase unwanted shots or switch memory cards.

4. Pay attention to the quality of light. Built-in camera strobes produce light that can be harsh and unflattering. It's best to mix strobe light with ambient light. (How this is done varies from digital camera to digital camera.)

You can also diffuse the strobe light with translucent tissue, or, if need be, by placing your finger partially over the flash to cut down the intensity. My favorite light is indirect natural light pouring in from a window. I often use a handheld gold or soft white reflector -- available at professional camera stores -- to bounce light evenly on the face. You can also use a simple white piece of paper or foam board.

Use medium-long focal length settings and avoid wide-angle lenses.Wide-angle lenses tend to distort the face.  Longer focal lengths flatten and flatter facial features.

Choose your background carefully.Avoid cluttered or distracting backgrounds. With many digital cameras you don't have the full advantage of selective focus - where the foreground is sharp and the background is blurred. Although you can always fix a distracting background later using imaging software, it can be time-consuming to do this.

Vary the relative position of the camera to the face. People with high foreheads, for example, benefit from a slightly lower camera angle. You'll have to experiment to find the most photogenic angle

While I'm shooting, I find it useful to share the experience with my subject. Here's how you do this:

Showing them the LCD display. Most digital cameras come with LCD displays that range in size from 1.5 by 1.8 inches to 3.5 by 4 inches. (The larger the LCD, the easier it is to view, but the more power is consumed.) To improve the LCD viewing in strong outdoor light I suggest you use some sort of light shield. I use the commercially available Hoodman but you can also make your own with scissors, tape, and cardboard. You can also make it easy for people (and yourself) to see the image by using a reading magnifying glass, which is commonly available at pharmacies.

Hooking the digital camera to a TV monitor. Many digital camera have a composite video out, which makes it possible to view the images on just about any TV monitor. Keep in mind that often the ideal portrait orientation is vertical and if you view a vertical shot on a TV monitor you'll either have to turn the TV on its edge or crane your neck.Software solutions Finally, keep in mind that many things can be fixed later using digital-imaging software such as Photoshop, Photoshop Elements or The GIMP.

Briefly, here's what imaging software can fix:
° Red eye caused by a direct flash
° Distracting backgrounds
° Contrast, exposure, and color problems (to a degree)
° Out-of-focus images (also to a degree)

However, keep in mind that it's difficult or impossible to fix the following:
° Distortion caused by a wide-angle lens or faulty optics
° Radically overexposed or underexposed images
° Bad facial expressions that betray displeasure or tension between you and your subject

Last but not least, always remember you'll save a lot of time if you get the shot right in the first place.

No comments:

Post a Comment