If you have ever been interested in taking peoples portraits then listen up, because I’ve got some handy tips and advice to share with you. In my five years of photography experience I have learnt one thing about taking someone’s portrait. I’ve learnt that successful portrait photography hinges on your ability as the photography to bring out the absolute best in someone. We’ll go into lighting and the “gear” in just a minute, but I want to draw your attention to the fact that portrait photography depends on the interaction you have with the person.
It takes a lot of concentration and skill to be able to work successfully with people in photography. Landscape or nature photography affords you the luxury of time. People don’t. Whether they get fidgety and bored easily or they don’t want to sit there all day and roll with your creative urge, portraits require relationship skills as well as technical skills.
One of the first aims in portrait photography is to capture the best side of people. The aim is to take them reflecting a positive and happy demeanor. Now this doesn’t mean laughing and kidding around (although it can), it can mean capturing someone when they are concentrating on something they really love doing. A thoughtful and meditative manner is always an interesting photo. This can work well for people who play a musical instrument or partake in a creative hobby.
There is another important aspect of portrait photography that I wish to share with you. That is your outdoor background when you don’t have a studio. Your person and the props you use in the photo are considered your foreground but your outdoor background will enhance or completely kill a portrait photo. I’ll give you an example. Think of the location in which you take the photo. You may have someone standing under a tree on a sunny day. Sounds nice right? Yes but you may not have noticed the dog taking a leak on the tree in the background…not a very nice example I know. I only say this because it happens. Its life and it can happen to any of us. So unless you are using a completely blurred background, or intend to adjust the background in Photoshop, be very careful.
A great way to combat this (as much as you can), is to make a list of locations that make for a beautiful background. Here are a couple of ideas:
· Secluded beach
· Field of green
· Mountain range
· Old buildings
Keep your background simple. That’s what I was aiming for with the above list. It’s fine to have a busy background if you are not going to have it in focus. To make this work I suggest making a detailed list of places that you can go to that are easy to get to and will make great backgrounds for your portrait. Keeping in mind this is if you do not have a studio. Also think about the light at the time of day, the weather and local regulations about photography.
You can work out what gear you need as soon as you have worked out your location. This will determine your technical needs and a creative plan usually manifests from there.
You can choose whether to use soft lighting, a flash with a soft filter, hard sunlight, etc. It’s a very creative exercise and a lot of fun. You’ll be amazed at what you come up with.
If you have any questions about portrait photography, please drop me a line. But for now, good luck and happy shooting!