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Portrait Photography tips for Beginners
11. If one person is a bit stale two people are perfect
Whenever I m shooting a subject that gets a bit camera shy and won t give me much of an expression, I always try to let the person interact with someone different. For example, trying to get kids to have fun and smile will be tough without a parent being in the studio too. This technique works the same with adults. If your subject looks a bit stale, wait until they talk with someone else to capture the best expressions.
12. Whiten teeth properly in Photoshop
For quite a long time, I brushed exposure onto the teeth to make them look whiter. I never got the results I wanted until another photography told me that it was better to brush brightness onto the teeth rather than exposure. Overnight, my digital teeth whitening improved drastically.
13. Contrast clothing and location
I recently shot engagement photos for a couple who chose to wear bright colors. The bride wore bright pink and the groom wore a light blue shirt. Those colors undoubtedly catch the viewer s attention, so I chose to place them in front of muted backgrounds. For this shot, I chose old grey brick walls, blurred out dark backgrounds, etc. The results were perfect! You can also apply this tip when shooting a model who is wearing muted colors. In this situation, shoot the model against a brightly colored background to make the model stand out.
14. You re missing out on half of your model
No, I don t mean that you could be shooting twice as many people. I mean that there is a whole other side of your clients that you aren t shooting at all. What s that side? The back side. Shots of the subject walking away from the camera, or of the subject s body turned away from the camera and head facing the camera can be quite compelling.
15. Think application before taking the portrait
What is your photo going to be used for? While many of our photos are just used generally for looking at, some photos would be better either vertical or horizontal if it is going to be used for a specific purpose. For example, if you re taking a portrait for someone s Facebook profile, you can get a much larger picture by shooting it in vertical orientation (up and down). If you re shooting for a wedding announcement, it s probably better to shoot horizontal so there is enough room for text on the side of the couple.
16. When shooting in poor mid day lighting have the subject face away from the sun
I see this done wrong more often than not. Most of the time, photographers have the subject face the sun so their face doesn t look dim and shadowy in mid day lighting. This is unfortunate, because the hard light will create unflattering shadows on the face. The best way to shoot mid day portraits is to have the subject face away from the sun so their face is in the shade, and then have the photographer over expose the picture so the face looks properly exposed.
17. Spot metering is your friend
If you don t feel comfortable setting the exposure manually to do the technique taught in tip #16, then learn to use spot metering. With spot metering, you can simply have the camera meter on the subject s face to expose it properly, and then let the background be slightly overexposed. For some people, spot metering may be a better option than manually setting the exposure for the face.
18. Whip out the CTO
When shooting in lower light (or if you have a really powerful strobe), you can put an orange gel on your flash so that the light that hits the subject is, well orange. Then, you adjust your white balance (I always just do it later in Lightroom) so the subject looks neutral, which makes the background turn blue. Here isa great collection of examplesof using this color shifting technique. (Side note: I couldn t remember the term color shifting this morning, and several helpful readers reminded me onthe ImprovePhotography Facebook fan page). If you ve never heard of gelling a flash, you will be surprised to know that a gel is not jelly like in consistency. It s just a plastic colored transparency. You canbuy a set of gels for around $10 on Amazonthat fit most flashes.
19. Compose and then focus rather than focusing and re composing
Could I have made this tip any more confusing? Probably not. What I mean is that it is generally preferable to compose the shot and then move your focus point on to the eye of the subject rather than focusing on the eye and then recomposing. For more on this,check out this previous post on focus.
20. Models relax immediately when a prop is introduced
Being a model is scary stuff. It s just you vs. the guy with the giant lens. When I see a subject feeling uncomfortable, I immediately search for a prop. Pick a flower and give it to the bride to play with, give the couple bubblegum and take a photo of them blowing bubbles together, give a kid a toy, etc. You don t necessarily have to include the prop in the frame (although it usually looks cool), but it is a guaranteed way to get the subject to relax a bit.
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