portrait photography tips for beginners

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Portrait Photography tips for Beginners

21. Book a real photo shoot
Contrary to popular belief, models are a dime a dozen no matter where you live. Head on over to ModelMayhem.com and find a local model. Many of them will not even charge you if you give them copies of the pictures you take. It s called TFP time for prints. Oh, a warning on ModelMayhem 90% of the models think their best pictures are when they are disrobed. I always have my wife go on the site and choose a model for me so I don t have to see the nastiness. Not cool.
22. Buy a few scarves
My wife, Emily, made me include this tip for the ladies. She said it s a great tip for dressing women for a portrait photography shoot, but I think it s because she has an obsession with Confessions of a Shopaholic (the girl the green scarf). Anyway, it has worked wonders for me in the past. For $15 you can buy probably 10 scarves at any many stores. Then, you can have your female subjects wear plain colors (such as a white T shirt and jeans) and then wear different colors of scarves. I found that this works GREAT for senior portraits, because teenage girls like accessorizing and changing clothes every five minutes. Big time saver and you ll get many more looks out of one subject.
23. Raise that light for stunning catch lights
Catch lights are a type of specular highlight (the tiny bright spot on any shiny and round object). If you have no idea why catch lights are cool,check out this articlewhere I explain it. If you re really picky, the best place to put a flash to get perfect catch lights is high and a few feet to the side of the subject. This will create catch lights at 10 o clock and 2 o clock, which is optimal because then the catch light doesn t cover the pupil.
24. The worst way to get a candid expression from your subject
Whenever I go on a shoot, I always try and get an assistant that can help pose the subject and make them laugh and play so that I can focus on the photography. My pet peeve is when the assistant says something like, You look so stiff! Loosen up! Ugh! Telling the subject that they don t look good only makes the situation ten times worse. Never tell the subject they look stiff or they need to loosen up. It backfires 100% of the time.
25. Use framing in a creative way
Have your model look through a window or have them lean up against a door frame and your portrait composition can look much stronger and more interesting. I like using this technique to take pictures of babies and toddlers by placing the child in a crib and having them peer through the bars of the crib at the camera. Always makes for a great shot. I ve tried doing the same thing with people looking through prison bars, but it s never been quite as flattering.
26. Try high key or low key lighting
Some photos look great overexposed for a clean and bright look, but the same model in the same pose can look scary and moody in low key lighting. Learning to control the amount of light can make a huge difference in the feel of your photo.
27. Quit being a pansy
Many portrait photographers would love to get out and shoot more, but don t have the opportunity to find models to shoot. Fortunately, any human can be a portrait model (although you probably want to find someone better looking than Scottie Pippen. Yikes). I was teaching a sunset portraiture class in Naples, Florida a few months back and no models were available for the shoot. Did I crawl into a fetal position and cry in the corner all afternoon? Yes, but that was for a different reason. Actually, we just asked random people on the beach if they wanted their pictures taken. By offering to email them the picture, we had tons of different people to practice on and got some fantastic shots.
28. Use ultra wide lenses for a cool perspective
Shooting portraits with an ultra wide lens can cause some serious problems if you don t know how to do it correctly. Wide lenses generally distort facial features, which the subject will hate you for; however, check outthis article on wide angle portraits, andthis article on using fisheye lenses creativelyand you ll be on the right track to capture awesome and unique portraits.
29. Warm that flash for sunset portraits
Sunset portraits are a favorite among portrait photographers, but few people do it right. A sunset is not daylight balanced. The light from a sunset is quite warm: red, yellow, and purple. Buy some gels and warm up that flash to make the picture look more natural.
30. Crank that aperture for full body portraits
I am shocked on almost a daily basis how many photographers fail to understand that aperture is not the only camera setting that impacts the depth of field. To learn the four (or five, depending on how you count) factors that impact depth of field,check out this article. When shooting a full body portrait, the photographer is obviously further away from the subject. This means that the depth of field is much deeper. For full body portraits, remember that your aperture must be significantly lower (or your focal length significantly longer) to get a blurry background. To get shallow depth of field for full body portraits, you might check out the85mm f1.8 for Nikon, or the85mm f/1.8 for Canon.


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