I LOVE portraits more than any other kind of photography. For me, it's about the connection. I enjoy getting to know other people and sharing the experience of a photo shoot with them. I also love the challenge of knowing that WHAT I say, and HOW I say it can dramatically impact the results of my shoot.
If I bring the energy and give intentional feedback and positivity, people respond to that, and it gives an opportunity for their authentic joy to show.
Some photographers pose their subject, silently adjust their settings (while the person awkwardly holds the pose), and then start taking photos without any direction or affirmation. That does not work for me! I don't get much joy out of that, and the person doesn't come alive in the photos (instead they may look awkward and unsure).
Before you take a portrait, ask yourself what the point of the photo is. Is it to capture something about their personality? To document a moment? To capture the relationship between two people? Decide what your goal is before you start.
Here are my top tips regarding portraits:
1. Set the vibe. The best way to photograph a person is to have fun with them! Instead of putting them into a stiff pose, ask them to do a certain action (walk, twirl, play, laugh, hug, etc.). They will play off of your energy, so be positive and enthusiastic. You could even play music if the situation allows.
2. Give affirmation. Give positive feedback way more than you think you should. You may feel stupid telling them over and over again that they are doing great and the photos are beautiful, but it WORKS. It creates a positive experience for them, and helps them to relax and try more things instead of feeling stiff and awkward. (This works for kids as well as adults).
3. Choose your point of focus. For a portrait, the focus should aways be on the eye closest to the camera (not their nose, nor their back eye).
4. Remember your angles. A woman will look more slender photographed from the side rather than straight-on. A man will look stronger and more confident photographed straight-on. You can make a double chin disappear by photographing the person slightly higher than eye level. For a child, get eye-level with them (don't shoot down at them from your natural height).
5. Have the person step away from the background a bit. This will help them to "pop" and make the background less distracting.
6. Plan ahead for motion. On an iPhone: if your subject is moving, try turning on "live photos." This actually takes a short video. Your phone will pick the "key photo", but you can pick the best yourself, later. Tap Edit, tap the circles (live photo symbol), then slide the white box to choose the best moment. On a DSLR: use a fast shutter speed and auto-focus so you don't blur out a moving subject.
The main thing? Just get out there and shoot!
As always, let me know if you have questions.
My "Looking for the Light: Photography & Life" online course will launch in 2021. Are you interested in learning more about photography? Click below to view more about the course.
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