Photographically Speaking: Portrait Tricks

Kevin Bradshaw

Have you ever heard someone say that they don’t like having their photo taken?  Of course you have, and why is that?  People that don’t like having their photo taken are conscious of some physical aspect of their appearance. As a photographer your job is to make that person look their absolute best, and there are a number of photographic tricks to do that.

Generally speaking there are two things I NEVER do when taking a portrait.  Firstly I never have the lighting, (whether it be studio lighting or natural sunlight), behind me, shining straight on to the subject.  I prefer to have the lighting coming from either the right or left side of the scene.  There are even times I like having the sunset or sunrise behind my subject.  Secondly I never have the subject face the camera straight on, (there is an exception to this rule).  I virtually always have the subject with their shoulders at about a 45 degree angle to the camera, or if their shoulders are facing the camera, I then have the head turned to one side or the other.  Generally I always have the subjects eyes looking into the camera, but there are exceptions to this rule as well.

With lighting a portrait subject, keep the lighting to a minimum, slightly under expose your shot, this will bring out the true skin color and shadows of the facial features creating a 3D effect giving the face shape and depth.  Finally use a large aperature opening, (small f stop), and stand as far away from the subject as possible zooming in on the subject to fill the frame as much as possible.  This will give a shallow depth of field and place the focus on the subject not the background.

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