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Monday, June 25, 2012

Portrait Photography

I am learning from experience, that good portraits, are a function of several factors working together. Getting that "wow" shot requires patience, skill, and an ongoing learning process.

I would place them in order of importance:

  • Good Light. This means the brightness, color, direction, and size of the light source. The bigger the better as far as the source, so a nice large window or softbox is much better then an on camera flash. Understanding lighting is the foundation of any kind of good portrait photography. I often use window light combined with reflectors.
  • Understanding portrait composition, and getting the best out of your subject. This is an endless subject that takes time to learn and master. It differs from men to woman, children, teens, casual or formal shots, etc. etc. A well lit/exposed boring picture is so DULL.
  • Understanding how to COMMUNICATE/INTERACT  with the model and put them at ease. This is SO VITAL. It takes a little patience and time to get that great shot, and you must create the atmosphere and mood to allow this. Pleasant ongoing dialogue is your friend.
  • Coming prepared. This will allow you to minimize delays, and maintain the best atmosphere. Anything you can do up front to make things move along - will contribute. Camera, lens, lights, props, batteries,  reflectors, etc. Have it all in place. You might make use of an assistant as well to help move things along.
  • Use common sense. When shooting a squirming child or impatient teen, make it short and sweet.
  • Take lots of shots, from different angles. Its good to have variety.
  • Make sure you get both horizontal and vertical shots.
  • Pay close attention to the models attire. This is another subject to learn and master. Obviously if possible give some ahead of time instruction. Shooting guys in white shirts is boring.
  • Use bright lenses that will allow you fast shutter speeds, and good bokeh.
  • Use lens body combinations that give good image sharpness. The eyes are the most important. Blurry photos are the worst.
  • Watch your white balance and exposure. Some people are pail skinned and others dark skinned. Each type requires its own appropriate in camera setup as far as picture style and exposure.
As a canon t2i shooter I use the canon 50mm f/1.4 as my first choice. If I have a more patient subject, I reach for the Samyang 85mm MF. Another superb option is the Canon 35L 1.4 for more full body shots, or Canon 60mm macro for head shots. Each one of these lenses has its own unique "Look".

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