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Simple portrait photography for beginners

portrait examplesIt’s ALIVE! So you have taken still life photos, are you ready to delve into photographing something that moves?!

For portrait photography, we will be using similar lighting techniques as we did with the still life photo assignment. You’ll take a photo outside, inside in front of a window, and in studio light. Check the Still Life Photography blog or lesson for a few lighting tips. For starting off, I use the same techniques for both Still Life and Portraiture.

Below are a few points for taking successful portrait pictures. This is not exhaustive by any means, but it should be a good list to get you into the door.

  1. Do whatever you can to make your subject comfortable. Choosing someone you know will help you with this.
    • As much as possible you want their smile and movements to seem natural. Making them laugh would be the best way to make their smile most natural.
    • You could give your subject some gum or something to hold in his or her hand to make them feel more comfortable.
    • They don't have to look at the camera. You could give them fixed points to look at in the room/wherever you are.
    • Remember that the more relaxed you seem to be the more relaxed they will feel. 
  2. Check the background. Make sure that you check the surroundings so that nothing will distract from your subject. If there are bright colors behind them, shift yourself or them to omit them. Check for mergers.
  3. Check your camera. If you are just using a point and shoot camera, set your mode to portrait. If you are using a DSLR, try setting it on the manual mode Av and use a low F-stop. This will make for a fast shutter and a shallow depth of field (so your background will be out of focus. You should also use a longer focal length lens if you have one available. You will have to back up from your subject a bit more, but it will also help to blur the background and control the light.
  4. Set the white balance. Be sure that your whites are white so that your colors are true. Use a white card and have your subject hold it in front of him/her to check for a good white balance (HINT: the card should be white :).
  5. Focus on the eyes. This is essential. The subject’s eyes must be in focus. They say “the eyes are a window to the soul” and as such, they are incredibly important to your portrait. Their eyes should not only be in focus, but they ought not to be shadowed because we want the focus to be on the eyes, no matter how you choose to pose your subject.

Keep all these points in mind as you take your portrait pictures and remember all the lighting tips given for still life photography can be used here too. Take pictures outside, in front of a window, and in studio light with one lamp and a good reflector.


This Week’s Assignment:

Take 3 good pictures or your subject using 3 different lighting situations: Outside (either in the sun or in the shade), inside next to a window, and in a darker area with one studio light. If you feel proud of your pictures, choose your best shot and post it to Instagram with #DigitalArtTeacher. Take at least 10 photos for each subject. Remember, focus on the eyes!