As a portrait photographer, your goal is to create a likeness of your subject at his best. At the same time, you also want to tell the viewer something about your subject, capturing your subject’s essence in one powerful image. If it sounds like a daunting task, you’re right. Nonetheless, while it may be challenging, it is not impossible. Here are some tips in order to create stunning portraits:
Take Advantage of the Aperture Priority Mode
All cameras have an auto mode, the settings that manufacturers put every camera so that the buyer can use it immediately. Those settings will give you an average image, so as someone who wants to master the craft of portrait photography, try taking another route. Instead of letting the manufacturer dictate how you do your job, take the wheel and drive. The goal of the manufacturer is to stop the buyer from returning the camera out of frustration, not to create stunning portraits. Yours is the latter, so fiddle with the aperture priority mode. How?
The usual auto mode setting for a bright day is f/16 which puts everything in focus, including the distracting background. In portrait photography, you want your subject to stand out from the background. You can do this by controlling the depth of field, by switching the mode dial to “A” or “Av” and using the smallest numbers available on your lens. This will give you the proper exposure while maintaining the aperture and shallow depth of field.
Don’t Use Pop-Up Flash
Most people can recognize stunning portraits but don’t know what it makes it stand out from the average. The answer – the pop-up flash. Turn it off especially before taking a family portrait (Learn what to wear to a family portrait session). Why? In portrait photography, you capture a 3-dimensional subject in a 2-dimensional medium (screen or paper), making it flat. A portrait photographer puts shape by contrasting the shadows. Since there are several subjects in a family portrait, you can see how an image can become flat. If light creates shadow, then why not use a pop-up flash? Yes, that may be true, but the light source is placed on top of the camera creating shadows behind the subject’s head and therefore cannot be seen by the camera. Combined with the use of aperture mode, you can create images that will detail the natural contours of your subject’s face.
Focus on the Eyes
It’s been said that the eyes are the windows to a soul, and that is exactly what need to focus if you want stunning portraits. Put those peepers front and center so that you can create a gateway to your subject’s soul. Learn how to work with your lens and master the creation of a very shallow depth of field. Shoot down on your subject instead of up so that focus will remain on the eyes.
Portrait photography is not rocket science. But it’s also not child’s play. If you want to become the best portrait photographer and create stunning portraits, study the tips above carefully and apply them when you go and create the next compelling and visceral image that will propel your to photography stardom.