Portrait Photography Tips and Methods
by Richard Schneider
Portrait is defined as, ďA likeness of a person,
especially one showing the face, that is created by a
painter or photographer, for example.Ē In the area of
portrait photography there are some guidelines that you
should consider when you go to take photos of people.
The different types of portraits are: close-ups, facial
shots, upper body shots or environmental portraits.
Environmental portraits are where you focus on the
subject and on their surroundings that provide more
character to the subject.
When people have a camera in their face it usually makes
them nervous and they will try to put on a face that
does not portray who they really are. The real skill to
portrait photography is trying to capture photos when
the subjects are comfortable and not worried about a
Many professional photographers try to capture their
subjectís true essence by using tricks. One example of
this is counting to three so the subject prepares and
then while they are relaxing after taking a planned
photo the photographer will snap a few more unplanned
photos. In most cases the subject wonít even know that
more than one photo was taken but itís usually the
photos that the subject wasnít expecting that capture
their true essence.
Another more common strategy professionals use is to
tell funny jokes that make their subjects genuinely
laugh or smile. Iím sure that you have probably
experienced something like this yourself.
These usually have the subjectís shoulders and head or
less. They are framed around the face. These are the
most common and best at capturing expressions and
glamour shots. For these it is very important to have
the light coming from a good angle. To accent wrinkles
or small details you should have the light coming from
the side or from the top. To create flattering pictures
you should choose a cloudy day or try to create diffused
light so there are hardly any shadows. Also make sure
the subject is brighter than the background to reduce
For close-up portraits you should use a wide aperture
(low f/stop) to make the background out of focus and
therefore less of a distraction. Professionals commonly
use a fixed telephoto lens thatís 90 mm or higher for
portraits in order to de-emphasize the subjectís nose or
any other unflattering feature. It works because at that
distance the nose or any other feature does not seem
closer to the camera than the rest of the face.
UPPER BODY OR MIDRANGE PORTRAITS
These are easier to capture because the subject is
probably more relaxed because itís less personal. These
include a little more of the background than close-ups.
These are commonly used for both single subjects and
multiple subjects. This is the kind of portrait used to
mark occasions such as graduation, yearbook, birthdays
and other parties. The ideal lens would be about a 90 mm
fixed telephoto or more wide angle depending on how many
subjects there are.
These are the portraits that let you into the life of a
subject. They might include the whole subject in a
scenario or the subject participating in some hobby that
they enjoy. These are best for telling a story to the
viewer about the subject. They are almost always used by
photojournalists to look into the lives of interesting
people. They also make great Black and White pictures.
Use this information to develop what kind of portrait
style you would like to take, and then practice it
before dealing with any serious clients.
About the Author
Richard Schneider is a digital photography enthusiast
and founder of http://www.picturecorrect.com/ which
offers tips and news about digital photography, digital
camera reviews, photoshop tutorials and computer