Taking great portraits of people is never easy. Ask someone to pose and they'll inevitably force a strangled smile, while looking extremely uncomfortable!
Fortunately, there are some simple tips you can employ to capture beautiful pictures of your friends and family. As a specialist in portrait photography, these are the things that I've found help my photos the most.
Use these five tips for taking better portraits.
1. Make Them Comfortable
This probably sounds as if I'm stating the obvious, but the key to a good photograph is to engage with your subject.
It's worth building a repertoire of bad jokes (and silly faces for the kids) to help relax your subjects! Don't make your subjects hold a rigid pose to start with, as they will just be tense. Instead, have a conversation with them, make them laugh, and snap away when they're least expecting it.
After a while, they'll hopefully forget that the camera is there!
2. Avoid Harsh Lighting
You're better off shooting your photographs on an overcast day, as direct sunlight is hugely unflattering.
If you live in a part of the world that's blessed with year-round sunshine, then find some shade. Try to photograph with the sun off to one side of the subjects. This avoids them squinting into the sun, and the light will hit one side of their faces, creating softer shadows.
3. Check Your Focusing
To end up with really accurate focusing on your portraits, switch your camera to single point autofocus and position this point over the eye of your subject.
If your subject is sitting at an angle, then focus on whichever eye is closer, as depth of field extends behind the focal point.
4. Use Your Apertures
A good portrait usually uses a small depth of field to blur the background.
This has the effect of bringing your subject out of the photograph and cutting out any distracting clutter. Set your camera on its maximum aperture to get a small depth of field.
Composition deserves a whole separate article, but here are a few tips to get more flattering photos.
- Never photograph a person straight on to the camera. It creates a very flat image and doesn't flatter the subject. Instead, ask your subject to tilt his or her head slightly or to turn sideways to the camera and twist the upper body back towards the lens. The key is to create interesting angles and curves that flatter a person's body shape.
- Don't forget to ask the subject to stand up straight! It's amazing how many people slouch in a photo, which only serves to make them look bigger than they are.
- And remember, every person has a good side. It's up to you as a photographer to be able to spot it. (Don't worry, it's usually pretty obvious!)