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Photography tips on PORTRAIT (Part 1)

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The most striking portraits in Flickr are those that break all the rules!
1. Alter our perspectives (take not only from eye level, but also from below looking up, climb up to shoot down).
2. Varies eye contacts. Subject (1) look at the camera, (2) look off camera, (3) look within frame e.g. A child looking at a ball, a woman looking at her new baby, a man looking hungrily at a big bowl of noodle.
3. Break the composition rules.
4. Give our subjects room to look into.
5. Experiment with lighting. Side-lighting can create mood, backlighting and silhouetting your subject to hide their features can be powerful. Using techniques like slow synch flash can create an impressive wow factor.
6. Shoot candidly. Some people don’t look good in a posed environment and so switching to a candid type approach can work. Photograph your subject at work, with family or doing something that they love.
7. Use prop(s). We have been doing this to create the atmosphere.
8. Focus on 1 body part. Photographing a person’s hands, eyes, mouth or even just their lower body… can leave a lot to the imagination of the viewer of an image.
9. Obscure part of our subject. We can do this with clothing, objects, their hands or just by framing part of them out of the image.
10. Take a series of shots.
11. Shoot with a wide angle (I love this kind of shots, but I don’t have the lens!)
12. You can use landscape to take portrait, i.e. camera in horizontal position.
13. Hold our cameras on an angle.
14. Take unfocused shots. But (1) Focus upon one element of the image and leave your main subject blurred. Use large aperture e.g. f1.4 f2.8 etc.
15. Introduce movement.

1. BECOME FAMILIAR / FRIENDS. Every location is different, so keep safety in mind. Generally, if you return to the same location multiple times, or if you slowly browse the area it is easier to familiarize the locals with you and your camera. Without some level of familiarizing, it is more challenging to get permission for taking portraits – or even pictures of the neighborhood. Be friendly, become familiar, and people are more likely to welcome you.
Nod to people. Smile. Seek permission.
2. Make Eye Contact and Ask Permission
3. The STORY. Who is the individual? Where are they from? What do they do? What is their background like?

Leonardo’s use of a pyramidal composition which shows MONALISA with a wider base at her arms and her hands forming the front corner and everything is in place to draw the eye up her body to her eyes and her infamous smile.

Leonardo has positioned Mona Lisa’s eyes at the eye level of the one viewing the image. This brings a sense of intimacy to the image as we the viewer gaze directly into her eyes (there’s not a sense that we’re looking down on her or that she’s doing that to us).

Leonardo uses light to draw the eye of the viewer to the parts of the image that he wishes to be highlighted (the face and hands) and balances the image nicely by placing hands and face in positions that counter one another.

Leonardo also uses shadow (or a lack of light) to add depth and dimension to different aspects of the image – particularly the area around Mona Lisa’s neck and in the ripples on the dress on her arm.

CATCHLIGHT: the highlight of a light source reflected off the surface of the eye.
Many portrait photographers use a reflector placed in the lap of the subject, or in a similar position. This usually produces a larger catchlight in the lower half of the eye. A studio portrait will show the final product with a single catchlight in each eye, typically in the 10 or 2 o’clock position, created by the main (”key”) light.

Consider that early artists didn’t have the luxury of multiple lights in a studio, using instead the Sun or light from a large open window. The result was a SINGLE catchlight and because the Sun illuminated the subject from a high angle, the catchlight reflected from a higher spot on the eye.

Use every opportunity to study the position and shape of catchlights in other photographers’ work, and in the eyes of your friends and coworkers. Study the paintings of old master portrait artists to learn how they used light. Your portrait work will benefit from this effort.

Think of ANIME EYES.

1. Handle subject HANDS. Give them things to hold.
2. Let subject SIT. Carry a stool. When people sit, they will 9 times out of 10 loose the nervous rigidity they have when they’re standing.
3. Use DISTRACTION. Distract your subject. Get them talking about something you know they’re interested in, ask them questions about their family, pets or favorite super heroes if you get desperate. Do whatever you can to pull their attention away from themselves.

1. Ask our subjects to bring few outfits.
2. The comfort our our subjects are important.
3. Clothes can put people in context.
4. Darker top slim your subject. No crazy patterns, lines, dots or bright colors – just understated basics that allowed the person to shine. Beware of complexion. A very fair complexion with a very dark top can be too much of a contrast and when shooting someone with dark skin tones dark clothing can mean not enough contrast. COLLARED SHIRT can frame men’s face.

1. At a wedding it’s so fast paced that we often don’t have time to perfectly compose each shot for the rule of thirds. So what can we do? Just don’t compose in the center! COMPOSITION is the core of any photo.
2. Get the first kiss.
3. FOLLOW THE LINES. If you see a bunch of lines going in the same direction, follow them. There’s usually something good to shoot at the end of those lines. If you’re posing the couple, put the couple right at the end of those lines. The center aisle is always a converging line leading to the couple. Use those lines.
4. FRAMING. Hide in the bushes and shoot. Peek around a corner and take your shot. Peer over someone’s shoulder and take the shot. By doing this you frame your photo and give it depth and mystery. It’s sometimes difficult to find depth in a hectic wedding, so create it. Jump behind something and shoot away!
5. TWO PEOPLE ONE PORTRAIT. Weddings are all about the relationships and it’s great when we can show the relationship in the portrait even when we’re taking a portrait of just one person.

Acknowledgment: Darren Rowse, Christina N Dickson, Natalie Norton, John 3:16

Written by blueroselady

March 13, 2010 at 3:21 am

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  1. […] to photograph people? How to photograph your little ones? I am committed to photography my little ones once every […]

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