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How To Take Portrait Photos

How To Take Portrait Photos

Capturing a portrait of somebody is one of the hardest things to get right, and is therefore the reason why professional photographers are in such demand to shoot good portrait photos. The trick is to remember that it is as much about recording the subject's personality as it is about simply photographing their face. Here's how to do it well.

Step 1: Setting up the shot

There are a couple of simple ways to make your portrait look great. First - try and get your subject in focus and the background out of focus. The easiest way to do this is make sure the background's miles behind them, and the camera is fully zoomed in on their face. Then make sure the flash is on and you're in a nice bright environment so there's plenty of light on their face. Outdoors on a sunny day is always a winner.

Step 2: Capture their personality.

Next, a few tips on what to avoid. As a photographer you will have your own style, but simply posing your subject, lighting them nicely and getting them to say cheese can be a waste. The key is to try and capture something that is unique or typical of your subject.

If they talk with their hands, consider framing the shot to include that detail. If they walk or stand in a interesting way, don't shy away from a full length composition - this isn't a passport photo, after all.

If you're photographing friends and family, you'll already have a pretty good idea of their personalities, distinctive facial expressions and gestures and will therefore know what to try and shoot. With subjects that you're meeting and photographing for the first time, spend some time talking to them and pay attention to how they talk and move.

Step 3: Observe them in the wild!

Regardless of how well you know your subject, getting them to try and recreate an interesting pose or expression with a camera pointing at them will be difficult and the resulting image will most likely look forced. Why not let your subject talk or get on with their natural activities while you photograph them as discretely as possible? As always with digital photography, take plenty of pictures as you'll be able to pick the best later.

Step 4: Allow them to pick their portrait.

Bear in mind that people rarely like photographs that are taken of them, so consider sitting down with your subject after the shoot and showing them a selection of your favourite shots. If you let them pick the one they like, the chances are you'll end up with a portrait that you're both happy with.