If you want to improve your portrait shots, and all without having to put your hand in your pocket and splashing out on super expensive professional grade photography equipment, you may find the 9 tips below useful.
1. Build a rapport with the subjects
If you want to capture the best photos of people you need to make them feel comfortable, at ease and relaxed. In order to do this you need to build a rapport with the subjects. Some people require direction to be put at ease, other people require being spoken to and other people require being left in silence. It is crucial to find out what you need to do to put your subjects at ease, and then apply it.
Capturing great portraits requires great people skills, and not necessarily top end and expensive equipment.
2. Keep up the interaction throughout the shoot
Once you get the subjects comfortable in front of the camera it is crucial to keep them there throughout the entire shoot. You’ll find that if the interaction reduces/regresses the photos will get worse.
Once again, capturing great portraits requires great people skills, so don’t get stressing that you don’t have the high end professional spec equipment.
3. Have a selection of cuddly toys for young kids
When taking portraits of children and kids you will need to keep them entertained to make sure they last the duration of the shoot. All kids seem to love a cuddly toy, or two, and I find that having a selection of cuddly toys and plushes helps the shoot go smoothly no end.
You don’t need to spend a fortune on expensive cuddly toys and plushes, and I always useAmazon or eBay, where there are always deals to be had.
4. Shooting against a blank wall make a great background
Professional portrait photographers will use photography back drops for indoor portraits. Setting up a background requires a lot of time, effort and also various bits of equipment, including a back drop, a support stand and clamps. These photography background set ups are very useful, but they don’t come cheap.
If you don’t have access to a portable photography background set up, and let’s face it, not many beginner portrait photographers do, a blank wall (the lighter the better) is a great alternative to a photography background. Most houses have a plain wall somewhere, so make sure you find it and put it to good use.
5. Open all curtains for natural daylight
Natural daylight is, without a shadow of a doubt, the best way to light portraits and you need to maximize the ambient light and use it to your advantage. When you are taking indoor portraits you should open all curtains, open all blinds and flood the property with natural daylight.
Natural daylight is less harsh and easier to control than artificial light, so you should use day light whenever and wherever possible.
6. If the room is too dark bounce flash off the ceiling
Even when all of the curtains and blinds are wide open there are times when there still isn’t enough ambient light get a decent exposure, and in these circumstances you are going to have no other option but to use a bit of flash. If your camera has a built in pop up flash this is not going to be powerful enough – you will need an external flash.
You don’t need one of those powerful, all singing all dancing (and expensive) external flashes for indoor portrait photography. The small, and not to mention affordable Godox TT350 will do the job perfectly. Check out the following for an honest and unbiased review.
7. Use a small aperture for group shots
I am sure you have read that you need to use wide apertures for portrait photography. This may be the case when dealing with individuals but not when dealing with group portraits. If you take group portraits with the lens wide open you’ll have serious issues with sharpness as the shallow depth of field shooting wide open.
To make sure everyone in the group is in focus, and tack sharp, you need to stop down the lens and shoot at a narrow aperture. I find that f8 – f11 is perfect for group portraits, and it is what I would recommend.
8. When arranging a large group – if they can’t see the camera, the camera can’t see them
When arranging numerous people for a group portrait there is one key thing to remember – “If you can’t see the camera the camera can’t see you”. To put this in practice you need to make sure that every person in the group portrait can clearly, and easily, see the camera.
9. Shoot in burst mode
I wold always recommend using burst mode, and firing off several shots in quick succession when taking portraits. People blink, people cough, people sneeze, people suffer from involuntary facial contortions, and if any of these happen at the wrong moment the photo will be ruined.
The involuntary actions are bad enough when dealing with one person but when dealing with several people, like when taking group portraits, they can be very frustrating. Shooting in burst mode will help ensure that everyone in the portrait are facing toward the camera, smiling and not blinking.
Keen photographer addicted to cameras, lenses and everything photography related. Feel free to follow me in my photography ramblings, and if you have any thoughts, comments, queries or anything else to add I would love to hear from you.