Whether you are shooting a family of five, or an individual subject, in order to be a great portrait photographer there are several things you need to learn to master and get right in order to produce professional images.
Portrait Photography Tips
Here are some tips on things that will keep you on top of your portrait photography “game” and leave your clients satisfied with the images you produce.
Know Your Camera
Regardless of what brand or style camera you are shooting with, you need to know it inside and out. You need to know what all of the buttons and features mean and do. You also need to be comfortable with locating all of them easily and quickly and how to use them to your advantage. Read your manual (multiple times), do your research, and practice any time you can.
One of the most important things you need to learn as a portrait photographer is the exposure triangle. While the overall exposure can be adjusted in post processing, it is best to learn to get it as close to right in-camera as you can.
Aperture, ISO, and shutter speed all play a part in controlling the amount of light you are letting in. You need to know the meaning of each, and how they work together.
Composition can make or break a photo. You need to familiarize yourself with the rule of thirds. The way you position your subject in the frame really impacts the overall look of the image. While shooting your subject dead center can certainly work, positioning them in other areas of your frame/screen can add a lot of visually appealing qualities to your photos.
Getting sharp images is also crucial when it comes to producing professional quality portrait photos. While shooting with wide apertures can give you a great depth-of-field and blurry background that helps your subject stand out, you need to make sure your subject is sharp and in focus, especially the faces.
A blurry or out of focus subject can ruin what could have otherwise been a great shot. It doesn’t matter if the lighting (exposure) and composition is spot on, if it’s blurry, it is basically useless.
Know how to avoid things like camera shake and unintentional motion blur. Knowing your way around your shutter speed settings and when a tripod is necessary can you help you avoid this issue.
Yes, you certainly can sharpen your images during the editing process. But, you can only sharpen an image so much. If it’s just “soft” it is much easier to correct. But, if it out of focus altogether, it is almost impossible to save.
Directing Your Subjects And Posing
You need to become comfortable with directing your subjects. After all, you are the professional here. And believe it or not, they are more comfortable when they are being told exactly what they should be doing.
Do your research and get plenty of practice when it comes to posing your clients. The way you pose them should give you results that flatter their body type and features. Little things like the way they tilt their chin and their hand positioning really play a part in this. If you know that the way they are standing or positioned doesn’t flatter them or just looks odd, re-direct them.
Many times it’s helpful to actually demonstrate what you are referring to, as this gives them a visual idea of what you need them to do.
No matter how skilled you are at getting everything right in camera, post processing is something you need to familiarize yourself with. Whether you edit for basic minor adjustments, or more in-depth creative edits, post processing is something every professional portrait photographer should learn. You can really enhance your images by simply knowing a few post processing basics.
If you want to be a great portrait photographer, you need to invest the time (and money) to do so. Do your research, invest in good gear, practice every chance you get, and never stop learning. When you assume that you are great and stop investing the time to learn as much as you can, you are really doing a dis-service to yourself as a portrait photographer. There is always something to learn.