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4 Tips To Shoot Stunning Portraits

It’s a common misconception that portrait photography is as simple as “click and go” but the truth is, capturing stunning portraiture takes a lot of practice, patience and experience.

Producing creative photography requires a plethora of skills namely – good composition, ability to direct models, choosing suitable lenses, use proper lighting directions as well as special photo techniques. The result that is delivered through constant practice will also bring your portraiture up a notch. In this blog piece, we’ll shed some light on some of these required skills and how you can shoot better portraits in the near future.

1. Lighting Directions

Lighting directions play an essential role in shooting portraits as this technique creates the overall mood and sets a tone for a particular shot. Creating the perfect mood for portrait photographs at times require some experimentation, by using the ‘Diffused’ or ‘Harsh Light’method from different directions.

Most of you must be wondering, ‘Is lighting really important for portrait shots?’. As a matter of fact, YES, IT IS. Good lighting highlights the facial expressions of a model. The right lighting setup brings out the texture of the model’s face, giving the photograph a very pleasant mood. For example, when shooting with natural sunlight that comes in through a window, you will notice an attractive side-lit effect that reveals half of the model’s face and partially conceals the other half. You can also add a ‘Reflector’ to reduce the ‘Harsh Shadow’.

Using a ‘Studio Flash’ (commonly known as Strobe Lighting) limits your range of lighting techniques which allows you to create a different mood. Creating different ambient of lighting moods require positioning and controlling of exposure by the amount of stops, as well as utilizing soft-box or other accessories of a ‘Studio Flash’.

Description: ‘Direct Flash’ creates a harsh shadow and strong highlight in front of the model. It also creates an ambient light known as ‘Low-key Lighting’.

Description: This image was taken with two ‘Kicker Lights’ located on both sides of the model and a ‘Main Light’ located in front of the model at a 45 degree angle.

2. Directing Models

In portrait photography, a model’s pose and body language can deliver a particular mood to the photograph. So, knowing how to direct a model shows that you have an exact photo shoot concept in mind that involves interesting angles, positioning of the models and their expressions.

A photographer’s ability to control the entire photo shoot and communicating well with the models are equally important. You should know the right approach of directing the models by offering some guidance on various styles of posing that is related to the photo shoot theme and applying other modeling mechanics in front of the camera.

Here is a good example of model direction. The model’s eye contact, from various angles, create a strong impact that brings out a connection between the subject and viewers of the photograph. When you master this technique, you will find it useful for any of your portrait, be it fashion or wedding photo shoots.

Description: A model in bikini, posing at the pool with a strong eye contact towards the camera.

Description: A beauty portrait shot with the model’s eye contact away from the camera.

3. Using The Right Lens

There is a wide selection of zoom lenses available – 16-35mm, 18-55mm, 24-70mm, 70-200mm and 75-300mm, where most of them serve almost the same purpose.

Standard lens (50mm, 85mm, 135mm and 200mm) with a wide aperture and fixed focal length are ideal for shooting portraits. Using lenses with a wide aperture produces a lesser depth of field on the background which focus more on the subject of the photograph itself.

The only setback is having to move back and forth to shoot either a full length or a close-up shot of the model. This is why there is a high demand for ‘Telephoto Zoom Lens’. They have a changeable focal length with a compressed perspective that causes distortion as well as surreal-looking close-ups.

Wide angle lenses (16-35mm,18-55mm and 24-70mm) are suitable for shooting large groups of people with lesser background space. They are also ideal for shooting one model with a wide space that shows off an exact location. For a more creative effect, you can create a distortion on the subject by shooting a close-up portrait with a wide angle.

A zoom lens (70-200mm and 75-300mm) is also suitable for shooting at locations with a wide space. It does not give any problem when shooting full-length or close-up portraits.

Description: This shot of the little girl was captured using a 70-200mm lens. In this image, you can see a lesser depth of field and it creates a bokeh at the foreground and background.

Description: A low wide angle (24-70mm) shot showing two male models with buildings at the back as a supportive background.

Description: This candid close-up shot was taken with a 70-200mm lens showing an Asian model looking away from the camera. It creates a bokeh at the background too.

Description: This is a 16-35mm wide angle shot of two businesswomen stepping out from the helicopter.

4. Breaking The Rules

A lot of photographers tend to stick by the rules of third which is the basis for well balanced shots. In photography, certain rules are allowed to be broken. Sometimes you need to think outside the box in order to produce unique, creative and interesting shots. Shooting from high or low angles will provide different perspectives in photographs which you may find very eye-catching.

Using the right props can create a big impact. It is very useful because it can bring out a certain message that the photograph portrays. The dress code, style and color theme of the entire photo shoot also produces a lasting impression of the subject.

You should always remember not to stick with only one angle. Try exploring different angles because who knows, you might be able to capture a very stunning shot.

Description: A ‘Bird’s Eye View’ shot of a woman in bikini, sunbathing.

Description: An ‘Eye Level Angle’ image that shows a woman meditating. Her reflection can be seen in the pool.

Description: This image was intentionally taken with a ‘High and Wide Angle’ shot. It shows the perspective of the subject that produces a creative effect.

Description: This image broke the rules of third in order to create a more conceptual and interesting image.

During your next photo shoot, we hope that you are able to adopt these skills when shooting portraits. The more you explore, the more photography knowledge you will gain. Always remember that practice certainly makes perfect.

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