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Simple Steps to a Better Portrait: Part 1

Portraits are one of the most popular styles of photography. They can be intimate, emotional and capable of telling a story without words. At first, they can seem daunting and difficult to get right, but by utilising the features of your camera, and mastering the techniques and methods can lead to incredibly rewarding results. Plus,…

Portraits are one of the most popular styles of photography. They can be intimate, emotional and capable of telling a story without words. At first, they can seem daunting and difficult to get right, but by utilising the features of your camera, and mastering the techniques and methods can lead to incredibly rewarding results. Plus, they aren’t quite as challenging as you might think!

1. Be aware of exposure settings

Exposure means how well balanced the light in your shots is. Knowing how to adjust it, and when to lower and lengthen it can make the difference between a great shot and an average one. Most digital cameras come with a built-in exposure compensator. If your shots are too dark, try increasing your compensator settings.

Knowing how to position your models to automatically create a better light environment is also crucial. Play with the light. If you are using automatic settings, your camera should adjust relatively well, but give things a go manually to see a real difference. Long exposures are generally best left for landscapes and abstracts.

13560514283_3e29947f96_oImage by Reinier VanOorsouw

2. Know your Aperture

The aperture of your lens controls how much light can enter it. Setting a wide aperture can lead to a shallow depth of field, blurring the background which can be crucial in creating a great portrait. Wider apertures are best for close up images focusing purely on the face and shoulders of your subject, whilst more narrow aperture settings can be used to bring the background into the frame.

Get manual with your aperture settings to try out different takes on the same shot. Shallow depth of field can be great when taking shots of animals, and shoulder up portraits.

5650422653_c7b30bf282_oImage by Loic Lagarde

3. Get the right lens

The key to choosing the perfect lens for the desired effect is to know what you want the image to encapsulate. For intimate close up portraits centered on the model and their features, using a telephoto zoom lens gives you the ability to incorporate zoom and focus directly onto your model, cementing them as the focus of the image.

For shots intended to make use of background and props, a medium telephoto lens is best, as it still retains the ability to place emphasis on your model, but also bring other aspects into view.

37448942432_6cf6b4cacc_oImage by EnricoDot

4. Adjust ISO

There’s nothing worse than capturing a great image, only for the subject to blink or move, resulting in image blue or lack of clarity!
To compensate for subtle movements in your models face, adjust your ISO and use a faster shutter speed. This will in turn also help to give your images a crispness that slower shutter speeds won’t capture.

14960278786_d6399489b2_oImage by Reinier VanOorsouw

5. Focus

The perfect portrait can potentially be ruined by focusing on the wrong part of the shot, depending on your image. This is especially true once you begin adjusting your aperture settings. A good rule to follow is to focus your shots on your subjects eyes and upper face. Try setting your focus before adjusting your angles to get that perfect focus and perspective.

If you are looking to highlight something in particular about your subject or location, try setting your focus onto these and play around with your results.

25135479857_f860d97e76_oImage by Reinier VanOorsouw

Share your portraits on Lobster now using the tags #portrait, #humanity, or #lobsterportrait

Written by George Janes

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