Peony bouquetPeony bouquetPeonies in pastel in a watercolor montage.

November 2013 Photo Tips_Portrait Photography Deadly Sins

October 31, 2013  •  Leave a Comment

Five Six deadly sins to avoid in Portrait Photography:

  1. Wrong focus point:  Focus on the eyes or the eye closest to the camera. For head and shoulder shots, eyes should be in the top 1/3rd of the view. Eyes are the window to the soul and give the portrait life! Also position the camera at the same level as their eye line or slightly below. If they are too tall, have them sit or you can move further away and zoom in. This is essential for children and pets as well. If doing a group photo, keep everyone in the same plane (equal distance from the camera) to give you more option in the choice of aperture (f/stop) and still keep everyone in focus. This concept is also important for macro photography. Lonesome CowboyLonesome CowboyDude rancher
  2. Lack of attention to the Background: Unless you are doing an environmental portrait where the background helps tell the story, pay attention to the background to avoid distracting from your picture. Distance from the background is important (greater is better- as much as 10 feet if possible) as well as adjusting the depth of field to blur the background (create Bokeh by using a wide open aperture such as 1.4 or 2.8 - remember proper focus will be even more important). Or get closer and have the subject fill the frame. 20090727_Kurzweil_Girls with lite_55720090727_Kurzweil_Girls with lite_557
  3. Using the wrong lens: Again, unless using a wide angle lens close to the subject to capture the environment as above, avoid wide angle lenses since they distort (such as making the nose more prominent). Stepping away from the subject and use a telephoto lens such as 200-300 mm is the most flattering and is used by fashion photographers. Some portrait photographers favor the 85 mm prime lenses (with FX - or full format cameras) or 100 mm macro (if a DX format - digital cropped camera) but most prefer a focal length from 120 to 200 mm.
  4. Taking boring, routine portraits: Get to know your subject before you start shooting. Ask them to bring a prop from their hobbies or profession, or just something that is important to them. An interesting location or great textured wall or background may be another option to consider. Turn the camera and shoot vertical (portrait orientation). A simple flower, fruit or favorite hat may help bring out the soul of the person and enliven them and thus the picture. Change perspective or add a slant; mix up your style; try something new. CowboyCowboycowboy from a dude ranch in Arizona done in sepia. The ArtistThe Artistcolorful female artist with paint brush and canvas. Remember your goal is to bring out their personality and character.
  5. Poor posing techniques: Most people are intimidated by being in front of the camera, so make them feel comfortable first by just chatting. Guide them into some attractive natural appearing poses and avoid having them sit squarely facing the camera. Good posture is always important. Start with having them facing 45 degrees away from the camera and then have them turn their head to face the camera. (45 degrees is a good angle to remember)  Another is to sit sideways in a chair with the legs angled.  Watch the position of their ImpImpyoung girl in B&W feet and hands. Fish shopkeeperFish shopkeeperItalian fish shop on Arthur Avenue in the Bronx
  6. Poor lighting: Choice of light will enhance or soften features, so this is another crucial aspect. Avoid outside locations on a sunny day unless early morning or dusk or just look for shady spots. Cloudy days are more forgiving. If using flash, all your portraits will be vastly improved by taking the flash off the camera and positioning the flash or any light source to one side at around 45 degrees and slightly above the subject pointing downward like the sun. Window light (with sheer fabric or frosted shower curtain softening it if it is a bright sunny day) should also come from around 45 degrees from your subject so that light can illuminate while shadows define. If they are facing the window directly, light will be flat which may be useful to soften wrinkles. Beauty light is similar with a piece of white foam core or fabric held at any angle below the frame of your picture and angled upward towards the chin, to eliminate harsh shadows or soften them. DreamingDreamingOlder woman dreaming of leaving this picture for her daughter. Nude Matured series. Expectation_011Expectation_011

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