Portraiture is one of the most popular and creatively fulfilling forms of both professional and amateur photography. Being able to effectively capture the elusive ‘essence’ of a subject requires a delicate balance of talent, technical expertise and, as always in a medium so immediate, a certain amount of luck. Some would argue that there’s also an element of something in play that’s simply inherent in the photographer – a little bit of creative expression that can’t be quantified. |
Whether you’re at the very beginning of your journey with the camera or looking to enhance and nurture existing skills, when it comes to the genre of portraiture, there are some tips and tricks that can serve to take your images to the next level.
Note: the following tips are relevant for studio portraiture rather than street.
Connect with your Subject
This might sound obvious, but real connection can only happen when the subject feels comfortable. This could involve meeting up beforehand for a coffee or, at the least, taking half an hour or so to get to know them so they’ll feel comfortable being directed by you. This also allows you a glimpse into their personality, which is vital if you’re to capture an authentic representation of your subject that both you and they are happy with.
Consider the Lighting
Anyone who’s ever picked up a camera knows the importance of lighting, but not everyone understands how light can be used and manipulated to create the mood and enhance the power of a portrait. Being able to know exactly how light will affect an image immediately takes some practice, so you should take every opportunity to test out the effects directional lighting has on the resulting image. Backlit, side lit, studio lights, on and off camera flash, sunlight and the use of reflectors are just some of the things to test and consider for a lighting setup.
Choose an Angle
Understanding that an image need not be shot in the classic pose of head on, eye-level is one of the most valuable tips you can learn when it comes to portraiture. So much can change when you shoot high, shoot low, shoot from the side, shoot from behind – the opportunities are endless. As well as the more commonly understood aspects of making a subject look slimmer, taller, shorter, or whatever, you can also completely change the mood and impact of the portrait by choosing a different angle. Don’t be afraid to get down on the ground, get up on a ladder or put your subject (safely) in an unusual position.
Learn from the Best Online Photography Courses
The final tip is also probably one of the most important: watch and learn by considering enrolling on one of the respected online photography courses. Studying the techniques of the best of the best will give you a wonderful insight and the opportunity to apply their personal ethos to your own work. Online photography courses that offer classes with the world’s greatest photographers not only give you valuable technical tips on lighting, composition and exposure, they also allow you to connect with a community of like minded people and gain insight into the Masters own practices.
Tip: Make sure you choose established and respected online photography courses that allow you to learn from the big name Masters of photography.
Adam Harper is a Photography Consultant at Masters of Photography, which offers online photography courses with some of the world’s greatest photographers. Suitable for all levels, the courses provide lifetime access to easy to follow classes, allowing participants to learn valuable tips and tricks and take big steps to improve their photography. The online community affords the opportunity to find inspiration from both the Masters and fellow students.
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