- Portrait Photographer's Handbook
- 500 Poses for Photographing Women
- 500 Poses for Photographing Men
- Posing for Portrait Photography: A Head-to-Toe Guide for Digital Photographers
- Doug Box's Guide to Posing for Portrait Photographers
- Master Lighting Guide for Portrait Photographers
- Light It, Shoot It, Retouch It: Learn Step by Step How to Go from Empty Studio to Finished Image
You might think digital photography is the pinnacle of photographic technology and film is a dinosaur like audio or videocassette tapes. Did you know, however, that standard photo film allows for a greater range of exposures than the most modern digital cameras? For example, a film camera’s in-camera metering system delivers a seven-f/stop range that digital cameras can’t duplicate. Surprised? The purpose of this comparison is to emphasize that regardless of the medium on which your images are recorded, there is no secret mechanism in any camera that will give you accurate exposure, white balance, and sharp focus. You must also be part of the equation.
This three-part PhotographyTalk.com article presents 13 techniques to improve portraits you shoot outdoors. All require your input, even sometimes bypassing what your camera wants to do. An excellent portrait is a combination of your skills and the camera’s capabilities. You need the camera to capture an image, but it needs your creativity and ultimate control to take pictures it couldn’t take on its own.
Use One Focus Point.
When you select the auto-focus mode on your camera, it will focus on that part of the subject that is closest to the lens, the nose, for example. Some cameras will select a grouping of focus points, calculate the average distance of each point from the subject and use that average as the focus setting. You must be sure the lens is focused on the most important part of your subject, which is why you want to select one focus point instead of letting your camera’s auto-focus mode to determine the focus within the limitations of how it was designed.
The Eyes Are Your Focal Point.
When you select one focus point in the auto-focus mode, you want to place it on your subject’s eyes. An excellent portrait photographer is known by how well the subject’s eyes are in focus. Of all the components of the human face (and probably your pets too), the eyes express the personality and inner being of each person. The elements of the face that is most alive are the eyes.
Use a “Portrait” Lens to Control Depth of Field.
A “portrait” lens is a fast lens, meaning it has very wide apertures, such as f/2.8 or f/4. These lenses are more expensive than lenses with the widest openings at f/5.6, for example, but the investment will pay for itself if you want to be a successful portrait photographer. At a wide aperture, your portraits will have a shallow depth of field, which helps to create stunning portraits in natural light.
Choose the Correct Focal Length.
Many fast lenses will have fixed-focal lengths of approximately 50mm or less. You want to avoid shooting portraits with these lenses because once the focal length is smaller than 70mm, the image will start to distort, mostly noticeable in the size of the subject’s head. The optimum lens is a telephoto zoom that allows you to shoot portraits at focal lengths between 120mm and 200mm. The compression of the telephoto focal length renders a more natural and pleasant reproduction of the subject’s head.
Shoot RAW images.
When shooting portraits, it is especially critical to capture all of the data the camera’s sensor records, and in its “raw” or unchanged condition, so you should always shoot in RAW. Remember, just a portion of the data is used to create a JPEG image; the rest is discarded. You want that RAW image when you’re ready to edit it into a finished portrait. Edit that stripped JPEG file and you just lose more data. With the RAW file, you have more editing latitude before you convert it to the final JPG. For example, correcting the white balance of a JPEG file could take fruitless hours and what you have when you’re done is not an image you would want to show your client. A RAW file makes that process much simpler: You fix the white balance before retouching it.
Read Part 2 of this PhotographyTalk.com article for steps 6, 7 and 8.