- 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
Despite digital photography’s automatic functionality and the explosion of sizes, shapes and capabilities of cameras and lenses, your imagination is still a primary ingredient of composing excellent photos. Portraiture is one type of photography that is typically represented by staid, formal images of subjects’ head and shoulders, in their “Sunday best,” sitting erect and staring at the camera…and often with a forced smile. This traditional portrait composition certainly identifies the subject, but generally missing are emotion, dynamism and some pictorial message about the subject’s personality and character. With the 8 ideas in this two-part PhotographyTalk.com article, you can add drama, power and dimensionality to even your most casual portraits of your family and friends.
Purposely Overexpose and Underexpose.
In the traditional studio setting, the photographer meticulously determines the “perfect” exposure, taking several test images before and during the portrait sitting. Consciously overexposing and underexposing your portrait photos will create an entirely different atmosphere within the scene. A slight bit of overexposure when photographing your grandmother will give her and the surroundings a gentle glow, appropriate for her loving and caring personality. Conversely, if you’re shooting a teenage nephew that dresses Goth, robed entirely in black clothes, then an underexposed image will add to the dark vibe he would like to portray to the world. His black clothing blends into an equally black background and his eyes are emphasized as if he is looking from a dark place.
Break the Bonds.
The standard portrait image regulates the subject to a specific, narrowly defined space from which he or she must not move, even slightly. Your portrait photography will immediately become more imaginative if you break those chains and free your subject to pose in an infinite variety of ways and places and free you to use your camera with greater artistry. One of the methods to work without limits is to pose people outside their comfort zone. Photograph your grandmother at the skateboard park where your brooding nephew can be found (her grandson), and then shoot your nephew sitting with grandma and her friends during their next afternoon tea.
Scramble the Lights.
In the studio environment, the lights are all strategically positioned to illuminate the subject fully and reduce or eliminate any deep, dark shadows. Forget about where the lights “should” be and move them around the room or whatever outdoors environment you’re using as a background. Try backlighting your subject or placing the light source where you’re able to create a silhouette effect. Instead of eliminating shadows, use them to your advantage. Light your subject’s face, so either half is totally in shadow, with no details revealed. Sometimes, half a face and one eye sends an entirely different message than the whole face fully lit.
Within a Shadowy World.
You can also use lighting and compositional techniques to manipulate shadows artistically within the environment of the portrait shoot. For instance, look for buildings that are close together, casting interesting shadows into the narrow space between them. Pose your subject in relation to these shadows, so they become balancing elements within the image. The same can be done with natural elements: trees, large boulders, a mountain peak, etc. Even in the studio, you can “scramble” the lights to throw shadows in the foreground and background, or even across your subject.
Read Part 2 of this PhotographyTalk.com article for 4 more tips to add a more artistic quality to your portrait photos.