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I don’t know that there is a more intimate type of photography than portrait photography. When I’m taking photos of inanimate objects, or even when I’m taking photos of people from a distance, I can make it so that I blend into the background. The point of these other types of photography is that I make myself as small as possible.
This is why I think a lot of photographers struggle when they try to take portraits for the first time. There is really only so much information you can glean from reading beginner portrait photography tips when the issue is that you are completely changing your role as photographer.
Photography Pro realized the same thing. They released an easy portrait tips video early last year that addresses some of your main concerns abouts portrait photography for beginners.
I’m going to highlight some of the best ones here.
Shoot from a Lower Angle
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Shooting from a lower angle is, quite possibly, the best tip of all of these easy portrait tips. So often photographers will shoot portraits where they are looking down on the model (likely because of a height difference). This makes your model look small and it can make them look less powerful.
It’s one of the biggest reasons why filmmakers will shoot down on a film subject, in order to make them seem unthreatening to the audience.
So, feel free to get down low to shoot your portraits. You’ll also want to zoom your lens in to get nice and close and choose a low f-stop - say, f/2-f/4 - to get a nicely blurred background.
Frame Your Subject
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This is one of the easy portrait tips that frequently get left out of articles like this one, but only because it requires a prop.
But, you don’t have to bring your own frame in order to frame your subject. You can use a doorway, trees, or windows to frame your subject.
Like many of these easy portrait tips, this one builds off of the last one. If you are going to be framing your subject, make sure that you are still shooting from a lower angle. Not only will this allow you to capture the whole frame in your image, but it will make your model appear as a stronger presence in the shot.
Don’t Forget About Negative Space
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The best easy portrait tips are the ones you don’t have to think about: like including negative space in your images.
Okay, fine, I guess you do have to think about it. But what could be easier? Simply by including space where there are little or no details in your image, you are automatically attracting the viewer’s eye to your subject.
Of course, this works best when the model is somewhere beautiful. For instance, you could take a picture of your model in the middle of the desert, with nothing but sand in the background.
Photography Pro used a blank yellow wall in his example because his model was wearing a yellow shirt. This sort of color coordination works really well with negative space.
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You should be shooting during golden hour, because the rays of the sun are beautifully soft and the color temperature will warm up your shots.
But, if you can, you should continue shooting until the sun finally drops down under the horizon. This is because you can get wonderful shadows in the image, especially during the last few minutes of sunlight.
You can use shadows on the wall behind your subject, to sort of replicate their frame, but you can also use shadows on your subject themselves. It will add more depth to their face.
If you’re planning on implementing these easy portrait tips, you will want to use a long zoom lens. A long zoom helps compress the scene, plus you can be a little further back from the subject, that way they don’t feel like you’re shoving the camera in their face!
Focus on Your Model
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Having been in the business for as long as I have, I’ve worked with a huge array of people and many of them were incredibly intimidated by having their photo taken.
Regardless of which easy portrait tips you follow or how much technical expertise you have, your portraits are going to come out pretty awful if your model is uncomfortable.
So, there are a few ways you can focus on your model’s comfort during shoots. For starters, always explain exactly what you plan on achieving before the shoot even starts. This is a good time for you to explain that you do shoots like this so that they understand you are a professional, and if they follow your directions, their images will be beautiful.
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Throughout the shoot, make sure that you’re including your model in your review process. Show them what their pictures look like and show them which poses you like the best.
Even if you are trying to get a specific shot and you don’t think it’s working, don’t let them know that. Keep a smile on your face as you show them the shots so that they gain confidence. You can always circle back around to difficult shots.
I hope you’ve enjoyed these simple portrait tips!