Capturing a friend’s smile, a lover’s eyes, or an elderly one’s wrinkles is what makes so many of us appreciate the art of portrait photography. To aim your camera purposefully at a subject and save that moment in time allows us to savour it, and cherish it for decades to come.
Portraiture, or the act of photographing portraits of a close-up object, commonly a face or a person, is massively popular and practised across the world. Some photographers dedicate their entire lives to photographing humans. It is all about getting up close and personal. We want to capture the emotions, facial features and frankness for all it’s worth.
Here are some ways to get started and get better at portrait photography:
1. Engage with your subject
The first step of ensuring you walk away with some amazing shots is to build rapport with your subject. Help them relax and overcome any shyness or uneasiness they might have. It is best to first break the eye with some small talk before whipping out your camera and trying to take a photo.
2. Take into account the backdrop
The location is going to influence how moving your subject looks in the scene. So take into account where you are shooting and how it contrasts or complements the shot. Avoid shooting in direct sunlight or harsh shadows. Look for early mornings or late afternoons to get softer, more photogenic, outdoor shots. When indoors, you have more control over lighting and can stick with a plain white or black background.
3. Learn how to use your camera
Make sure you understand what settings work best for the close-up shots and how the lighting/conditions play out. It is often recommended to use a telephoto or wide-angle lens when shooting outdoors or in a setting where the background is important to the frame.
4. Try out different angles or objects
Contrary to what we’ve said above, you can also focus on other aspects of the subject. For example, a dancer’s shoes, or a writer’s hands. You can take the shot from a high up angle or from the ground up. Zoom in or zoom out to capture less or more of the background.
A portrait photograph can be both artistic or clinical, and usually focuses on a single part of the body. Take the time out to learn about your gear, and befriend your subject. Look at the lighting, backdrop and scene in front of you and experiment with different angles/filters. Happy portraiture.