New Skills: How to Shoot a Great Portrait
You’ve got 5 minutes to photograph a lovely father you just interviewed. You’re a bit nervous about getting a nice shot because, well, time is short and you want a picture that conveys something of the man’s personality but also looks pleasing. Try these tips for shooting a great portrait:
1) If you’re indoors, turn of all the lights and position your subject near window light or in the path of light spilling in from an open door. There will likely be a high, pleasing contrast between the bright and the dark parts of the photo, called Chiaroscuro lighting.
2) If you’re outdoors, move to an open, shaded spot and position your subject toward the light. If it’s sunny out, make sure there’s no sunlight peeking into any parts of your photograph.
3) Try filling the frame with your subject’s face. Ask the person to smile and look directly at the camera, and then to look off slightly to the side and not smile.
4) In all cases, beware of your background. Light poles, tree branches and other pointy objects sticking out of a person’s head can unintentionally make the portrait look funny or alarming.
5) Make sure there’s something I call the “spark of life” in the person’s eyes. This is the little white dot of light catching in the subject’s eyes. You may have to turn your subject this way and that way to catch the light. If you’re finding it difficult, you can use a reflector — or even a large, white sheet of paper — to bounce light toward the person’s eyes.
Photos © Laura Elizabeth Pohl