Digital Portrait Photography - Tips And Video To Capture Your
Subject’s Character And Reveal Something About Their Personality
Why is digital portrait photography so popular? Well,
because people are without doubt the most accessible subjects on
earth and as a direct result also tend to be the most popular too.
What’s the first thing you do when you buy a new camera? Yep! You’ve guessed it...take pictures of your family, friends or even
The Basics Of Digital
A common problem with people pictures is ‘amputation’. How many times
have you seen photos with a person’s head cut off. If you are using a
compact camera, use the LCD to compose your shot.
What you see on the screen is what you get! If it doesn’t look right,
delete it and take another picture. I prefer using a DSLR for taking
I enjoy the extra control you get in different situations, such as:
outdoors, indoors, close-up, etc. You also have more control over the
focus, shutter and exposure.
An important point to remember when shooting people is to focus on the
eyes. A focal length of around 100mm is ideal for digital portrait
photography and gives a good quality image with minimal distortion.
Always use a wide aperture to create a shallow depth of field. This
keeps the attention on your subject and not the background. An aperture
size of between f/2.8 and f/5.6 usually works best.
Alternatively, if the background is blank and non-distracting, then use
an aperture of f/8. This is known as the 'sweet spot' in most lenses.
Look for character in your subject and emphasise their features.
Examples are craggy, lined faces or flamboyant clothing. Also, if your
camera has ‘Face Priority AF’, use it. It will help you to focus on a
One of the most important basics of digital portrait photography is to
always fill the frame. Don’t waste a single pixel. Get as much of your
subject in the frame as possible.
Photography - The Use Of Proper Lighting
If shooting outside in daylight, getting enough light is usually not a
problem, but if you are shooting indoors, the quality of lighting will
play a big part in the success of your shots.
If you are lucky enough to have a properly lit studio, then you won’t
have a problem with lighting, but most of us have to improvise.
A simple way to get a great lighting effect is to use natural light
streaming through a window. It should be diffused to provide nice soft
shadows. If it’s too bright and causes harsh shadows, use a white piece
of paper or card to reflect softened light onto the dark side of your
If you are using a flash and the exposure is harsh, lower the flash
power (using flash compensation) or switch the flash off and use the
light that is available. You need to remember to adjust the camera’s
white balance accordingly to stop unsightly colour casts caused by
indoor artificial lighting.
In the video below, Mark Wallace from Snapfactory explains the
difference between telephoto and wide angle lenses for digital portrait
Formal Digital Portrait
A formal portrait is any portrait were the shot has been posed, as
opposed to a candid shot, which the subject is usually being natural
and sometimes unaware.
However, formal portraits don’t have to look posed...you can still get
your subject to pretend to look and behave naturally, but still have a
controlled environment with adequate lighting.
For any type of pose in digital portrait photography to be successful,
you need to try to relax your subject and get them to be themselves.
Build a rapport with them before the shoot so they can feel at ease
The classic formal pose is of the head and shoulders. The subject is
cropped across the shoulders just below the collar line and this
provides an effective method which looks clean-cut.
Avoid shooting your subject head-on as this tends to produce very flat,
static-looking portraits. It also exaggerates the width of the
shoulders. A good tip is to get your subject to sit on a chair at a 45
degree angle to the camera. They then turn their head to face you and
your pose is complete. Happy snapping!
You don’t have to stick to this method though and can try a full body
portrait which is equally as impressive. This allows you to show off
your subjects clothing, especially effective if it’s flamboyant.
If you're interested in taking professional headshots for actors,
performers or other entertainers, then these tips about how
they choose "headshot photographers" will give you an idea of
what is required.
Photography - What Makes A Good Candid?
Informal shots of people are probably the most common type of picture
you’ll take. They are not posed and you will probably be shooting them
on the 'hoof' with no tripod or proper lighting equipment.
A classic environment where you can capture good candid pictures is at
a wedding or birthday party. Your subjects are usually unaware that
they are being photographed and are quite relaxed.
To take a successful people picture, you must think about what, who and
how to shoot. Use a focal length suitable for the effect that you want.
A telephoto lens is good for close-ups from a distance and also
blurring out distracting backgrounds, whereas a wide angle lens will
let you get a good group shot with an interesting background.
In the video below, Erin Manning shares her top 10 tips for taking
digital portrait photography.
Most people feel far more relaxed in the great outdoors than in a
formal studio environment. Outdoor
portrait photography is easy to shoot as well as
there isn’t any background or lighting equipment to setup.
The main thing you need to think about outdoors is the quality of
light, as this plays an important role in determining the success or
failure of your portraits.
Early morning or late afternoon are ideal times to shoot, because the
warm sunlight enhances your subject's skin tones and gives them a
healthy glow as well.
Keep the sun slightly to one side of the camera rather than shooting
with it behind you. Not only does this prevent your subject squinting
into the light, but shadows cast across their face will reveal texture
and add depth to the shot.
With the sun low in the sky you can also create beautiful backlit
portraits. Make sure that your subject has the sun behind them and use
fill-in flash to light their face. This gives your photograph a lovely
With outdoor digital portrait photography, care should be given to the
background of your shot. You don’t want to end up with a lamp-post of
tree sprouting from the top of your subject's head. Neutral backgrounds
work well, especially if you select a wide lens aperture to throw them
out of focus so they don't compete for attention with your subject.
Useful Books From Amazon
About Portrait Photography