The third issue, as you may have already figured out, is that people don't
like getting a lens shoved in their face. Everybody likes their "space,"
and if you get too close, like the "Close Talker" in Seinfeld, people
get very uncomfortable! They are much more relaxed when you're a few feet
She's standing in front of a bridge and the background is
underneath it. Using a long lens narrows the angle of view so
we just see the banking underneath and some bushes way in back.
Notice how since Carolyn is in focus and the background is not,
she stands out from it.
4) Avoid Direct Sunlight
Now stick with me on this one. I love shooting on sunny days. I get an energy
and warmth from the light that I love. But I don't use it shining directly
on my subjects' faces. I use it behind them. I use it bouncing off buildings,
sidewalks, trucks, and more. I use the open shade I get standing next to buildings
and trees. But I don't use it shining on their face. Why? It's just
way too "hard." It's a sharp, unflattering light that will
create deep shadows. It will make people squint. It's just plain bad,
These images were all taken the same day, between 11:30am and
1:00pm. Who says you can't shoot when it's sunny?
I love it! The trick is to harness that light in a manner you
can use. Carolyn is in a little corner where the warm open sky
is to the left and the sun is high and a little to the right.
5) Use Large F/stops
As you can see, it's all about keeping the attention on the subject. Here's
a little experiment for you: Take a model, your camera, and a tripod to a location
you like. Take a photo of him or her at f/16 and another at f/4. Take a look
at the two prints or digital images. In the f/4 photo, the subject will stand
out from the background. In the f/16 image, they will be a part of it. The image
size you make will matter, as will the distance between subject and background.
Try a 3/4 length pose and you'll see what I mean. Ask your subject which
one he or she likes better. I'm betting it's the f/4 shot.
This image was probably taken at f/4, so even though she's
very close to the background because of the large f/stop and big
image size it falls out of focus quickly.
All images taken with a Fujifilm FinePix S2 Pro camera, ISO 200, highest quality
JPEG, Tamron 28-105mm f/2.8 zoom except the wide angle, which is a Sigma 17-35mm
wide angle zoom. Model: Carolyn Barker.
Both in the studio and outdoors we usually try to create or find soft, flattering
light. You aren't going to find it at high noon in the middle of the mall
parking lot. This article is not about the many subtle nuances that make daylight
a joy, but if you can just keep faces out of the sun, your portraits will improve
tenfold. Remember, our objective is to flatter.
Well, that about wraps this up. If you're new to portrait photography
or just want to generally improve your people pictures, following these five
points will greatly improve your work. Remember, rules are made to be broken,
and you can take great wide angle portraits in a cluttered warehouse at f/16,
but follow these guidelines for great portraits that your subjects will love!
By the way, don't forget to sign up for my free e-mail newsletter at: