4 Secrets for the Perfect Portrait Photo

Most of us find that getting great shots of people can sometimes be tricky. The most important aspects to portrait photography are lighting, framing your subject, camera techniques and learning to break the rules.

1. Experiment with lighting

Start off by getting your lighting right. Experiment to find what lighting suits your subject the most, whether it’s creating a mood with silhouettes or lighting from different angles for a more dramatic effect. Sometimes the most obvious can be favourable... natural light.

2. Framing your subject

Think about your subject. Where do you want them to look? If they look straight down the lens this gives a sense of connection between them and the audience. Looking off camera can be intriguing as it draws the viewer’s attention to outside the frame. While looking within the frame can create another point of view. 

3. Camera techniques

For shooting portraits, it’s important to set a wide aperture (f/2.8-f/5.6) for a shallow depth of field. This blurs your background making your subject stand out.

To help set the shutter speed, you can shoot in Aperture Priority mode to control depth of field; in this mode your DSLR will helpfully set the shutter speed for a correct exposure.

When setting shutter speed, the general rule is to think about your lens’s focal length. Aim to make your shutter speed higher than your focal length (to avoid camera shake).

For example, at 200mm use a 1/250 second shutter speed or faster. Likewise, you can also use slower shutter speeds with a wide angle lens, for example, at 18mm try 1/20 second… bear in mind this shouldn’t be used for something that is moving!

4. Don’t be afraid to break the rules

Candid shots are my favourite kind of portraits as they have a sense of authenticity rather than staged portraits. Often it’s those in-between moments that stand out the most.

Also remember, you don’t need to have the most fantastic location; you only need to improvise and think outside of the box.

So remember, consider your lighting, subject, composition and what you want to portray. If you put the work in with those, you will have less work in post-production.

Have you tried any of these tips out? Let me know how you got on.

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Written by: Anthony Griffin

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