What is a Portrait?
Its a photo that shows a person (or occasionally an animal) in a way that communicates something unique about the subject.
If the shot communicates only the fact that the subject has a head and two ears and can look expressionless or embarrassed then you have FAILED. Pursue a career in passport photography.
A photograph is supposed to communicate something arresting, interesting or attractive about the subject. The camera can’t do this for you. You have to do it.
Here are some Portrait Photo Tips if you want to make your subject look good:
1. LOOK at your subject.
What’s worth photographing about this person? Do they have a great smile? Thoughtful eyes? Great facial planes? A mischievous expression? What? What do you want to communicate?
Most people really do have a ‘good side’ or a more photogenic side. Check it out.
2. Use a tele lens.
Wide angle makes the person look… weird, like a forceps birth gone wrong. Tele is more flattering and it softens the background so the subject stands out clearly. Check your shutter speed because you may need to use a tripod or rest the camera on something.
3. Use available light. Flash lighting makes for a very clinical (boring) look. Put the person near a window or a light source.
Unless you are shooting the subject in a candid mode, or in his or her native habitat, get them dressed up a little. Dark colors are best because they contrast well with most skin tones. V necks work better than round necks. Lose the glasses.
5. Put the subject in a chair.
This helps the person relax and allows you to ‘direct’ the scene more easily. Also you are higher than the subject which is more flattering and makes the eyes open wider.
6. Direct your subject.
In Portrait Photography you’re directing small movements or changes of position. Get the person to turn a shoulder toward the camera. Drop the shoulder a fraction. Adjust the head angle. This is almost right…
But if you get the chin down a fraction… Now if you want a pleased or happy expression tell your subject ‘Think about something happy, or something you really like…’ Got it!