Basic Fundamentals of Portrait Photography

With the accessibility of cameras nowadays, almost everyone can take pictures of other people. The term “selfie” has also been developed for the sole purpose of taking pictures of one’s self. However, for those who would truly desire to explore the more artistic side of portrait photography, it is not as simple as taking the camera, pointing at someone, and clicking the button.

First and foremost, one must consider not just the subject but the background as well. Location plays an important role in determining much of the portrait’s mood. Surrounding the subject with vivid flowers in a lush garden would be perfect for a light-hearted shoot but would definitely not suit a gothic theme. That would be better off in a cemetery or dark alley. The message that the photographer is trying to convey will be seen with how the photoshoot is set up. This covers the shoot’s subject, setting, and the lighting. All these aspects can dictate the mood of the photo and one would not like to give off the wrong idea.

The kind of portrait photography should also be considered prior to the setup of the photoshoot. Lifestyle shots are best done where the subject is most comfortable doing what he or she does best, such as a chef in his kitchen. Glamour shots require proper fashion makeup and the right accessories. Lifestyle shots are best when portraits are planned for families enjoying themselves in a garden, or a couple strolling through a Sunday market.

Lighting is crucial to getting the right shots that the photographer wants to achieve. This does not only set the mood, but also heavily influences how the camera’s shutter speed, ISO, and aperture will be adjusted. Portrait photography usually requires a higher ISO to create proper exposure of the subject, so as not to darken the shadows or lighten the highlighted areas too much. Aperture is also important if one would prefer that ethereal effect in the background while focusing on the sharp features of the subject. This allows viewers to focus deeply on the emotion and everything else that the subject is trying to portray.

Once all the details regarding the shoot itself is set up, the next thing is to consider how the camera will be adjusted in order to capture the photographer’s ideal shot. Specialized lenses have been invented to help add certain effects to a photo, such as fisheye, bokeh, macro, and so on. Aside from lenses, there are also different filters that may be attached to the front of the lens. Some examples are the polarized filter, used to lessen the sun’s glare when capturing water or anything else that can reflect light, and shaded filters to highlight the shot’s particular color.

When the camera’s “eye” has been decided on, the last thing to think about is the classic “portrait versus landscape” issue. Portrait photography does not have to be solely limited to portrait frameworks. Subjects lying down are normally taken using the landscape frame. In order to capture the scene behind the subject, this landscape mode is also used while the photographer is at a distance. Portrait shots are usually used to frame a person’s face at a close-up to better highlight the subject’s features.

Despite all the usual rules of portrait photography, it is best to consider them as “guidelines” since there are no definite criteria on what makes a portrait photo so wonderful. It all comes down to the photographer’s preference and inspiration behind the shot that he or she wants to capture. As long as the mood is properly set up, then the photographer is almost guaranteed to achieve what is desired.


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