When writing the profile article, much is added to it if you can include a photo or two of the subject. So, this issue’s column addresses how to shoot portraits. What is a portrait photo? Well, there are three kinds of portrait photos – posed, environmental and candid.
In the posed portrait, you, the photographer, control the pose, background and direction of light. When shooting these portraits, you will most likely use either a full face, three-quarter face or profile view.
A full face pose is usually not the best pose to use unless the subject has a perfect face, which few do. This pose can work well if you happen to be shooting young women having smooth milky complexions.
The three-quarter face pose will be one you will use the most. In this pose, the subject’s face is 45 degrees to the camera and both eyes are visible. This pose minimizes blemishes on the far side of the face.
The other pose you will use is the profile. With this pose, the subject’s face is 90 degrees to the camera and turned away from the camera until only one eye is visible. This is a very good pose if one side of the face is less desirable than the other. If the side of the face toward the camera is less than perfect, reduce the imperfection by using a diffuser filter. This filter gives a photo a slightly out-of-focus look.
The profile pose is also good to use if the subject has “chiseled” features. Natural sidelighting from a window will bring out the texture of the subject’s face and accent those features. Lighting can be either natural light filtering in through a window or off-camera electronic flash. To tone down natural light filter it through a sheer curtain if one is available.
Another type of posed portrait is the environmental portrait. With this portrait, you are still controlling the pose, background and direction of lighting, however, you include more of the subject’s surroundings in the photo. The surroundings may be in the subject’s workplace or at home while the subject is engaged in their hobby. This type of portrait eliminates the problem of what to do with the hands. The content of the article will decide which type of portrait to shoot.
Backgrounds can add to or distract from a photo. In shooting portraits, the background should be very subtle and unobtrusive. Some simple backgrounds to use are plain wallpaper, a plain painted wall, or in a pinch, a blanket. Position your subject about four feet in front of the background and use about a f8 or f5.6 aperture. Focus on the eyes of the subject. These apertures will throw the background slightly out-of-focus so it won’t overpower the photo. For light colored skin, use a darker background. Conversely, for a dark colored skin, use a lighter background. Maroon is a great all-around background color. Use brightly colored clothes or props with subtle backgrounds.
When deciding the placement of the subject’s face in the photo, place it about in the center of the photo. Not exactly in the center, but close. Shoot both close in and farther out. Get headshots, three-quarter face, profiles and full figure shots.
When metering for the shot, use a gray card or meter off the subject’s face. If you do meter off the face, come in close, push your camera’s shutter button halfway down, note the reading in your camera’s TTL (Through-The-Lens) meter, drop back, adjust your camera to the readings you have just taken, recompose and shoot. For light skinned subjects open up one stop. For dark skinned subjects, close down one stop. Be sure and shoot both vertical and horizontal shots. Use a tripod and a cable release. This will allow you to concentrate on the composition and not have to worry about camera movement.
Always get a signed model, location or property release if anything is unique and recognizable in the photo. It will make your photos more marketable.
The last type of portrait is the candid. You can take some of the best people-photos when they don’t know you are photographing them. Shoot candids by photographing people doing something and not paying any attention to you. With natural lighting, you can shoot many photos without being discovered. If you are using a flash, you are limited to probably just one. Once the flash fires, the subjects know you are photographing them and they are more weary and not as spontaneous.
The next time you write a profile article, experiment with some of these portrait tips while interviewing the subject of your article. You’ll be surprised how much a portrait photo adds to a profile article.