Portrait Tips

With every portrait, the main focus is the subject. To keep the main focus on the subject, you’ll need to get in close. Having too much distraction in the background takes away from your subject, be it a person or animal or a flower.

For example, not too long ago I went to a Civil War reenactment. There were soldiers in costume and regular everyday people walking around together. How do I get a good shot without all the distractions? I saw some soldiers coming off the battlefield and decided to get in close. It was the only way to get the effect I was looking for.

A soldier sat down in front of a tent which was under a tree. Perfect. I came up beside him and took the picture. I didn’t want him to see me because I wanted the shot to look as natural as possible. I find that sometimes if a person knows you’re there and ready to take their picture, they get an unnatural look.

In this shot I used my Nikon D2Xs, with an 18mm-200mm lens, and an 800 DX speedlight with a diffuser.

For more of an authentic look to the image, I turned it into black and white in Photoshop.

A very important tip for when taking a portrait shot is to make sure the subject’s eyes are sharp. When you talk to someone or meet someone, the first thing you do is look at the eyes. The same thing is true with a portrait of a person or animal.

Here is an animal example. This was my dog “Precious”. She was an excellent subject. Always looking cute. All I had to do was say “cheese” and her ears would pop up and she’d stare right at me. A lot of images that I have of her are snapshots, not portraits. The snapshots are images with lots of distractions around her. In my daughter’s room, on my daughter’s unmade bed with my daughter still in the bed too.

This time I decided I wanted a portrait of her, and not just a snapshot. I put her in a swing in the backyard and made sure that there weren’t any distractions around her. I put my camera on a tripod and used a fill flash. With the promise of cheese, she was very corporative.

There is definitely a difference between the two images.

The main thing to remember when taking a portrait shot is.

  1. Move in close.
  2. Be aware of distractions in the background.
  3. Try to keep the eyes sharp.
  4. Be aware of lighting conditions. Keep the sun off to the left or right of the subject.
  5. ALWAYS enjoy taking photographs!

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