Today I'm sharing some of my favorite portraits from this 2015 fall season. I never set out to become a portrait photographer. It's just that over the past few years of making photographs for this blog people have asked me to take their portrait. And so I've tried many, many shoots and still learn something new with every experience. Here are some of the main tips for creating portraits that I can document today. As time goes on I expect to continue to improve my methods for portrait photography.
Engage and Connect: This is the most important aspect to making a good portrait. From the planning and coordination stage to connecting with the person during the actual shooting. Getting to know the person, their style, the vision they have, and trying to incorporate that into the results. Engaging the person through the whole process will ensure you have genuine expressions and a portrait that reflects the personality.
Movement and Natural Posing: The hardest part is guiding people and telling them how to move and look. Everyone wants help with this part. I use poses I find online and a posing app for my phone that help me if I get stuck and need ideas. The most natural portraits are not exactly posed, but more guided or moved into the shot.
Light in the Eyes: Perfect lighting is best for portraits. I prefer the bright parts of late morning or early afternoon, using open shade and the white side of my reflector to fill shadows. The first photo above, she's backlit and facing into the shade of overhead trees and I'm using the white reflector to brighten her face. In the photos below, the wall to her right is shading the sidewalk and I'm bouncing light onto her face with the reflector again.
Minimal Touching up: The key is to get it right in camera and minimal touching up in photoshop. If the lighting and exposure of the portrait is good, the photo will not need much correction. For portraits I shoot with an open aperture (like f 2.8 or even wider). Expose for the person's face, use the histogram and remember to check every few shots to see how the photos look in the viewfinder. I can usually tell right away if I need to make an adjustment. Don't forget to adjust settings as soon as the light changes or you face a different direction. The camera and your brain have to learn to be connected.
Shoot with purpose and multiple angles: Plan out the shoot as best you can, make at least a mental list of the shots and backgrounds you plan to use. Use movement and posing to guide the person into the shots and you also move around them, shooting from all angles and getting the person to look at you from different angles. Also, for portraits I keep myself tall, even stand on a little step stool sometimes, and tip the lens slightly forward for close up shots.
Create Memories: It's a great privilege to be asked to create a beautiful portrait of a person, that celebrates a moment in their life, a memory that lasts a lifetime.
Portraits above are of a friend's high school senior daughter. Those below are another friend her young daughter. Most of the portraits I create are of women; mothers, daughters, sisters, friends. All photos taken in the beautiful western Oregon fall season. Thank you for the love and light xo