Mastering the technicalities of shooting portraits
There are some key skills and techniques which can very simply lift your portraiture. But you really only have a narrow window in which to succeed. Robert Keeley explains.
Good portraiture is really all about connecting with people. The best portraits capture expressions or moments in people’s lives which reveal something about them to the viewer. But these shots aren’t easy to capture.
Like almost every other genre, shooting portraiture has some real challenges if you want to do it well. To get better portraits you really have a narrow window of opportunity between when you can successfully relax your subject, and you start boring them with the technicalities! Once they lose interest you’ll be battling to get another good shot of them. One top photographer has even suggested you can shoot only two effective frames within that narrow time frame. So how do you reach that point of relaxation with your subject quicker, and then maximise your narrow window to shoot a revealing portrait? You need to understand the technical limitations you’re facing, and be fully aware of creating a friendly atmosphere for your subject - even when they might not be feeling that way! Here I want to discuss some of the basics of good portraiture to put you on the right track towards improving your ‘people’ pictures. First let’s look at the two basic styles of portrait photography.
Formal or Informal?
Essentially images of people can be divided into two categories – close-up portraits where the image has a more formal presentation, or ‘candids’, which may or may not be shot without the subject’s awareness. Within these two basic styles there are many variations on a theme, and of course lots of other different techniques once you become more comfortable with the basics...
ALSO IN THIS ISSUE: How to capture a lightning scene; How graduated ND filters can boost your outdoor images; Shooting Turkey; Shooting wildlife in zoos; Good Gear Guide; Locations - Shoalhaven Coast, NSW; Samsung NEX7
This story was first published in the Australian Photography April 2012 issue of Australian Photography > April 2012.