Trade Tricks: Make A Great Portrait
Take Better Pictures Of People With These Simple Techniques
Portraiture can be one of the most difficult, yet also one of the most rewarding challenges as a photographer. Unlike photographing an inanimate object, when you're shooting a portrait, you first have to put the subject at ease. Whether it's a person or an animal, you'll get the most rewarding photo if you've built a level of trust with the subject. When working with a child or small animal, for instance, get on their level so you don't appear intimidating with a big lens. Move calmly, and always speak with a reassuring tone in your voice.
If the person you'd like to photograph is a complete stranger, let him or her know the purpose of the photo and what you intend to do with it. This will help build the person's trust, and you're more likely to get genuine expressions and a more interesting portrait. Then after you've taken a couple of shots, show them the images on the LCD. This will often gain their respect and inspire them to work with you further to help create even better images.
Choose Your Backgrounds Wisely
Some backgrounds can be very distracting, and when that happens, you draw attention away from the subject, defeating the purpose of the portrait. To ensure that the background isn't competing with your subject, use large apertures for shallow depth of field to create a blurry color palette in the background. Thus, your background will actually help highlight the subject.
Use The Right Lighting And Flash
Natural light is the most beautiful setting to capture a great portrait. If that's not possible, a reflector is an indispensable tool that's light and inexpensive—every photographer should have one. A reflector will fill in areas of the face that might otherwise become a distraction in the shot. Reflectors are available in a variety of colors, two of my favorites being silver, which gives cool colors, and gold, which gives a warmer palette.
If you're using an on-camera flash, don't use it directly in the subject's face. Instead, bounce it off a nearby surface. You can even try something as simple as putting a tissue over the flash to help soften it. Ideally, your camera will have a bounce flash, like that found on the Panasonic LUMIX DMC-L1, which is a wonderful feature, letting you position the flash to bounce light off the ceiling rather than directly at your subject.
Know Your Gear
It's important to be comfortable with your equipment. If you have limited time with the subject or you want to take spontaneous shots, you don't want to waste time fidgeting with the shutter speed or setting the aperture, as that takes your attention away from your subject. Set your camera on portrait mode or try using aperture priority so you can pick the depth of field while letting the camera pick the ideal shutter speed for a correct exposure.
Jennifer Kilberg is an Atlanta-based professional photographer and an instructor at the new Panasonic LUMIX Digital Photo Academy, a nationwide series of classes designed to help people maximize their digital cameras' features (all camera makes are welcome) and create more rewarding photo experiences. With offerings for beginning, intermediate and advanced photographers, classes are geared to specific levels so students don't feel overwhelmed, bored or lost. Kilberg's tips are just a preview of the expertise available at the Digital Photo Academy.
Kilberg took this portrait of a boy and his snake in Papua New Guinea at the Goroka Highland tribal festival. Despite the language barrier, she put him at ease by kneeling to his level and using friendly body language.
To sign up for a class near you, visit www.DigitalPhotoAcademy.com or call (877) DP-ACAD-4. To see more of Jennifer Kilberg's work, visit www.fluidvisioninc.com.