If you want to capture some portrait images of friends, family or models and have thus far enjoyed limited success, here are some useful tips.

Once again, not intended to turn you into a professional overnight, but will provide you with straight forward setting and composition advice. Each camera will have slightly different setting requirements but generally the following will apply:

  • I strongly advise you not to actually touch your subject/model but simply guide them to look in a certain direction and adjust their own hair, make-up or clothing accordingly
  • Set your camera mode dial to Av on Canon (and A on most other makes) this will enable you to select an aperture with a small depth of focus – to blur the background – this will be either f4 or lower, or f5.6
  • If Av or A is not available on your camera you may find a ‘portrait’ setting denoted by a head symbol
  • If photographing just one person or perhaps two, I would suggest a ‘Portrait’ composition works best (with some exceptions). This will mean turn your camera at 90 degrees from the horizontal position for height and not width in your frame, providing some space above the head/hair but not too much
  • Aim to focus on the subject’s eye and this in turn will set your exposure from the facial area
  • Be mindful of the shutter speed to ensure its sufficiently high (perhaps 1/60 second or more) to capture a sharper image – not blurred by camera movement. This may require increasing the ISO to achieve the required setting, but if using your camera’s in-built flashgun this shutter speed it usually set automatically
  • Using window light can be very effective and provide a natural lighting on your subject, although not when they’re placed in direct bright sunlight
  • The lighting on your subject will be critical; too much and the features and/or clothing can be burnt out, too little light and the subject can be partially lost in the darkness – although this may be your desired effect!
  • The subject can either look at you (often an engaging image) or slightly away from you (for the more thoughtful and contemplative image)
  • Don’t forget to speak to the subject/model to build their own confidence and to guide them as needed
  • With practice and using different lighting positions and compositions you’ll capture some amazing images.

I will be running a few half-day workshops on portrait photography which will also include utilising off-camera flash use for creative effects.

I do offer feedback on photos so please try the ‘Photo Evaluation’ section to have your image(s) judged and receive constructive feedback 🙂