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This chapter is from the book

Tips for Shooting Better Portraits

Before we get to the assignments for this chapter, I thought it might be a good idea to give you a few extra pointers on shooting portraits—tips that aren’t necessarily related to your camera features. There are entire books that cover things like portrait lighting, posing, and so on. But here are a few ideas for making your people pics look a lot better.

Avoid the center of the frame

This falls under the category of composition. Place your subject to the side of the frame (Figure 6.14)—it just looks more interesting than plunking the person smack dab in the middle (Figure 6.15).

Figure 6.14

Figure 6.14 Try cropping in a bit, and place the subject’s face off center to improve the shot.

ISO 400 • 1/500 sec. • f/2.8 • 170mm len

Figure 6.15

Figure 6.15 Having the subject in the middle of the frame with so much empty space on the sides can make for a lessthan- interesting portrait.

ISO 400 • 1/500 sec. • f/2.8 • 170mm lens

Don’t cut them off at the joint

There is an old rule about photographing people: Never crop the picture at a joint. This means no cropping at the ankles, knees, elbows, or wrists (Figure 6.16). If you need to crop at the legs, the proper place to crop is mid-shin or mid-thigh. For the arms, try to keep them in the frame, or crop just above or below the elbow.

Figure 6.16

Figure 6.16 (left) A good crop for people is mid-thigh or mid-shin.

ISO 100 • 1/1000 sec. • f/2.8 • 145mm lens

Use the frame

Have you ever noticed that most people are taller than they are wide? Turn your camera vertically for a more pleasing composition (Figure 6.17).

Figure 6.17

Figure 6.17 (right) Get in the habit of turning your camera to a vertical position when shooting portraits. This is also referred to as portrait orientation.

ISO 100 • 1/2000 sec. • f/2.0 • 50mm lens

Sunblock for portraits

The midday sun can be harsh and can do unflattering things to people’s faces (Figure 6.18). If you can, find a shady spot out of the direct sunlight. You will get softer shadows, smoother skin tones, and better detail (Figure 6.19). This holds true for overcast skies as well. Just be sure to adjust your white balance accordingly.

Figure 6.18

Figure 6.18 The dappled sunlight can result in overexposure in the highlights.

ISO 200 • 1/2000 sec. • f/2.8 • 200mm lens

Figure 6.19

Figure 6.19 By waiting for a cloud to pass in front of the sun and changing my position, I was able to get a much more even and pleasing result.

ISO 200 • 1/640 sec. • f/2.8 • 200mm lens

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