Basics of Portraiture

This is a discussion on Basics of Portraiture within the People Photography forums, part of the PHOTO GALLERIES category; I think that it would be useful to go over some of the very basics of good portraits. Basic objective is: FLATTER THE SUBJECT and ...


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Thread: Basics of Portraiture

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    Basics of Portraiture

    I think that it would be useful to go over some of the very basics of good portraits.

    Basic objective is: FLATTER THE SUBJECT and emphasize the eyes.

    1. There are very few perfect faces, so the first challenge is to identify the visual problems and decide on a photographic/editing approach to solving them. These would include for example: blemishes, a scar, mole, long nose, double chin, wrinkles etc. A good photographer can de-emphasize them without creating the plastic look.

    2. Discuss dress with the subject. Most pros have a NO jewellry rule because it distracts the eye of the viewer. Sleeveless is out too for women, because upper arms are usually not flattering particularly without muscle tone. Some models fit more formal wear whereas others fit the casual look. You are the one to consider which would look best.

    3. Background should fit clothing. A cottage, farm, forest, lake or village street is great for the casual look and jeans etc. A more dressy look would go
    with a hotel entrance, expensive car, antiques, library, crystal, wine glasses etc.

    4. A background that is too busy with verticals or horizontals cutting through the person or distracting colours is totally inappropriate. Decide what fits in the background and what is distracting and does NOT belong.

    5. Learn to pose your model and do research if necessary. There are some poses that are considered masculine and some that are considered feminine. Putting a less masculine-looking model in a feminine pose might create the wrong visual impression.

    6. Don't amputate your model by cutting off important parts in your photo: Keep the brain, elbows, wrists, hands, fingers, knees, ankles, feet, toes etc.
    Crop in between important parts if necessary.

    7. Make sure that the face is well-lit without shadows around the eyes: no raccoon eyes.

    8. Men photographers are terrible at this, but make sure that female model hair is combed and in place.

    9. With children particularly shoot at eye level with the camera. Avoid distortion.

    10. Avoid using flash, unless you are beyond creating the flat, cold, over-exposed, slightly washed-out look.

    11. Most important is that ALL portraits require postprocessing and editing.

    Cameron


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    Nothing is as didactic as demonstration. Perhaps you might like to share a few examples of your work in this genre.
    Dazzaone likes this.
    Photography is a portal through which we are transported to other worlds

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    Thanks for the information you have shared with us about portraits. These small tips can really create a big difference in our carrier if followed.

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    All the points about Portraiture are discussed very clearly and these are the basic things which should have been followed by any one who want to shoot that.
    From your dress to Background all things must be very clear in its vision. They must be according to the situation and most importantly according to the conditions.They must suits the occasion.

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    Good points, but it all depends on the day, having all the points you suggest fit into place is near impossible, having a couple is great and the no flash rule.... there is no harm in having a little fill in flash to help

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dazzaone View Post
    Good points, but it all depends on the day, having all the points you suggest fit into place is near impossible, having a couple is great and the no flash rule.... there is no harm in having a little fill in flash to help
    It doesn't really depend on the day but it does depend on the degree of planning that goes into the portraits. With successful pros, these points are an absolute necessity. If you are an amateur just taking a candid shot, then it is a different story but you would still want the shot to be as good as possible.

    As far as flash use is concerned, I said to avoid it, unless you really know how to use it well. Realistically, I see a lot of flash use in portraits that drastically cools the colour temperature and washes out the skin in various areas of the face. If you can use flash while minimizing its negative effects then of course, use it.

    Cameron

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    Of course it does matter on the day, you have to shoot within the environment, yes I agree the shot wants to be as good as possible, but for your example suggestions of farm, field etc. how can you not rule out the fact of weather conditions, plus the subject could be feeling rough (believe me I have had this) and no matter of how many posing suggestions the image just doesn't work. The shoot on eye level with kids I don't abide to as kids run around and may stop and give you that certain look you just can't capture when sitting them down and saying smile please, some of my best work has come this way and if you think I can only do candid work then fine, it works for me and all my clients!
    Darren.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dazzaone View Post
    Of course it does matter on the day, you have to shoot within the environment, yes I agree the shot wants to be as good as possible, but for your example suggestions of farm, field etc. how can you not rule out the fact of weather conditions, plus the subject could be feeling rough (believe me I have had this) and no matter of how many posing suggestions the image just doesn't work. The shoot on eye level with kids I don't abide to as kids run around and may stop and give you that certain look you just can't capture when sitting them down and saying smile please, some of my best work has come this way and if you think I can only do candid work then fine, it works for me and all my clients!
    Darren.
    Choose the clothes, then choose the environment. If rain is forecast, then get the rain gear on the subject and get creative outside or move inside. If it is kids, then crawl around with them on the floor while they are building things or playing with toys. A 2.8 200mm prime will blur out a background pretty well and a 28mm wide angle prime will allow a photographer to move fairly close without distortion as long as you are careful with angles. A gold reflector will both reflect light and warm up a shot on a cloudy day, assuming the activity is in one area. If not there is always a software gold reflector that works well in post. As to posing, I mean with teens or older although there are always a few of the younger set who have the natural look.

    As to candid work, it depends on your definition. For some, candid work means nothing more than getting the subject in the frame and that can result in pretty poor quality or poor composition. For others it means picking the ideal location, pre-planning your lens use and other accessories, and pre-setting your cameras. It may also mean looking for certain shot possibilities.

    Of course, if you subject is having a very bad day or you are, then you need to decide whether it is worthwhile to continue or re-schedule.

    Cameron

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    Cameron... I need to see your work!
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dazzaone View Post
    Cameron... I need to see your work!
    Well, only my casual stuff goes on the Internet. Rights are an issue when you work for organizations and/or on salary. To complicate things further, in Canada, the owner of the equipment, owns the copyright to the photos taken with it but when several levels of budget are involved for purchasing, it becomes a legal question of WHO owns the equipment and therefore WHO owns the copyright.

    Cameron


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