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Portrait Photography Tips

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If you’re looking to start up in portrait photography or are simply looking to improve your photos in this area, check out this great collection of portrait photography tips. We’d love to see some of your own photographs so send them into us.

1) Know you subject

When it comes to portrait photography you are doing just that; taking a portrait. This isn’t a passport photo or a family snap. You want to capture the very essence of that person. Find out about them; their hobbies, what makes them happy etc. Work that into your photo some how. Maybe photograph them in their own environment, rather than just against a background.

2) Kneel for the Kids

When it comes to photographing children and babies, NEVER take a photo from your own level. Get down on the ground and take it from their level.

3) 2D into 3D

Some of the best portrait photographs use simple tricks to help turn a flat 2D image into something that truly stands out from the background. Get your subject to tilt their head towards the light to accentuate their jaw. Also get them to elongate their neck so that light catches them and gives the impression of 3D.

4) High and 45

Rembrandt’s ‘high and 45’ technique is something all photographers should learn. If you want something fast or are unsure where to start then this lighting technique is a good one to go with. Put your lights at a 45 degree angle on both the vertical and horizontal planes. This technique works for a lot of different people.

5) Mind Your Background

The human eye is automatically drawn to bright or conflicting colours, so make sure your background is not distracting. When shooting outdoors or against a setting, be careful that your subject is not ‘merging’ with the background. There is nothing more distracting than seeing someone with a lamp sticking out of their head.

6) The Eyes Are The Windows

The most important part of your subject is their eyes. The eyes tell us everything there is about the way a person is feeling. Getting the light to highlight the eye just enough is a sure fire way to eliminate that dead look that can ruin a fantastic photo.

7) Get a Helper

Having someone to help you can be a beneficial thing (although not a necessity). Having that extra pair of hands to hold reflectors or even adjust the subjects hair or clothing can save a lot of time and energy.

8) Model Release Forms

Its advisable, especially if your images are to be used commercially, to get your subject to sign a model release form. Remember if you are using a venue or private location for your photographs it is necessary to get both a release form signed and to check to see if any permits are required.

9) Watch Other Photographers

The best way to learn (besides from practice) is to go and watch other photographers. Try using Twitter to find other portrait photographers in your area and do a joint shoot. Watch what they do and use the experience to perfect your own technique. Its also incredibly beneficial to ask others to critique your work. Join forums and share your photographs. Be prepared for honest feedback, but use it as a learning curve.

10) Choose The Right Light

Softboxes, beauty dishes, shoot through umbrellas and reflective umbrellas each produce different lighting effects. It is common practice for a photographer to buy one set of lights and use them for everything, but this won’t often lead to the best effect. Choose the best light for the situation.

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