Before we get to the assignments for this chapter, I thought it might be a good idea to leave you with a few extra pointers on shooting portraits that don’t necessarily have anything specific to do with your camera. There are entire books that cover things like portrait lighting, posing, and so on. But here are a few pointers that will make your people pics look a lot better.
Avoid the center of the frame
This falls under the category of composition. Instead of plunking your subject smackdab in the middle for what I like to call the “mugshot” pose (Figure 6.13), position her toward the side of the frame (Figure 6.14)—it just looks more interesting.
Choose the right lens
Choosing the correct lens can make a huge impact on your portraits. A wide-angle lens can distort features of your subject, which can lead to an unflattering portrait (Figure 6.15). Select a longer focal length if you will be close to your subject (Figure 6.16).
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).
Sunblock for portraits
The midday sun can be harsh and can do unflattering things to people’s faces. If you can, find a shady spot out of the direct sunlight. You will get softer shadows, smoother skin tones, and better detail. This holds true for overcast skies as well (Figure 6.18). Just be sure to adjust your white balance accordingly.
Give them a healthy glow
Nearly everyone looks better with a warm, healthy glow. Some of the best light of the day happens just a little before sundown, so shoot at that time if you can (Figure 6.19).
Keep an eye on your background
Sometimes it’s so easy to get caught up in taking a great shot that you forget about the smaller details. Try to keep an eye on what is going on behind your subjects so they don’t end up with things popping out of their heads (Figures 6.20 and 6.21).
Frame the scene
Using elements in the scene to create a frame around your subject is a great way to draw the viewer in. You don’t have to use a window frame to do this. Just look for elements in the foreground that could be employed to force the viewer’s eye toward your subject (Figure 6.22).
More than just a pretty face
Most people think of a portrait as a photo of someone’s face. Don’t ignore other aspects of your subject that reflect his or her personality—hands, especially, can go a long way toward describing someone (Figure 6.23).
Get down on their level
If you want better pictures of children, don’t shoot from an adult’s eye level. Getting the camera down to the child’s level will make your images look more personal (Figure 6.24).
Eliminate space between your subjects
One of the problems you can encounter when taking portraits of more than one person is that of personal space. What feels like a close distance to the subjects can look impersonal to the viewer. Have your subjects move very close together, eliminating any open space between them (Figure 6.25).