Professional Portrait Photography: Tips and Tricks
Taking a portrait photograph is not just about clicking a picture of a person. It is about capturing their essence and personality in one single frame. A professional portrait photographer knows how to use different lighting, poses, and backgrounds to create an amazing photograph.
If you are new to portrait photography, you might get overwhelmed by the different types of photography setups available. Here are some of the most popular ones:
Flash Portrait Photography:
In flash portrait photography, the photographer uses an external flash to illuminate the subject. The flash can either be mounted directly on the camera or placed on a separate stand. The main benefit of flash photography is that it offers more control over the lighting. The photographer can easily adjust the intensity of the light and its position to create the desired effect.
Constant Light Portrait Photography:
In constant light portrait photography, the photographer uses continuous light sources like LED or fluorescent bulbs to light up the subject. This technique is ideal for indoor photography as it provides consistent lighting. The main advantage of using constant light is that you can see the results in real-time, which makes it easier to adjust the lighting.
Studio Strobe Portrait Photography:
Studio strobe portrait photography is similar to flash photography, except that the photographer uses strobes instead of direct flash. Strobes provide more power and make it easier to control the lighting. They also have a faster recycle time, which makes it easier to take multiple shots in quick succession.
Now that you know about different photography setups, let's talk about retouching. No matter how good the photograph is, you might need to retouch it to remove blemishes and enhance certain features like the eyes, lips, and hair. You should be careful when retouching as overdoing it can make the photograph look fake. A lot of this work can be carried out in Lightroom but the preferred software is generally Photoshop.
Suitable backgrounds are also an essential element in portrait photography. The background should be simple enough not to distract from the subject. One of the most popular background techniques is bokeh, which creates a blurry background by using a wide aperture. This shallow depth of field method works best outside or where there are objects behind. Don't be afraid to over expose the image (in the camera reading) if you do not have lighting and are using natural light, it is always important to make sure the model's face is light and bright. You can usually get away with a good 1.5 stops, then do further edits in Lightroom/Photoshop.
A white background is also a popular choice, especially for online use, as it provides a neutral backdrop that makes the subject stand out. There is almost no option but to use a white studio backdrop for this. The background needs to be 'blown-out" and this can be done using flash, strobe or constant lighting (high powered).
Flash is the preffered method, so you can still shoot fast enough (shutter speed) to keep your subject sharp and also use a decent F stop ie f5.5+, to keep the subjects full face in focus. With the constant light, unless you have a lot of power you would find that with a shutter speed of say 1/160 second at f5.5 you would have no choice but to increase your iso to perhaps 600, introducing noise, when ideally you should always aim to shoot at iso 100 to keep that minimal.
If you are shooting on a black background consider backlighting on your subject to help them 'pop' out from the background, giving them an edge, especially with portraits where the subject has dark hair.
Portrait photography requires both skills and creativity. Learning different photography setups and retouching techniques can help you create amazing photographs. Keep experimenting with different backgrounds and pose ideas until you find the perfect combination. Lastly, always remember that the goal of portrait photography is to capture the essence and personality of the subject.