We’re always taking family photos to capture our most cherished memories of our loved ones, and there’s nothing worse than taking an unflattering photo of the people that matter most. Taking great portraits isn’t an easy task, but with these simple tips you should be well on your way.
1. Know your equipment
You don’t need a professional-grade DSLR to take a good portrait, but you do need to understand how to use the equipment you have. For the casual photographer, something to consider is “Aperture Priority Mode”. Most DSLRs and many point-and-shoot cameras have this mode that will adjust the settings of your camera automatically so that you can get a shallow depth of field in your photograph. A shallow depth of field can help to make a great composition by keeping your subject in focus, while leaving a blurred background.
2. Frame your shot
Putting your subject in the middle of the shot with a lot of background isn’t always the best way to take a photo of someone. Try zooming in and filling the frame with your subject. Consider the rule of thirds when framing your shots. Before you press the button to take the picture, take a few moments to think about what you should really be focusing on– look for things you do and don’t want, and frame the picture accordingly.
3. Lighting is key
Lighting makes or breaks a photo, and especially a portrait. Try not to take photos under harsh artificial light– if you don’t have a lighting kit, consider taking the photos outdoors. Sometimes natural lighting will work in your favor, especially the “witching hour” of sunrise or sunset can be a great time to take a photo, but be careful of the directionality of the light. Make sure that your subjects face is lit up properly and that there isn’t too much light coming from behind the subject– something that may obscure facial details in an undesirable fashion. Consider using a reflector to cast additional light on your subjects face– something white that will reflect light will do if you don’t want to purchase one from your local camera store.
4. Be careful with you flash
A flash is often necessary to take a good photograph, but it can easily ruin one as well. Try to diffuse the light with either a store bought flash diffuser that attaches to your camera, or one of the many DIY options available. If you have to use the stock flash unit on your camera, take a few shots to experiment with the distance from you camera to your subject. You’ll likely want to stand about 4-6 feet away and use the zoom function. Too close and your shot will be full of harsh and unattractive light.
5. Help get a natural pose from your subject
Posing for a photo can be fun and playful, but it can also be awkward. Talk to your subject. Have them act naturally. Have them interact with the environment around them. Try to help them to forget that they’re in front of the camera. Some people are naturals and can just “turn it on” in front of the camera, but others will be a little stiff. Most of the time, the best smile you’ll catch on camera is one that is natural and heartfelt, not one when you make them say “cheese”.