All About Portrait Photography: Setting, Lighting and Poses

Photographing a person’s face is by no means a portrait, because it is not only a matter of capturing the contours of the face, but also of capturing the entire personality, spirit and esprit as well as the soul of the motif on photographic paper.

In principle, it is quite simple and yet a portrait is difficult to create if the photographer has not understood what this art form is all about. The difference between the mere photograph and the composition of a portrait lies in the unique message of the picture, in which the person portrayed recognizes himself at best immediately.

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Portrait photography: Important tips for a good portrait

While good weather and sunshine are optimal for many subjects, they are counterproductive for a portrait because strong light creates strong shadows. If you shoot a portrait in the shade or at least in a shady area, you will get a much more even light and won’t have to retouch any shadow plays with Photoshop, which are usually useless in a portrait. In addition, large, radiant surfaces can also distract from the actual motif. Therefore a shady location is better suited.

A good light source on the other hand is a window and many photographers like to play with these popular light sources, whereby a curtain even produces a particularly soft flowing light, which can be especially advantageous for portraits. A dark room gets an interesting drama with a single direction of light. If the sun is unfortunately unavoidable, you should always photograph directly in front of the person so that the face is reasonably evenly illuminated. In addition, the sun in the back gives the hair a nice shine.

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Portrait photography: Light, shadow and colour conditions around the main motif must be right

Learn Portrait Photography: Original photos are good, but you shouldn’t get funny

Of course, every photographer wants to photograph his models for the portraits in unusual positions, but what should actually come across as original quickly becomes a photographic nightmare. Unfortunately, funny positions in the picture seem just as funny as unnatural and there are only few lovers for them. It is also an old superstition that a portrait photo must show as much of the person as possible.

However, the better the pictures, the closer the photographer gets to the subject and concentrates on the essentials or an essential detail, the better. Whoever takes a picture of the whole person gives away between 70 – 80 percent of the picture and has to do without interesting details. Since people are often nervous and tense when taking photographs, there are also corresponding photos. A relaxed, friendly conversation, perhaps a little humorous, usually relaxes the person, makes them loose and the picture better. In order to support a relaxed atmosphere, the photographer should also take the subject from different positions in the viewfinder.

Vary the positions in a portrait

Not all portraits need to be taken directly from the front, there are many positions and trying out is often the safest way to find the best choice of position to photograph. By the way, the 2/3 rule is also very suitable for portrait photography. For many photo enthusiasts, it is the most important rule for image composition and has proven itself. Like all rules it can be broken, but as a rule of thumb it is unbeatable.

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Especially with a portrait, the photographer should demonstrate experience and sensitivity in the composition of the image in order to do more than just photograph the person. With a little thought and originality, unusual portraits can be created that not only fill the person photographed with pride. The photographer only has to follow a few small rules like the shadow rule or the 2/3 rule to shoot a good portrait. After all, the photographer should capture more than the outlines of the face or the colour of the eyes, but the person should discover himself and his personality in the photo.