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Portrait photography is probably the best kind of photography since it captures human emotion. Someone once told me “you’ve captured my soul”. It’s a high standard – but I aim for nothing less. Here’s some of my ideas about portrait photography.
First of all: a portrait photographer should have a genuine interest in people. Any person could eventually become your subject. You should care about people in general, and be able to naturally strike up a conversation with anyone to break the ice. But above all else, portrait photographers should master the art to observe their subjects’ characteristic gestures and expressions, and use those observations to identify a person’s best side and angle.
There are many different types of portraits depending on the use or purpose for the image.
Some of the common categories include:
- amateur portraits of friends and family
- photos of people in a social gathering
- editorial portraiture: pictures taken by photographers for newspapers, magazines and other publications
- fine art portraiture: photos taken specifically for display in galleries and art events
- formal portraits (and, in a way, “selfies”): subjects pose for the purpose of their photograph being taken
- informal portraits or “action shots” where the subjects do not intentionally pose for the camera.
Things to consider and re-consider
The intention of the photographer is what sets a photograph apart from a portrait (or selfie). If you want to try your hand at portrait photography, here are some of the things you might want to consider:
- Camera. In portraiture, any 35mm SLR (single-lens-reflex) is fine. Never opt for a point and shoot because it can’t provide sharp outline and accurate results.
- Lenses. There will be times that you need to emphasize or de-emphasize a specific feature of your subject at a certain distance. Many professional photographers suggest 300mm or 600mm lenses, but for beginners typical portrait lenses that are between 90 and 135 millimeters long for 35mm cameras are okay. Nikon 105/1.8 (MF only), Canon 100/2 USM, and Canon 135/2 USM are some of the recommended portrait lenses available in the market.
- Location. For me, an ideal location for any portrait photography shoot is outdoors on a cloudy day. An outdoor location usually results in much more natural looking images than those shot in a studio, and instead of relying on flash and other artificial light you can work with (sometimes challenging) outdoor conditions.
- Lighting. If you do work indoors or have a portrait studio, consider the sources of light that would flatter your subjects. If your shoot is outdoors, it is advisable to choose an overcast day to avoid shadows in your photos.
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