Hot tips for PORTRAIT photography

Discussion in 'The Professional Gallery' started by Sharkbait, Apr 9, 2005.

  1. skieur

    skieur TPF Noob!

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    Based on what I see wrong with portraits on many internet photo sites and forums:

    1. avoid butchering the body of your subject

    Don't cut off the top of the head and particularly don't cut the body at the joints. Leave the fingers connected to the knuckles, the hands on the wrists, the forearm connected to the elbow, the legs below the knees and the feet connected at the ankles.

    2. Look at the clothes of the subject

    Gaudy, cheap, jewellry for example does not go with a corporate portrait and yet I have seen it submitted by a pro for Critique on a site.

    Formal portraits require the appropriate clothing. With casual portraits it depends on the look that fits the subject and everything should co-ordinate. Some clothes do not flatter the look of a subject. Colours and patterns need to emphasize the positive features.

    3. Guys, pay attention to make-up.

    Both guys and women wear make-up when in front of the television camera, so the same should be true for important portraits.

    Zits and various other minor skin blemishes certainly do not flatter the face of a woman and she certainly would not go to a major function without covering them with make-up. Why have I seen these on a number of portraits here?

    4. Look carefully at the hair and face..the objective is flattery

    Make sure that the hair is combed, brushed and in place. Stray hair does not fit well with most shots.

    Consider the shape of the face and light appropriately. The direction and angle of the face is also important. A narrow face for example would be best with a 3/4 shot: diagonal to the camera. With a heavy person you would use lighting and shadows to de-emphasize width.

    5. The eyes are MOST IMPORTANT.

    What I should NOT have seen in portraits on the web: half the face in total black shadow, blood shot eyes, red rims, eyes hidden by hair and cut by the bridge of the nose, eyes in the dark around the sockets, eyes made up to look like those of a racoon (unintentionally).

    Light the eyes properly. Use makeup correctly. Consider eye drops to clear blood shot or red vein problems.

    AVOID emphasizing the sacks under the eyes of subjects.

    6. POSTPROCESS

    All portraits require postprocessing. Skin colour is off in many of the portraits I have seen here. It needs to be corrected.

    Skin blemishes that were not corrected earlier need to be de-emphasized at this stage using whatever method works for you as in selective soft focus or cloning.

    Sacks under the eyes need to be dealt with as well.

    Eye problems that were not handled when shooting need to be corrected at this stage too.

    There is a lot more but this is a start on some basics of standard portraiture and some of the problems I see.

    skieur


     
  2. wxnut

    wxnut TPF Noob!

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    If taking a portrait that includes the family dog, do not whistle, or call the dogs name to try to get it to look at the camera. It will want to run to you. Instead, in a soft, excited voice, say "wheres the kitty" or "whos here". It may not look at the camera, but it will perk up and its ears will go upright, and get it to sit still for a couple shots.



    Doug Raflik
     
  3. Leigh

    Leigh TPF Noob!

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    But be careful with this as can quite often create a double chin effect.
    Keep it down but oush it forward slightly to get rid of any creases in the neck
     
  4. wildmaven

    wildmaven TPF Noob!

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  5. Lisa B

    Lisa B TPF Noob!

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    I think one of THE most important pieces of advice I could give would be to get used to your OWN equiptment and/or studio and learn what works best for you - everyone's equiptment varies ever so slightly but once you've spent the time testing and learning to get along in your own environment, you're halfway there.

    I have my own studio and found that testing conditions using family members in exchange for some free portraits worked really well. When shooting my neices (who are 5 and 8) I found that the less I asked them to do, the better the shots - white backgrounds and a good strong set of lights always makes for stunning portraits too!
     
  6. Bthornton

    Bthornton TPF Noob!

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    When I get a child in the 5-10 age that's does not want to get portraits taken I often make a deal with them that if they "help me out" by being good I will let them take a few portraits when we are all done. It tends to work like a charm. I just pull out a cheap point and shoot and let them take a few of whatever. So far the kids all love that idea. I often print a 4x6 of one of the photos and send it to the child with a thank you for being my helper card. After that I have a child who can't want to see me next time and parents who remember who takes all their portraits.
     
  7. Christie Photo

    Christie Photo No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    This is good advice for all areas of photography. Only after all technical concerns are no longer a distraction are we completely free to concentrate on the artistic elements of composition.

    -Pete
     
  8. Tiberius47

    Tiberius47 TPF Noob!

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    Focus on the eyes! it's only been mentioned once so far, it should be mentioned in every tip!
     
  9. One Sister

    One Sister TPF Noob!

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    I've heard at least one portrait photographer say that a woman subject should wear *heavier* makeup than usual. Yikes! When I see a woman come into the studio with lip gloss I cringe. Pose-good. DOF-good. Catch lights-good. Then all manner of hot spots on lips-ABOMINABLE.

    Also, I've been getting more and more little children coming in dressed like little hookers, complete with sequins. A little of that goes a looooong way. I've sold 'em, but I hate 'em. I can't fix a dress with a thousand tiny hot spots.

    Perhaps you more experienced folks have a fix for the problems above. Let me know if you do.

    Also, I've read and heard about the struggles photogs have with adult hands. I've even read that people should put them in their pockets rather than have them in the portrait. I do not find this. I love hands and I use them for my subjects to interact with one another. If a woman is wearing a ring I like it in the portrait somewhere and believe me I sell more if I succeed, especially if it's an engagement ring. I'll ask her to drape her hand over the male's near shoulder if nothing else, just to get it in. But that's just me...
     
  10. herrickphoto

    herrickphoto TPF Noob!

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    These are great! Thanks for posting. With children, I always praise them for everything they do. Children love to hear how great they are and they're so much more willing to cooperate with the shoot if they feel it's all something they're doing well.
    Also anything that makes noise will get them to look at you. I have a bright green cuddly toy that when I bounce it on my head makes a boinging noise. This always gets a laugh or two. Of course, then they want to play with it themselves...
     
  11. Derek Zoolander

    Derek Zoolander TPF Noob!

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    do you have an example of this Alpha?
     
  12. _rebecca_

    _rebecca_ TPF Noob!

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    On the subject of working with children, one thing that has worked for me most of the time is to engage the child first. I introduce myself, ask their names (even if I already know it) then I tell them it's great to meet them and ask if they would like to help me take a picture for Mommy and Daddy. I sometimes even have them introduce me to the parents. This has worked for me 100% of the time with preschool aged children, as they seem to really eat up the idea of me being there to work with them on something for their parents, and not just there for their parents and they have to sit pretty and cooperate.

    Another thing I have discovered is that often the very best family portraits happen *in between* the more set-up posed shots. So keep your camera ready and your eyes open even when everyone thinks you're just setting up for the next shot. :)
     

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