What's the key to a good portrait?

Discussion in 'Photographic Discussions' started by ArmoredPersonel48698, Aug 24, 2009.

  1. ArmoredPersonel48698

    ArmoredPersonel48698 TPF Noob!

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    Next year, in college, I'm hoping to get an intern spot with a local photography group. They specialize in portraits (like school shots, sports, family, modeling, etc.). What is the key to a good portrait shot? After my year or two, or maybe 4, what kind of equipment would I need to look at getting. Rolling with a Nikon D60, Nikkor 18-55 and 55-200mm (need a better lens yes?) and a SB-600.
     
  2. Jeffro

    Jeffro TPF Noob!

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    No Key, it is everything in one. Good Photographer that has good lenses, with good lighting, good back ground, good composition, good subject, in focus. So no Key just all the basics combined to make a good shot!
     
  3. ArmoredPersonel48698

    ArmoredPersonel48698 TPF Noob!

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    What about equipment? Because I will be going to college to take up a photography profession...hopefully.
     
  4. Derrel

    Derrel Mr. Rain Cloud

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    I'm a former portrait shooter who made a full-time living from shooting studio portraits in the early 1990's, so I will give you a couple of pointers about what makes a good portrait. First off, and this might rankle some amateur feathers here, but ditch the DX camera and buy a FF digital SLR, or at least ADD a FF body to your kit; DX is over twice as small as FX, and the way lenses behave on DX is disadvantageous to you as a portrait shooter both indoors and outdoors. To shoot a 6 foot tall person on FX, with an 85mm lens, you can stand 20 feet away. With a DX camera, you need to be 34 feet way for the same field of view. And at 34 feet, the DOF is hugely increased. Indoors, in small studios, DX means ultra-short focal lengths to get the width you need to encompass groups, and that means HUGE depth of field, and almost no background control. So, look into getting an FX Nikon body. Seriously. It will make your work look more-professional, and make your life much easier.

    Second. The key to a good portrait shot besides equipment, is rapport with the subject and confidence-building between you and your subject. Confidence on your part translates to confidence on their part. You need to learn how to look confident, and sound confident, and learn how to simply and clearly tell your subjects how to pose using verbal instructions.

    Most volume shooters and fast-paced shooters use pack and head studio strobe systems. Monolights need a boatload of electrical outlets for a six-light shoot,and frankly, most monolights are very one-dimensional,without enough flexibility in terms of heads offered, or the ability to focus or flood the beam spread, have no Fresnel spot accessories, etc. As a new shooter starting out, unless you have a trust fund, stick with Speedotron pack and head systems using mostly 102 light units and 805 or 2400-series power packs bought used. Soooooooooo many people go broke in photography that buying used Speedotron lighting allows you to assemble a complete, entire studio with five 102 light heads and 2- 202VF (Variable Focusing) heads, three power packs, eight light stands, one heavy boom stand, 4 each of 7 and 11.5 inch reflectors, and one-22 inch beauty dish with grid, 3 or 4 barndoor sets, honeycomb grid sets for the 7 and 11.5 inch reflectors--all of this can be bought used for the cost of ONE higher-end Profoto pack and one light head. I'm not kidding on the prices either.

    I know other people like other brands of lighting gear, and many will suggest Alien Bees, but I think you'll get more respect,and more done with less hassle by buying Speedotron Black Line equipment on the USED market,and specifically from e-Bay or craigslist.

    Lens wise, an FX format camera makes a 70-200 a very useful lens; on DX, the FOV crop makes a 70-200 much less-useful indoors. The 105 DC and 85mm 1.4 AF-D Nikkors are superb portrait lenses; on DX, indoors, they become instantly LESS-useful, by far.

    There really is no one,single key to getting good portraits--there are many things you must do correctly, but owning or having access to the right equipment will make things easier than having to continually "fight" your camera,lenses,and lights.
     
  5. Big Mike

    Big Mike I am Big, I am Mike Staff Member Supporting Member

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    Light.

    You can have all the best equipment that money can buy, but if you don't have (or don't know how to make) good lighting, then you won't be able to create good portraits.
    It's not a matter of which camera, or which lens...or even which lighting equipment. It's about understanding light and how it illuminates your subject. It's about knowing the relationship between light and shadow.

    Of course, there are many other factors, equipment being one of them. But without the know-how, you money is wasted on all that great gear.
     
  6. ArmoredPersonel48698

    ArmoredPersonel48698 TPF Noob!

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    I thank you for that information, but do also take into consideration that I am only 17 and buying a full body camera is WAY out of the question. But once I get a steady job, get my hands on one last thing for my car, get to and through college, get a better job, then I might get a full body camera. Maybe even one with like 50 MP (those'll be out by then...right?).

    I heard reflectors are a good investment and steady on w/ flash lamps are a good idea as well.
     
  7. JerryPH

    JerryPH No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    I'd put light in the #2 position. Hardware as #3 and knowledge as the #1 way to get good portraits.
     
  8. blash

    blash TPF Noob!

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    Just pointing out, film is the same size as FX - and much cheaper. You can get a simple film SLR for around $60 online - professional ones go in the range of $300. You'll also get better colors and better results when using it with a nicer film. And keep in mind - all you really need to get a basic nice portrait is a single flash head, call it $100. So yes, it's possible to do professional quality portraits with nothing more than $100 for the film body + $20 for film + processing + $400 for an 85mm f/1.8 lens + $100 for flash and cord = $620. Not too shabby.
     
  9. camz

    camz No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Wow a variety of opinions on this...i likes :D

    I think what makes a good portrait is imagination. Your imagination and vision will always lead the way. The others are just to fine tune it IMO. Once having final shot in your head before you even take it, you use the various tools available like equipment, logic, knowledge, light manipulation, subject manipulation, rules of thirds,emotions, guidelines, etc to fine tune it.

    If you can manifest something from your head and deliver what you visualize and transform it into physical form...man that's just photography at its best.

    Offcourse alot of my best work is just plain ol luck too :lol:
     
  10. gryphonslair99

    gryphonslair99 Been spending a lot of time on here!

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  11. mooimeisie

    mooimeisie TPF Noob!

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  12. ArmoredPersonel48698

    ArmoredPersonel48698 TPF Noob!

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    How does a Canon A1 with 24mm, 28mm, 52mm, 250mm, 200mm tele, 18mm (macro), 400mm tele-extender, and a nice flash unit as well as an auto winder sound? :D That's my old film set.
     

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