Tips for taking portraits?

andrew99

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Hi guys, can you please give me some basic tips for taking portraits? I have a Nikon D40 with the built-in flash. So far my portraits look harsh because of the flash. I tried using no flash and longer shutter times, but the person always looks blurry since they can't sit perfectly still, so I think a shorter shutter speed is a must. Should I get a different flash, or separate lights, etc? I would like to be able to take indoor portraits, with soft shadows, maybe a little bit dark and moody, if that makes sense. I'm a complete beginner, so any tips or links appreciated!
 

Stranger

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A) Flash
B) Seperate Light System
C) Faster Lens
D) All of the above

I Would recommend (D) in the order of C,A,B... I would recommend the 50mm 1.8... Its about $100 and very very sharp and fast for low light situations. The only problem is, its not AF-S so you will have to manually focus it on your D40. Other than that you can check out the proffesional wedding and portrait forum on the site and they have a link to basic tips on pose and all that
 

Double H

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Get a tripod. You will want some kind of off-camera lighting. Don't ever use the built-in flash again, EVER! :D

There are a lot of beginner, budget lighting set-ups out there. You could also consider using plain old hot-lights. You can find them at Lowes or Home Depot. Do some googling for 'homemade lighting' or cheap studio lights. If you have never used strobes before, learning with hot lights can be easier. Stands and reflectors are essential. Less lights, more bounce. I bought a giant RV windshield sun-blocker for less than $20 at Wal-Mart - it bounces light all over the place. Consider buying one good light for a key-light, and fill in the rest with bouncing.
 

JmPhotos

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Keith204 thanks for posting that website. Great info!!!

My homemade lighting when natural window light is not available is this:
I got one of those silver metal heavy duty clamp lights for chick hatching at the Home Depot (lighting dept). It has a ceramic base to it and can withstand higher temps than the standard clamp with plastic base. It cost about $12.

I bought at 250 watt photo flood bulb from www.cordcamera.com for $5 and clamped the light to my tripod. I use a white shoot through umbrella on a stand and position it in front of the clamp light to soften the light. Make sure you adjust your white balance as my light tends to create pink skin tones and pink cast on white backdrop. Better yet do a custom white balance.

I also use a big white piece of foam board as a reflector to create fill light.

I shoot in manual. For one person subjects I use a low aperture of about 2.0 and for full body shots I increase aperture to about 5.6 - 8.
 

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