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Portrait Shooting: A Few Smart Ideas

March 16th, 2013 No Comments

Head&Paws-Freaky-CropIf you’re a portraits specialist, you’re in luck: Jason Weddington offers imaginative tips on framing, composing and posing for portraits in one of those unusual articles that’s short on text but high on ideas and ‘meat’.

5 Tips for Improving Your Portrait Photography starts off by advising you to ‘frame tight’ when shooting faces.  Ho-hum, what portrait specialist doesn’t know that?  But wait— Weddington wants you to frame so tight that you slice off the top of your subject’s head.  He says that that maximizes the tug of your subject’s eyes, referring to it as a covert Hollywood trick.  Clever! 

Talk about eyes, another technique is to get your subject to position the eyes so that the irises are centred from the camera’s perspective.  He’s right.  This technique will usually result in a portrait that one would describe as ‘hypnotic’ or ‘arresting’; one that makes an immediate ‘connection’ with the viewer.  Better yet: Weddington advises that you try to generate catchlights in the eyes and explains how you can do so.  

Here’s another tip: let your model stay in the dark for a few minutes.  That’ll dilate her pupils.  Then open the lights and work fast, whether you use flash, lamps or natural lighting.  The opened-up pupils will result in those desirable catchlights and will also contribute to a ‘hypnotic’ or ‘arresting’ face.

“Have you ever heard a subject complain ‘I don’t know what to do with my hands?’,” writes Weddington.  Actually, even when they don’t say that, they often behave that way!  The solution is to put hands to work and Weddington suggests using “a prop.”  A pen is often used.  

Another idea would be to go prop-less and ask your subject to pose in a way one sees so often and is so natural, yet seldom photographed: fingers idly drumming on a tabletop or other surface?  Goes well with a blank or happy expression!  Want a pensive expression?  Goes like salt and pepper with clasped hands or someone looking at her palms, fingers curled.

Weddington goes on to describe two further ideas, one to “let kids run wild” and another very valuable one to “shoot into the sun.”  That gives you the backlighting and highlights that you don’t get with the sun over your shoulder.  Weddington doesn’t mention that you may need a reflector or fill-flash if you use this technique.

This article is complemented by some very nice images that get across each tip and set you up for your own photographs using these ideas.


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