Saturday, April 9, 2011

Portraits - Week 2 of my Photography Class

Last week we talked about portraits in my photography class.  This is a topic I'm hugely interested in.  We spent our first hour talking about our assignments from the week before and going over some portraits - looking mainly at the lighting, composition and camera settings for each picture.  Then we went to the campus's parking garage and took turns having mini-portrait sessions of our classmates. 

Here are some of the things we focused on about portrait sessions:
  • Atmosphere - Having a good relationship with the person you are taking a picture with is very important to having a good session.  If your subject is uncomfortable or stressed then that will show through in the picture.  So at the start (and throughout) each session it's important to spend time getting to know the people you are taking pictures of to help them relax and  have a good time. 
  • Lighting - The lighting often creates the mood of the picture.  For outdoor portraits, the ideal time to take pictures is early morning, late evening, or on overcast days.  This isn't always possible though so sometimes finding a shady area can help to keep harsh lights out of the people's faces.  If you can't avoid harsh sun light then you can use your on camera flash to minimize the effects of the light.  (Hehe...I was a little skeptical of this so I tried it last weekend while taking our bluebonnet pictures and it really did help.)  :-)
  • Camera Settings - We were told the ideal lens length for portraits is between 80 mm and 100 mm.  The longer lens length helps to blur the background more and create a prettier bokeh. 
    • Focus - The most important thing to get in focus on any picture is the eyes and nose.
    • Aperture - To get the sharpest picture it usually helps to set your aperture 1 1/2 to 2 stops above your widest aperture.  (So for example,  if you have a 1.8 lens then your sharpest images would be somewhere between 3 and 4.)  If you are taking pictures of multiple people, you would want to increase the aperture to be around 4 or 5 to help keep everyone in focus - especially if they are on different planes. 
    • Shutter Speed - The shutter speed should be at least the length of your lens (although shooting at a shutter speed less than 60 brings in a greater chance of motion blur.)
    • ISO - The ISO on a clear day should be about 200 or less.  On a cloudy day it should be around 400 or less.  And in low-light indoor type situations it should be around 800 or less.
  • Composition - It's often best when taking a picture to get on eye level with your subject.  So if you are taking a picture of kids then you would probably want to get lower to the ground to take their picture.   Playing with your camera angles though can definitely make for interesting effects. 
Of course there are a lot of "rules" to help make your portraits look amazing but there is always room for creativity.  Lots of practice and learning from others work are two things that really help a photographer to discover their own unique style.

That's definitely not a complete summary of everything there is to learn about portraits but I enjoyed the class.  And still can't wait to learn more.  Here are some of the pictures I took during our class time.

***  Please feel free to add any more tips or ideas in the comment section of this blog post.  I really would learn to love more.  And of course if I missed something please let me know as well.  ***

1 comment:

  1. Wow! You learned a lot! I am very impressed that you've retained so much. And the portraits you took of your classmates look fantastic!


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