How to shoot Portrait Photos-Course content
Photo & Video - The Ultimate Communication
Do you struggle to take professional-looking portrait photos?
This module will show you how to take your portrait photography to the next level.
You’ll learn how to set up the scene for maximum impact as well as the best camera settings to use.
By the end of this module, you’ll be able to shoot stunning portrait photos, whether you are using a Cell Phone camera or a DSLR.
The initial thought is that you will want to take your own selfie portrait photos but I will also cover how you can use the equipment you already own to shoot portrait photos for your staff.
As with product photos, the quality of your portrait photo is directly related to how your customers perceive your company, as well as you and your products.
This module will concentrate on using a cell phone camera, as this is a camera that you will already own. However, I will also cover the use of a DSLR using the manual controls like the focal length, exposure, and focus controls.
I would like to remind you of the principal manta of Marketing “Know your Audience”. It is imperative that you have researched your potential audience before you progress any further.
When you are armed with that knowledge - we can continue with taking Portrait photos that will be suitable for your “Potential Audience”
You will need some equipment:
Tripod - full height tripod
There are optional items that will help.
Green screen and colored screens
1/ Use the right Background
2/ Use good lighting
3/ Prepare yourself or your subject
4/ Learn to pose
5/ Camera aspect - Portrait or landscape
6/ Camera Controls
7/ Use manual controls on a DSLR
8/ Take the portrait
As you can see the sections 6 & 7 rely on your camera having manual controls. This could put a cell phone out of the picture, but there are options for: Focus, AE/AF Lock (exposure and Focus) on some iPhones. Also on some iPhones, there is a “Portrait Mode” that will blur the background even after the photo has been taken. Android phones have similar features.
Anyway, I’m getting ahead of myself, let’s start at item 1, as that doesn’t rely on which camera you are using.
1/ The Background
In portrait photography the background is as important as the subject. If your background is busy or distracting it will take attention away from the subject.
Use neutral colors, but do consider your corporate colors as that will tie in with your company’s image. It is not going to be suitable if your corporate colors are dark, but consider a lighter tone of your corporate colors.
It doesn’t have to be plain but make sure it is not busy.
At the end of the day, a plain outside grassy park always looks good. Even a sandstone wall will work - try out different backgrounds make sure that your subject’s image is not distracted by the background.
2/ Good Lighting
It’s a toss-up whether background or good lighting is the most important criteria when taking portrait photos, suffice to say - treat them both as paramount.
The term “Painting with light” is a way to think about why light is so important in a photo.
Daylight is a good choice for lighting and it is the cheapest way - best outdoors with an overcast but not a dull day.
Bright sunlight will cause shadows under the eyes and likely create bright overexposed areas on a shiny forehead or cheeks.
On a bright sunny day shoot in the shadow of a tree, but best not towards the sun.
You could get artistic with the sun behind the subject, but it is fraught with errors so best avoided unless you are aiming at an “arty” target audience.
The use of a reflector will help light the face when outdoors. These are not expensive and will certainly help your subject’s face to pop out of the image. You could make your own with a sheet of cardboard and some Aluminium foil glued or clamped on.
If you are relying on natural light indoors make sure the location is bright and preferably with daylight coming from dual aspects.
If the light is coming from one side only, then the face will have shadows, they can create character in the face. - Another use of a reflector.
If there is only one light source, make sure the subject is mainly facing that source.
3/ Prepare the subject.
The subject, whether it be yourself or a staff member, needs to be comfortable and at ease. Otherwise, it will show on the face.
If you are shooting a staff member - chat and put them at ease by explaining the kind of shot you want, asking for their suggestions will help break the ice., you don’t have to use them.
It’s best they have plainclothes - dark clothes will help the face stand out.
Consider the clothing that best suits your target audience.
Check their clothes don’t have any distracting collars turned up or fluff on their shoulders, shirt tucked in etc. This all applies to you as well when taking selfies.
4/ Posing the subject - this includes you
A hint of a smile but not too wide - depends on what your target audience would expect.
Make sure the subject is posed in a comfortable position with a straight back
It helps to slightly lean towards the camera and keep the chin down.
Make sure the subject looks natural and at ease.
As the shooter, you need to take the photo head-on, usually head and shoulders.
If you are shooting yourself it helps to have someone there to tell you how you look.
If you are shooting a staff member - you will know when they are comfortable and looking relaxed, but not too spaced out.
It is important at this time to think about your potential audience for your products - how will they react to the different poses - Will they expect formal or relaxed poses?
If you are wanting a relaxed pose, have the shoulders turned slightly away, square on for a formal pose.
Be careful with the use of props as they can distract from the subject’s face
Take some test shots
5/ Camera aspect - Portrait or landscape:
In almost all cases you will want to have the camera in the Portrait aspect - Cell Phone up and down or DSLR on its side.
You will only use a landscape aspect if you want to include some of your company's products in the photo.
The Portrait aspect should always be used for images being published on Instagram, Tick Tok, and Facebook.
6/ Camera controls
Expose for the subject’s face
Focus on the eyes
Blur the background with depth of field
This course is all about using equipment that you already own, so I will concentrate on the use of a cell phone camera.
I will discuss what an iPhone can do, but mostly the same features will exist on Android phones.
Focus and Exposure:
iPhones can set the focus and also have a feature called AE/AF Lock. This will lock the auto functions of exposure (brightness of the image) and Focus. This is most useful in setting the exposure and focus on the subject in the current position between you and the subject.
You can set the focus independently by just tapping the screen on the subject that you want to focus on. A yellow square box will appear around the area you’ve tapped. In this case, you will want to tap on the subject’s eyes.
You can swipe up or down on the screen to brighten or darken the image (Exposure) .
Once you have taken the photo the camera re-sets to autofocus and exposure
You can set the “AE/AF Lock” by pressing your finger on the scene you want to focus on and holding a second or two - AE/AF Lock in a yellow rectangle will be displayed at the top of your screen.
The AE/AF Lock settings are retained after you take the photo.
The advantages of AE/AF Lock are:
You can have the cell camera expose on the subject's face, focus on the subject eyes in auto mode and fix that AE/AF so you can be sure those settings are retained.
The AE/AF Lock is important if there are moving images in the background as the camera’s auto functions could adjust to those.
Just tap on the screen to disable it.
There are some dangers.
If you are shooting outdoors and set the AE/AF Lock, then when the sun goes behind clouds the exposure will be wrong
If you move closer or away from the subject the focus will be incorrect. The same will apply if the subject moves towards or away from you.
Recent iPhone’s have a Portrait mode feature that’ll blur the background for you. This is similar to the depth of field functionality of a DSLR.
If your phone supports Portrait Mode, you can select it in your camera mode. It will work on both the selfie front camera as well as the back camera.
It will only work if a person is in the image. There are choices for the different light sources as well as Flash, Timer, Filters, and most importantly the amount of blur which is controlled by the “F”. The lowest figure 1.4, gives the most blur and the highest 16, is a minimal blur.
I suggest that somewhere around 5.6 is optimal, as you don’t want to overdo the effect. It will depend on how far your background is away from you or the subject that you are shooting.
7/ Use manually controls on a DSLR
a/ Shutter speed, aperture, and ISO
b/ Depth of field, aperture
The off-line exercise:
Take some selfie images and also some of your staff and the photos will be reviewed in the next session.
Explain what methods you used to take the photos and any problems you encountered.
The Final Thought:
Continually consider your target audience and how the Portrait image will affect how they will perceive your company.