Want to shoot a portrait that's a little bit more than just a quick snapshot? I came up with a quick list of things to keep in mind when getting ready to take a portrait.
1. Consider your lighting – What direction is the light coming from? Pay attention to how shadows are cast on your subject’s face. If you need a flash, consider what direction it will come from.
2. Consider your backdrop – What is behind your object? Is it flat space, like a wall, is it a limited space, like a doorway, or is it an open space, like a field? Is there something in it that might be worth including, or do you need to exclude things (or move somewhere else)?
3. Consider your lens – If you have an interchangeable lens system, use a longer lens if you can. For 35mm, a lens between 85mm to 135mm is considered “portrait length.” If you’re using a toy camera, this doesn’t apply to you, and even if you’re using an interchangeable lens camera, you can make any lens work if you try.
4. Consider your aperture – When shooting a portrait, controlling DOF is important. With an open background, you may want to choose an aperture between f2.8 to f8 to help push the background out of focus or you may want to use a smaller aperture to help put your subject in context. And if you’re using a flat backdrop, shoot at an aperture at which your lens is the sharpest
5. Most importantly, consider your subject – Who are they? What facts about them makes them who they are? What is their relationship to you and the viewer?
This is all very intellectual sounding, but it’s just something to keep in mind if you’re trying for something less casual.