There’s big difference between just take a photo and shoot a portrait. In portraits, the work is even harder: you have to capture your subject’s most relevant traits, his personality and peculiarity. Without forgetting a good composition. So here you are some easy tips and guidelines to plunge safely into portrait photography world!
Let’s start with a little bit of settings stuff.
Always shoot at the biggest aperture your lens allows. I like shooting at 1.8 or 2.0, so I can obtain very shallow depth of field. In these way, you’ll achieve a very nice blurry background and all the focus will be on the subject. Regarding the shutter speed, you can easily choose the “aperture priority mode” – if it’s available on your camera – or simply set the f/stop according to the aperture.
What about choosing the film?
I think fine grain films are perfect for portraits, so alway go for very low ISO speed like 100 or lower. If you like colour negative films, I think Kodak Ektar 100 is the best fine-grain film you can ever find.
If you want your pictures bursting with colours, choose a slide film and cross process it. You’ll lose the sharpness and the fine-grain but you’ll gain a lot about the composition: I think x-pro gives the pictures a certain something that reminds me of painting.
Choose Black and White film if you have an urge to express any deep emotion you’re feeling and shout loud something to the world! I love b&w because its monochromatic contrast is perfect to highlight feelings: it’s intense, it’s deeper, it’s emotional. So, load the roll, focus on the subject and express yourself, without the “distraction” of colours. Here you are a selection of portraits taken with my favourite B&W film, Kodak T-Max.
And now, some simple guidelines to create a portrait composition
1. Light is your best friend. Use it both to highlight the subject and to make a creative composition.
2. Be ready to shoot to capture an instinct moment. My friend laughing or my cat yawning are the best examples I can give you.
3. Sneak… and steal a moment! Your subject will be as natural as he can be, if he doesn’t know he’s observed.
4. Shoot the subject in his “natural environment”. A musician during a gig, a writer while is working, a photographer while is shooting: that’s a good way to highlight the subject passions and personality.
5. If you want to shoot some “posed pictures”, just care a lot about the composition as if you were creating a painting.
6. What about self-portraits? I think the rules remain the same. I take self-portraits to tell something about me by the only mean i know, photography! Good light, good composition, central subject, and something to tell.
For a good selection of portraits, I suggest to read this article on portraits. It was really inspiring for me. Enjoy!