Every photographer, no matter if you’ve been shooting a week or 10 years, wants professional looking images. We have the right equipment but sometimes our images come out less than ideal. In celebration of our kickin’ new portrait photography class, for the next few days we will be discussing some of the essential steps we need to take to master our images and get the professional quality outdoor portraits you’ve always dreamed about.
First and foremost when it comes to a great outdoor portrait we need to know how we want to take the photo. Without the essential knowledge of understanding light, composition and camera basics we will continue to get stuck with mediocre images. Photography is all about light. Light is what makes or breaks our photos and without great light we can’t get great results. It illuminates, defines, and adds character to our photographs. For our part, we have a variety of different ways to manipulate and produce that light. Whether it is natural light from the sun or artificial light from flashes and strobes we need to be able to mold the light to do what we want it to do. Additionally, at our disposal are selections of ways to reflect and manipulate the light (don’t worry, tomorrow we are going WAY more in depth on light). Go out and practice shooting in different times of day and see how the light will affect your photos.
In addition to understanding how light we need to be able to compose our photographs in a way that is most appealing to our subjects. At our disposal are a million different rules of composition and for the most part its impossible to follow them all. That’s why I choose to focus on just a few at a time. For almost every portrait session I try to use the rule of thirds, leading lines, and filling the frame. The rule of thirds (click here if you need a refresher on the rule of thirds) is going to allow your viewer of the photograph to engage with the whole photograph instead of just the subject. It takes the whole photo into account and is one of the most widely used rules of composition.
Leading lines are another great way to engage the viewer. Lines are all around us and when looking at a photograph our eyes automatically follow those lines and so we should use them to take the viewers eyes from one point to another until it gets to the main part of the photo. Whether it is a road, fence or even body part like arms or legs we can use these to complete our photos.
Lastly with composition I want to talk a little about a common mistake most of us have when photographing people. For some reason, most people have a fear to get up close to the subject. Don’t be, this is an engaging and interesting viewpoint that can add some great character to your shots. Close is good! Just don’t forget to always focus on the eyes, as it will be most apparent if you don’t.
In addition to light and composition we all need a solid understanding of how to use our cameras in order to take a great photo. If you are relying on the automatic settings of your camera to take your photos you will be disappointed more often than you are excited. Get out of the auto modes and take control of your camera. A good understanding of shutter speed, aperture, ISO, metering, and white balance are the foundation of good photographs. If you don’t have this yet you need to get it and we promise your photos will improve dramatically once you do!
© 2015, Tony. All rights reserved.