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5 Tips for Creative Portrait Photography

Shoot Silhouetted Forms

A silhouette photo is one in which the subject is underexposed so that very little or no details of it is captured by the camera sensor. It only forms a shape; an outline, often contrasting with the relatively bright background; leaving much to the viewer’s imagination to fill in, adding a bit of mystery, creating mood and also emphasizing the background.

Portrait Photography
Photo by Monkeyballs

The most common occasion people resort to shooting silhouettes is during sunset; when the combination of light and clouds and the various colours and shapes they create, make the perfect setting to shoot a silhouette. We will discuss about the art of creating silhouettes in a future article but for those who are curious the best explanation will be that silhouettes are made by placing your subject in front of a light source (any light source, either natural or artificial) and exposing the frame using settings for the bright background. There by underexposing the subject.

Capture Faceless Portraits

When you are shooting portraits what you are actually trying to do is to capture highlights of the character or personality of your subject. And when you think of ideas for portraits the first impressions that come to your mind might me that of a tight frame of the subject’s face, may be face and shoulders frame etc. This is conventional thinking you are not to be blamed because you are used to seeing it that way, tired of hearing over and over – focus on the eyes, shift weight to one leg, shoot at an angle… blah blah blah….. . Get creative; try breaking the rules and you will find that you end up with some very interesting shots. You will actually notice and understand a lot of the subject’s character and personality if you are restricted from prominently showing his face. And well that is a good starting point… is it not?

Portrait Photography
Photo by Geoff

Want ideas??? – shoot with your subjects back to the camera, zoom to their hands, capture a blurred impression….. Look for elements to portray his / her personality, something to add a bit of mystery… well the general idea is just to keep the person identifiable

Convey a Sense of Place

When a portrait of a person includes background that describes about his / her character, personality, profession etc it is called an Environmental Portrait. Environmental portraits are usually shot in the subject’s natural surroundings, the place they live, their workplace etc. In environmental portraits the background or surroundings of the shot is the key element and in combination with the subjects interaction to it, by way of his / her pose, expressions, dressing etc kind of narrate a story about the person being photographed to the viewer.

Portrait Photography
Photo by Sinu S Kumar

Give a Soft Focus Feel

A soft focus effect eliminates blemishes, and in general produces a lovely dream-like image with a romantic mood. In earlier days soft focus was caused due to flaws in the construction of the lenses but later on with advancements in technology the problem was largely eliminated but later certain makes of lenses (such as the Canon EF 135mm lens f/2.8 with Softfocus,Pentax SMC 28mm f2.8 FA Soft Lens, and the Thambar 90mm f2.2, for the Leica range-finder cameras) had a soft focus feature which when enabled will create a soft focus feel in increments and when the feature is turned off the lens is capable of producing perfectly sharp images.

Portrait Photography
Photo by Amsterdamned

You can’t create a soft focus feel just by defocusing a sharp lens because soft focus lenses renders perfectly sharp images with deliberately introduced spherical aberrations. So it is not the same as an out of focus image.

However you can easily add a soft focus feel to your images by using filters in photoshop. And if you are not bothered about damaging your camera, lenses, filters etc and is insistent on doing it in camera then you could try applying some petroleum gell on to a UV filter attached to your lens and shoot. (At your own risk of course).

Let Lines Lead to your subject

Lines are one of the elementary tools you have at your disposal to create compositions. They could be used ad dividers, borders, frames etc, slanting lines could be used to create a sense of tension in the image. Use the vertical and horizontal lines to create mood and drama. Lines could be used to enhance your subject’s importance, position your subject in such a way that the lines appear to lead the viewer’s eye to the subject. The effect is even more pronounced when the lines actually appear to come out of the frame and lead towards the subject.

Portrait Photography
Photo by Yyellowbird

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