Thursday, May 24, 2007

Photography Tips For Awesome Portraits

Whether you are taking pictures of your child's birthday party or reference for a potential portrait, there are a few tricks that will enhance your photo sessions. By making a few adjustments, you can turn general photos into frame-worthy portraits. I've listed a few tips that have helped me attain clear reference pictures for my portraits. These tricks have been priceless in achieving accurate portraits of people and animals.

1. Turn OFF the flash!

When cameras became equipped with the flash function, people began turning the flash on as a necessity. We feared that our pictures would turn out blurry, dark, or fuzzy if we didn't. I was guilty of this myself. When I started using a digital camera, I became frustrated with the quality of pictures with the flash. Then, I realized that my outdoor pictures without the flash were looking rather artistic and clear. I turned off the flash indoors and voila! My indoor pictures looked completely different.

Here is an example of the same picture subject. The first picture was taken with the flash function. The next picture was taken without the flash.

In the first picture, the eyes are washed out by the flash. If I were attempting to use this photo as a drawing reference, I would need separate reference to render the eyes. The background is also very dark and plain.

The second picture is taken without any special settings. I turned the flash function off and zoomed in on my subject. I also lowered my position so that I was taking the picture at the same height of the dog. This allows me to capture the reflection in my subject's eyes and to obtain a steady, clear shot. Notice that the background is softer, with more light. There is a gentle quality to the photo.

2. Use Natural Light As Much As Possible

The pictures above were taken next to a window. Sunlight poured onto my dog's coat. With the flash picture, the highlights from the sun are not visible. By using natural light, pools of highlights appear, creating a more interesting photograph. I highly recommend taking pictures outside or next to a window. Natural sunlight will light your subjects perfectly. I understand that this is not always possible. Position your subject as close to a light source as possible, whether it is a lit birthday cake, a lamp in your living room, or outdoors.

3. Photograph Your Subject From Interesting Angles

Every subject can be photographed from a number of angles. I find that crawling onto the floor with my dogs and shooting the photo from their height greatly increases the quality of the photo. However, you can also position yourself below your subject to create a distortion of scale. Play around with different angles to find the most flattering view of your subject.