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The Two Elements to Success with Portraits

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No matter what you shoot, or where you shoot it, you will most often need to think about adding some light to the subject in one way or the other. The easiest way to do that if you are outdoors, is to just use some white item, such as a paper plate, as a reflector, and paper plates can just be thrown away when you are done with them. The shinier the surface, the more light that it will put on the subject. You can find pro type reflectors in most photo stores, but get one that folds into a smaller size for carrying and storage. They also come in shades like silver, and a gold one will warm up your images at the same time. Probably one of the best types of portraits are the ones that deal with the subjects’ own personal interests, such as hobbies. These can be done at their home if you know the person, or if you should both have the same interests they can use the items you work with at your home. Any subject of interest can be used even if you just make one up. All that is needed is that the model looks like they are engaged in doing something of interest. Even a person sitting in a state of meditation can make a great image in the right environment. Remember, when shooting strangers is that you must get a release from them if you ever want to use those images in any commercial manor, commercial meaning, making any kind of a profit from them.

Sometimes, backlighting can happen when you’re shooting people, say at an outdoor wedding reception or birthday party and your angle in relation to the subject and the sun’s current position will be changing by the minute.  When this happens, have your flash ready and pay attention to shadows on the ground.  If a person’s shadow is coming towards you, use your flash as a fill, it should be something you can turn on and off with your eyes closed.

Point and Shoot cameras have a ‘digital zoom’ that performs a similar function to the telephoto lens in that it magnifies the image. However, digital zoom is not really ‘zoom’ in the strictest definition of the term. Digital zoom just enlarges the image. It takes a portion of the image and enlarges it back to full size. You lose quality because of the enlargement process so photos that have been taken with digital zoom won’t look as good as those without. See my tip on Optical vs Digital Zoom for more details on why I recommend you DO NOT use a digital zoom. Some digital cameras allow cropping and enlarging of a captured image, in order to emulate the effect of a longer focal length zoom lens (narrower angle of view). This is commonly known as digital zoom and produces an image of lower resolution than optical zoom. Exactly the same effect can be obtained by using digital image processing software to crop te image and enlarge the cropped area. Many digital cameras have both, combining them by first using the optical, then the digital zoom. Be aware that people tend to act quite differently when they know they are being photographed. With a telephoto zoom lens, you can capture candid moments while your friends or children are none the wiser. I’m not talking about doing anything crazy like hiding behind the bushes. Just casually sit back at a social gathering and snap away. As long as you don’t have to use a flash, most people won’t know they are being photographed.

Portraits really begin to attract audiences when proper backlighting and zoom are employed. Check out the details on zoom functions on Nikon D7100 cameras or the Nikon D4!

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