In portrait photography, the background is just as important as the model. A choppy or overly conspicuous background distracts attention from the main element of your picture.

You should therefore make sure that you always have a neutral, tidy background that does not distract the viewer from your model or the object being photographed.

You don't have to go for a completely plain background, however. For example, an interesting wall or fence could create a wonderful effect in an interesting color or texture. However, this must harmonize with the context of the picture.

 

Another technique is to put another object in the background to create another focal point. For example, an artist in front of her easel, a fisherman in front of a boat or a musician in front of his instrument. When using this technique, the elements in the background are often blurred, without being less sharp than the element that is in focus of the image. In this way, all objects and accompanying circumstances on the recording can harmonize with one another and catch the viewer's attention according to the target.

Prepare your model for the shot

Even the best, most expensive camera gear will produce poor results if your model isn't ready, easy and relaxed.

Being photographed is a rather unnatural and therefore mostly stressful experience, so your job as a photographer is to make the shoot for the model as easy, relaxed and stress-free as possible.

Even models you have worked with and actually know well sometimes tense up. You can break the ice with some small talk. Explain what type of photo you want to take - or ask the model questions about their introduction. Be open to suggestions and just chat a bit with your model about the sequence of the shoot before it starts. It not only relaxes the mood but is also very helpful for cooperation.

 

When taking portraits of children, you should be on the same level as the children, preferably communicating with them gently, patiently, and maybe even a little playfully. Try to make it as fun as possible. Be easy going and fun to build confidence. It is best to try to cheer up the children in a playful mood so that they pay as little attention to the camera as possible and you are able to capture spontaneous, natural and playful poses.

It is also important that you educate your model a little about what clothing to wear for the shoot. As a rule, neutral colors are more beneficial for portrait photography - dark colors are particularly preferred - because in most cases it will show off your model's face better. However, this can vary from person to person, depending on skin color, undertone, etc.

 

Don't forget to pay attention to the details and check your model for things that could become a disruptive factor during the shoot, such as lint on clothing, uneven buttons and zippers, collars or a jammed shirt. These little things are easy to fix in advance and make a big difference to the end result and especially to the process.

Posing your model like a pro

Now that your model is ready, easy-going, and relaxed, you need to keep the mood relaxed throughout the shoot. Work quickly, but confidently and calmly, and give clear instructions during the recording. Because not all models know exactly how to pose perfectly and have to be instructed accordingly by the photographer.

However, do not overwhelm your model with complicated prompts, but try to get her to find the ideal posture with small, simple adjustments: such as “lift your chin a little”, “straighten your back” or "Look at me now".

Rotate your body and shoulders slightly away from the camera for a natural look. Or for a frontal picture, keep your shoulders facing the camera.

Bring variety to the picture. Take photos from an unusual perspective, for example very low or very high.

Make sure the balance between light and shadow is right

Basically, natural daylight is the most attractive light source for portrait photography - especially if you don't have special studio lighting. A slightly cloudy day makes for a nice, soft light that will flatter your model.

Direct sunlight is usually undesirable as it creates strong, harsh shadows on the model's face. In such conditions, it is best to find a shady spot to position your model. Alternatively, you can take photos under the sun with the model's back to the sun. This is called backlighting and it can create a golden glow around your model which can create a nice lighting effect if you capture it correctly. Remember that when shooting in the sun, you will need to throw some “fill light” in the opposite direction to reduce the shadows on your model's face.

You can also use natural daylight indoors. For best results, place the model near a window with the model slightly facing the light. The shadows on the model's sides facing away from the light can add depth and a touch of drama to the image. If the shadows are too dark, try using a reflector to reflect some of the window light back onto these shaded areas.

Use a flattering focal length

The focal length has a big impact on your pictures. Depending on the focal length used, a certain amount of image distortion will arise, which can make your portrait photography a real eye-catcher. Caution - used incorrectly it can also lead to a poor result.

Find out what focal lengths your lens offers. The focal lengths are given in millimeters, e.g. B. 18 mm, 55 mm, 90 mm etc. If you are using a fixed or primary lens, there is only one focal length. A zoom covers a range of focal lengths, e.g. B. 45 mm to 90 mm.

 

With a focal length of 50 mm you get a very realistic representation of your subject, as this focal length does not cause any distortion of the face.

If you take pictures with a focal length of less than 50 mm, you will notice some facial distortion. For example, the size of your model's forehead, nose, and closest cheek will appear enlarged, while other features such as ears, chin, and hair may appear smaller.

With a focal length greater than 50 mm, your model's facial features may appear flattened. In moderation, this is quite flattering - but in extreme cases, it can make the person's face appear very wide or thick. 80mm is a popular focal length for portraits. However, some photographers also prefer 100 mm or longer.

 

The longer the focal length, the further away you can be from your model.

This greater distance can be advantageous if, for example, you are taking photos outdoors. It also helps some models to appear more relaxed and therefore more natural in the photo. You will quickly notice whether your subject benefits from a certain distance. However, it can be a problem when you just don't have enough space to stand far enough from your model - for example when shooting indoors.

Blur the background with the aperture priority mode

A good way to enhance portraits is to shoot them with a shallow depth of field. This allows you to focus your model while the background appears blurry or out of focus, which makes your portrait subject stand out.

You can control the depth of field on the camera by adjusting the lens iris. The aperture is the opening inside your lens through which the light from the front of the lens can reach the camera's sensor. Your lens has a minimum and a maximum aperture range.

The aperture is measured in f-stops. The larger the lens aperture, the smaller the f-number. The larger the aperture (the smaller the f-number), the blurrier your background will be.

In general, you will want to choose the largest aperture (smallest f-number) that your lens offers. The F / 4 aperture is an ideal aperture for portraits, as it should provide enough depth of field to focus your entire subject, but blur the background.

To change the aperture on your camera, set the recording mode to aperture priority or AV mode.

Then use the control dial, buttons, or menu settings to increase or decrease the aperture value. On my Canon 5D mk IV, the aperture value is changed with the dial directly behind the shutter release.

Expose the model's face

Exposure refers to how light or dark your picture is. In portrait photography, the most important part of the scene is the model's face. So make sure the face is properly exposed - not too dark (underexposed) and not too bright (overexposed).

For portrait photography, it is better to have a background that is too dark or too light than a face that is underexposed or overexposed.

Depending on which mode you are shooting in, you can easily adjust the exposure compensation (EV) setting on your camera. This allows you to increase or decrease the exposure as needed.

On my Canon 5D mk IV, I hold down the ISO / Flash +/- button with my right thumb and use my index finger to set the exposure compensation value using the main wheel.

Alternatively, you can set the metering mode of your camera to spot metering or center-weighted metering. This tells the camera to ignore excessively light or dark areas around the subject, which could result in under- or over-exposure of the picture.

Focus on the eyes

Portrait photos look best when the eyes are in focus. This improves eye contact between the model and the viewer, creating a powerful and engaging photo.

Therefore, when taking portraits, especially when the depth of field is shallow, you should carefully adjust the focus point.

Your camera most likely has multiple autofocus / AF points visible in the viewfinder. Select the central AF point with your camera's AF option, then position the central AF point directly over one of the model's eyes.

Now press the camera's shutter button halfway to lock the focus. If necessary, move the camera to realign your shot for the best composition, and then press the shutter button to take the shot.

When recomposing, make sure that you do not change the distance between the camera and the subject, otherwise the eye will no longer be sharp.

Many cameras offer the ability to zoom in on the scene in the viewfinder, which is invaluable for checking focus before shooting