Starting out with portrait photography

From studying may blogs and writings by professionals there's a common thread running through the process that they all take - and it boils down to three steps.

  1. Decide on the pose you want. Ultraclose head shot, head and shoulders, full length portait and so on.
  2. Decide on your equipment and location. What lens should you choose? Is he background integral to the scene?
  3. Determine your lighting. Natural/ daylight? Flood lights and/ or flash?

Now chat to your subject and help them to relax and enter into the spirit of the occasion.

Here's more of what the experts say...

Getting started tips for budding portrait photographers.

Taking portraits outdoors? Here are the five key things to think about to help you to shoot great outdoor portraits - even if you are in a rush.

Looking for inspiration? Read this wonderful article about Arnold Newman Figure in the Frame

Here's five great tips for improving your portrait photography, all with illustrations so you can see what the photographer means.

Moving on up, once you are getting the hang of portrait photography here are 14 great tips.

So let's look at just one effect - it's called Bokeh. That's when the background of a picture is out of focus compared to the main subject. Let's see it in action.

Tony Here we have two portraits taken in the same lighting conditions. tony-V2

The strong spring sunlight has been diffused by the overhanging trees.

On the left the picture is more or less in focus front to back.

On the right the background is out of focus and so seems diffuse.

This helps the viewer's eye to concentrate on the central image - the portrait.

How do you do it with your camera?

If you have an 'A' or 'M' control then set your aperture as wide open as conditions allow.

If you have 'scene' modes then select the Portrait setting.

If you have neither then get in close so that the background seems further away.

If all else fails then fake it with post processing.

Portraits in a hurry

Sometimes there isn't much time to grab a picture. Maybe the family is off for a birthday lunch and there's only a few minutes to get the shot of the birthday boy or girl.

So where to go for inspiration?

Check out these intersting takes on snapping the important picture that will capture the day's most important person.

Here's a tip from the Guardian photographers.

And here's a tip for using ambient light supplemented by your flash.

Types of cameras

Today let’s look at the various different types of cameras. There are many different ways of categorizing cameras but let’s start by using some commonly used terms. For simplicity let’s look at them in order of general sophistication, and cost. So here they are...

  • Smartphone cameras
  • Compact cameras
  • Compact zoom camera
  • Bridge camera
  • ILC (Interchangeable Lens Camera)

Smartphone cameras

These cameras are by far the most used for taking pictures. They have grown in performance and capability to the point that the next category of cameras is dropping significantly in sales.

They have increased in pixel count to the point that normal snap size gives decent quality output. They are also improving in apparent low light performance, which has always been their weak point.

Their big advantage is that they are with you almost all the time and are readily connected to the Internet allowing instant sharing. On the other hand their apparent quality is flattered as the majority of photos taken are never used in a way where high quality is needed. Photos uploaded to websites generally do not need to be more than 1Mpixel in size, yet the latest smart phone cameras now exceed 10Mpixels.

Compact cameras

These cameras offer a restricted range of settings and are small and very portable. The sensor is generally larger than that fitted to a smart-phone and, because they are designed as proper cameras are much easier to hold correctly.

However, despite these advantages and their low price, they are rapidly disappearing from most suppliers product lines as purchases fall.

These cameras, like the compact zooms that follow, offer a range of “scene” modes. These allow you to tell the camera about the type of subject so that it can choose the best settings without you needing to know about the technical aspects of photography.

Compact zoom cameracompact-zoom-1

With compact zoom cameras, alongside the settings you have just read about for compacts, the camera has a zoom lens allowing you to take photos that are just not possible with the simpler cameras and smartphones.

Here we see a significant departure from the features offered by the smart-phone as we now have a zoom facility.

The sensor size is still relatively small meaning that low light performance is still not great and there is little control over depth of field.

A few of these cameras allow direct control of aperture, shutter speed and ISO which is important for the serious photographer.

Bridge camerabridge-camera

As you move up the scale so the size of the camera increases as well as the capability.  Now we have reached the cameras that look like one of the big boys.

Yet, whilst the lens poking out of the front is a zoom it cannot be changed. The range of the zoom has steadily increased with each generation of this camera type and now often exceeds 20x.

These cameras also provide “scene” settings for people unsure about detailed camera control as well as providing access to the Aperture, Program and Shutter speed controls for those who do. This concept makes it easier for you to make the change as, if you are not sure about a particular scene, you can go back to the camera’s scene setting.

Sensor size is generally larger again, now getting up towards 15% to 25% of a full frame camera.

DSLR/ SLR Cameradslr-camera

These cameras are characterized by the ability to change lenses, an optical viewfinder and sophisticated, professional type, camera controls. The sensors can be anything from a full frame 35mm sensor at the professional end down to around 30% of that for the consumer types.

The larger sized sensor brings with it a larger (and heavier) body and considerable expense at the top end with cameras and lenses both costing several thousand dollars.

ILC (Interchangeable Lens Camera)

Recent developments have introduced a new breed of camera that is designed to provide the quality of the SLR without some of the size and cost.

These cameras do away with the optical viewfinder and so reduce the size, weight and complexity of that optical system. As a result the systems are considerably smaller and lighter.




DSLR Image courtesy of Nutdanai Apikhomboonwaroot /