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When taking portraits...


Composition/Posing


Work out what is important to have in the frame. Frame appropriately. Then pose. 
Turn the camera around. Many people forget to fill the frame and turn the camera vertical for a single portrait. Not that you have to do this every time.
Don't pose someone full frontal unless you want to make them look broad. Turn them so they are facing 3/4 on to the camera. 
Shoot from above to slim.
Get the lens above the nose - looking up the nose is yuck. Stand up taller, stand on a step, get them to put their chin down.
Make sure there is light on the eyes, so you aren't giving them black holes. Turn them towards the light, lift their chin, lower the light.
Put weight on the back leg. Looks more inviting. 
Give them something to do with their hands so they are more relaxed.
Watch out for the ears. Turn the head slightly side on to the camera so they don't look like elephant ears.
Get in close and personal. 
Try different perspectives. Walk around your subject and look.
Don't crop at a joint (elbow, wrist, knee, ankle) - it will give the impression that the body doesn't continue outside of the frame. 
Don't always make them look at the camera - they can look just past you, down their shoulder, at what they are doing. 
Classic style is to place the eyes on one of the 'rule of thirds' lines. 
'Do the duck.' Get them to stick their chin slightly out and down towards the camera to tighten the skin under their chin. Make sure they are 100% facing the camera, though. Otherwise, it will look odd. Don't let them overdo it either. 
Holding the tongue on the roof of the mouth can also tighten the chin skin. 
Taking photos at eye level is the most pleasing angle. Generally.
You don't always have to include the face. Focussing on a body part will still tell a story. Dancing hips, hands covering eyes, knobbly knees together, stressed hand. 

 

Backgrounds


Look at the background. Do you want context and story or just a pretty picture of the person?
Pull the person away from the wall, especially if using flash. If they stand near a wall, an ugly shadow will be cast behind them. 
If you are taking a portrait (rather than telling a story), keep the background plain. 

 

A photograph of a chef for a story. Showing his workplace sets the scene, and along with the chef outfit, we know what it is about. 

A photograph of a chef for a story. Showing his workplace sets the scene, and along with the chef outfit, we know what it is about. 

A portrait/headshot. The focus is all on the person. No context is needed. 

A portrait/headshot. The focus is all on the person. No context is needed. 

 

Context 

We see the background and foreground, placing our subject in her environment rather than showing just the computer and her face.

We see the background and foreground, placing our subject in her environment rather than showing just the computer and her face.

 

 

 


If you are trying to tell a story - move back, zoom out. Get the environmental area in. Anything that adds to the story. Show their office, their craft, their home. Let the viewer see what they are doing. But try not to include anything that doesn't add to the story. Ie. Loads of road in front, lots of blank walls, lots of empty skies.

If we cropped in on Mum and bubs, we would have a cute cuddly shot. By showing cars, the carpark and roadside service we now have a story. 

If we cropped in on Mum and bubs, we would have a cute cuddly shot. By showing cars, the carpark and roadside service we now have a story. 

 

Technical

The combination of looking down on a subject and wide angle lens accentuates the head. It looks like the subject has a big head and small body. Good for a comical photo, not so much for a business portrait. 

The combination of looking down on a subject and wide angle lens accentuates the head. It looks like the subject has a big head and small body. Good for a comical photo, not so much for a business portrait. 


Focus on the eyes.
Take more photos than necessary. People blink, pull faces, look away.
Longer length lenses are most effective for portraits. Wide angle lenses (i.e., 24mm) tend to distort. If you do use a wide angle lens, keep people away from the edges of the frame and don't put them too close to the camera (unless creativity is what you are going for). 
If people start squinting or get sore eyes, get them to look at something green (that isn't too bright) for a moment before taking the photo. Green soothes.

Keep the person looking normal and in proportion by placing them in the centre of frame when using a wide angle lens.

Keep the person looking normal and in proportion by placing them in the centre of frame when using a wide angle lens.

 

You


Talk lots. It will relax people. 
Make fun of yourself.
Tell stories. Get people thinking about things they enjoy.
Demonstrate how you would like them to pose instead of talking them through it.
Scan their body and the background before taking the photo.
Give them a rest - faces will tighten up and look stiff. 
Instead of saying 'smile' ask them to think about something that makes them happy. Same goes with different emotions. Most people aren't actors, and emotions will show better when they are real rather than 'put on'.

How would you feel standing in front of a camera in your bikini? Not so confident? Time to get them thinking about anything but their body. Laugh, make fun of yourself, let them enjoy it. 

How would you feel standing in front of a camera in your bikini? Not so confident? Time to get them thinking about anything but their body. Laugh, make fun of yourself, let them enjoy it. 

Kids know how to pull weird smiles when asked. The best smile? The real one. Tell stories, get them to pull faces at each other or say funny things, then photograph the reactions. 

Kids know how to pull weird smiles when asked. The best smile? The real one. Tell stories, get them to pull faces at each other or say funny things, then photograph the reactions. 

 

Light


Make sure exposure is for the face. Sometimes you may need to move the person away from dark or light situations to get the right exposure. 

The most simple and beautiful light...
Pose your subject side on and close to a window. The window light will fall 3/4 on the face. Have a plain wall or background behind them.

Soft and beautiful window light on the faces. There is a flash creating the hairlight on the male, but the main light source is window light. Nice.

Soft and beautiful window light on the faces. There is a flash creating the hairlight on the male, but the main light source is window light. Nice.

 

Backlight

Backlit from over the shoulder. Moody and atmospheric.

Backlit from over the shoulder. Moody and atmospheric.


If someone is in the shade with a bright background behind them, the camera will try and expose for the background also. This can happen when there is a window behind someone, they are standing under a tree or are on the footpath in the shade of a building, and you are photographing out onto the street. If you only have Auto on your camera/iPhone, move the person, so the background isn't so bright. Remember; you can adjust your exposure on your iPhone by tapping the screen (a sun will appear near the focus square) and swiping up or down. 
Silhouettes are made when the light is measured off the backlight. Remember that you will not see much detail at all in the foreground so the shape should be interesting. A colourful sunset with no interesting shape doesn't make a beautiful photograph. 

A cruise ship is one HUGE reflector. Look at the light on the faces. l

A cruise ship is one HUGE reflector. Look at the light on the faces. l

Flash behind each shoulder to provide definition. Very graphic. You can do this with the sun and a reflector also.

Flash behind each shoulder to provide definition. Very graphic. You can do this with the sun and a reflector also.

Silhouette from stage lighting. Always look for light and what it is doing. 

Silhouette from stage lighting. Always look for light and what it is doing. 

 

Midday sun

Action shots disguise the shadows on faces. 

Action shots disguise the shadows on faces. 

Avoid photographing people when the sun is overhead. It will give them dark eyes similar to shark eyes. Black and deep. 
Move your subject to some shade. If there is no shade, either face them away from the sun (and expose for their face) or have them looking into the sun (ouch) making sure no horrible shadows are on their face. One other alternative is to get them doing something and move out, so you have a more contexual 'story' photograph rather than portrait. 

In less than flattering light, create interest in movement and action rather than concentrating directly at the face.

In less than flattering light, create interest in movement and action rather than concentrating directly at the face.

Move to shade if possible. You can see in this photo the woman is under shade and the background is slightly brighter. The light on her skin is soft compared to the background. 

Move to shade if possible. You can see in this photo the woman is under shade and the background is slightly brighter. The light on her skin is soft compared to the background. 


Individual portrait


'If it bends, bend it' otherwise, people will look like soldiers. Bend elbows, put weight on one leg, tilt head, relax fingers.
Your subject doesn't always have to be centred - leave some negative space. 
If you are leaving negative space, normally you would face the person into the photograph, so the eyes are drawn through the photo rather than off the side of the photo.

Bend the body so it's not upright like a soldier. Even though the woman is leaning out of the photo, I've got her looking at the camera and knee facing in. 

Bend the body so it's not upright like a soldier. Even though the woman is leaning out of the photo, I've got her looking at the camera and knee facing in. 

This woman is looking back into the photo. Slightly tilted head and bend in the elbows. 

This woman is looking back into the photo. Slightly tilted head and bend in the elbows. 

 

Groups

A triangle of heads where the focus is (where the students are looking). By scattering them, they look natural. 

A triangle of heads where the focus is (where the students are looking). By scattering them, they look natural. 

 

 

 

The triangle rule - try and compose, so the heads are in triangles. Not all in one even line or straight up and down. 
Get them involved in their environment. Leaning on a desk, scattered over stairs, etc.Don't be scared of leaving a little bit of space around people. 
Unless it's a 'social picture' avoid posing the group all in one line. Scatter them, seat some, lean some, group them in mini groups, turn some to face the other way...

 

Notice the groups of triangles formed within the placement of heads. Imagine if this photo had all the bike riders lined up in a straight line - boring. 

Notice the groups of triangles formed within the placement of heads. Imagine if this photo had all the bike riders lined up in a straight line - boring. 

 

Kids 


Get down to their level. Shoot lots. Don't expect them to sit still and look at a camera. Get emotion.
Action shots will be much more entertaining and engaging than smiling at the camera photographs. 
Use a high shutter speed. I try for at least 1/125 but prefer 1/250.
Take a series of photos showing their movement and expression.

By getting down to eye level you can see what they child is seeing.

By getting down to eye level you can see what they child is seeing.

Shooting at eye level makes the viewer feel they are there in the photo.

Shooting at eye level makes the viewer feel they are there in the photo.

 

Party/event

Details make an event. Don't forget to photograph them to tell the complete story.

Details make an event. Don't forget to photograph them to tell the complete story.


Details - decoration, signage, facilities
Overview of location from different angles and viewpoints
Portraits/social photos - get names for use when you supply to magazines/newspapers etc
VIPs/speakers - take lots as sometimes it's hard to time when they will look good. Have you ever looked at yourself in the mirror while talking? Try doing it slowly and see what your face does. 
Candid - take lots. Again, so people are looking good. A long lens is perfect for these images as people won't be conscious of you. Get people interacting with the environment, laughing, talking, with food, etc.

Even when you get busted taking photos - they can make great images. 

Even when you get busted taking photos - they can make great images. 

Social images. Everyone wants to see themself.

Social images. Everyone wants to see themself.

VIP, entertainment and speakers. Get lots to make sure they look good.

VIP, entertainment and speakers. Get lots to make sure they look good.

Candid photos to show people enjoying themselves.

Candid photos to show people enjoying themselves.

 

Action photos


The flash will freeze the action, allowing you to be flexible with your shutter speed. 
If you want everything sharp use the following shutter speeds as a guide. These are assuming your subject is close to the camera, around 3m. The further your subject is away from the camera, the slower the shutter speed you can have.

Person walking 1/125
Person jogging 1/250
Cyclist/running/fast sport 1/500
Car 1/1000

If you want to have movement and blur in the photo, and maintain just the flash sharpness, start with a shutter of 1/30 or slower. 

A shutter speed of about 1/1000 or more would have been used for this image. Each person photographed individually then composited in to the final image. 

A shutter speed of about 1/1000 or more would have been used for this image. Each person photographed individually then composited in to the final image. 

A fast shutter speed of at least 1/500 would keep all objects in focus and sharp. 

A fast shutter speed of at least 1/500 would keep all objects in focus and sharp. 

This image would have been captured at 1/60 however if the shutter speed was even lower (1/8 or 1/15) it would be better. It would show the movement of dance rather than freezing them. 

This image would have been captured at 1/60 however if the shutter speed was even lower (1/8 or 1/15) it would be better. It would show the movement of dance rather than freezing them. 

The shutter speed for this image would have been approx. 1/60 but because the people are walking across the frame, near to the lens, the movement is emphasised.

The shutter speed for this image would have been approx. 1/60 but because the people are walking across the frame, near to the lens, the movement is emphasised.

You can see by the shadows that the sun was lower in the sky but still quite bright (defined shadows and neutral coloured light). The image was also photographed with a wide angle lens which keeps things sharper. A high shutter speed would still have been used to minimise blur (about 1/250 or higher) however, if I was to photograph this again today, I'd blur the wheels a bit to add movement. Having the spokes moving but people sharp would be the best. 

You can see by the shadows that the sun was lower in the sky but still quite bright (defined shadows and neutral coloured light). The image was also photographed with a wide angle lens which keeps things sharper. A high shutter speed would still have been used to minimise blur (about 1/250 or higher) however, if I was to photograph this again today, I'd blur the wheels a bit to add movement. Having the spokes moving but people sharp would be the best. 

 

People at night


Use a slow shutter to allow the natural light to filter into the photograph.  This allows more ambient light to be captured. If your camera is set for flash only, the background will be black. Having said this though, I wouldn't set my shutter slower than 1/60 - if someone moves, or if you move, the photo will be blurry.
Try a shutter speed of 1/15 or lower (with flash) for blurring people while dancing. The flash will freeze them enough to see the person, but the slow shutter will blur outlines, background and add movement.

A slower shutter brings up the ambient light and colour.

A slower shutter brings up the ambient light and colour.

A slow shutter shows the environment.

A slow shutter shows the environment.

Using a fast shutter and direct flash would result in nothing but blackness in the background.

Using a fast shutter and direct flash would result in nothing but blackness in the background.

 

Photographing people in their environment - unposed


Don't be shy. If you approach people the right way, they will usually be happy to have their photo taken. 


If you see an opportunity, take the photo, then ask. That way you won't get a 'posey' photo. You can always get more if they are happy to have their photo taken. And you can always delete if they are not happy to be photographed. 


Talk to people. Make friends. Your photos will have more meaning when there is a story behind it. 


Use foreground and frames to lead the eye in.


Keep your shutter speed above 1/60 to prevent blur. Even at 1/60, if your subject moves their head, you may get blur.


Take lots of photos when people are moving about, or getting crowd shots. You can't see what everyone is doing, and there is nothing worse than getting back to the computer and seeing someone 'ruining' your only photo.

Grabbing a shot first, then asking, can result in more natural looking photos, even if the person is trying not to pose.

Grabbing a shot first, then asking, can result in more natural looking photos, even if the person is trying not to pose.

Being sly and quick can be helpful - before the person spots you and changes expression. 

Being sly and quick can be helpful - before the person spots you and changes expression. 

Even when you are spotted, it's normally a natural smile and expression. 

Even when you are spotted, it's normally a natural smile and expression. 

Taking multiple photos of the one scene to get the best results. 

Taking multiple photos of the one scene to get the best results. 

Even when people know you are taking a photo, the expressions and movement on all of the people takes time. 

Even when people know you are taking a photo, the expressions and movement on all of the people takes time. 

Change view point and focal distance to add variety. You can then select the best later.

Change view point and focal distance to add variety. You can then select the best later.

 

Different flash light


Fill flash

Adding flash to even out the natural light filtering through the big windows. 

Adding flash to even out the natural light filtering through the big windows. 

You expose for the ambient light but add flash to give a little sparkle in the eyes. Just enough to add highlights in the eyes and lightly soften shadows and lines.

As people age, unless you are going for dramatic, soft and even lighting is best.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3/4 light

A light off to the side adds dimension and shape to curves of the body and products. 

A light off to the side adds dimension and shape to curves of the body and products. 

Light is off to the side of your subject, causing a shadow on 1/4 of the face. This type of light is beautiful, adding dimension and texture. Be careful of the nose shadow. Move the light to either lengthen or shorten the shadow. The more frontal the light, the shorter the nose shadow. I like to join the nose shadow with the shadow on the side of the face, creating a triangular light under the eye or keep the shadow in close to the nose.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Backlight

Back light makes it feel light and soft - even in a dark forest. It also draws attention to the focus.

Back light makes it feel light and soft - even in a dark forest. It also draws attention to the focus.

Creates a halo around the head. Separates the subject from the background. A backlight can be from directly behind the subject or off to one side. Nine times out of ten I put the light 3/4 off to one side, the opposite side of the front light. A backlight is normally mimicking the sun behind a person, so put it up high. Be careful not to cast shadows on the face or have it too bright.

 

 

Frontal light

If you have objects in front of the face, you don't want them to cause dark shadows. By moving the light from the side to the front, you can avoid this. You can see by the collar shadow the light was slightly off to the left hand side - that way, if there was a shadow cast by the microscope, it wouldn't fall on her face.

If you have objects in front of the face, you don't want them to cause dark shadows. By moving the light from the side to the front, you can avoid this. You can see by the collar shadow the light was slightly off to the left hand side - that way, if there was a shadow cast by the microscope, it wouldn't fall on her face.


Frontal light creates minimal shadows. Soft frontal light is one of the nicest lights for filling in shadows, wrinkles and imperfections. It replicates tone in a natural way (i.e.,. showing graduation between eye shadow colour or blush).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You and Your Rights:

For full details, contact www.artlaw.com.au or Australian Copyright Council. 
If you want to use your image for a commercial purpose, you will need a Talent or Property Release.
If you are using the image for Editorial use only, you don't.
If you are on public property, you can photograph anyone you want, whether they are on public property or not.
However, some landmarks, buildings, and monuments are restricted. Especially when the photograph is for a commercial purpose. 
Locations include
Sydney Opera House precinct
Kakadu National Park
Commonwealth Reserves
Australian National Botanic Gardens
plus much more.
Also, remember that artwork, sculptures and monuments may be protected by Copyright. Public artworks have some exceptions. 
There is a lot of if's and but's with Copyright and Photographers Rights - check out the authorities websites for up to date information. 

 


HOMEWORK:

 

Take three different portraits utilising different techniques/light/situations and upload (at least one) to Facebook. Explain what you did and what you wanted to achieve. 

 


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Landscape photos

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