Tag Archives: Portraiture

A fast and simple introduction to portrait photography

How to make a digital camera

A rapid but full introduction to portraiture


When I introduce a new idea or a concept in these pages I often provide a video to help put the point across. Well, here is a video that stands up on its own. It is a light and simple introduction to portraiture. It bombs along at a great rate and has plenty to say about good principles in portrait photography. So, without further ado here it is. It’s 4mins 15secs long.

How to take great portrait photos


VideoJug  External link - opens new tab/page
Portraiture – Resources on Photokonnexion.com

Comments, additions, amendments or ideas on this article?
Contact Us
or why not leave a comment at the bottom of the page…

Do you understand the play of light on faces?

Video

Video

Understanding light involves seeing it on your subject…

That understanding comes from seeing light in different environments. Next time you are outside look at the light and shadow on the faces of people around you. Look for light/shadow relationships and look out for light playing on the face – how it moves around as the face moves in the light.

The play of light on faces is interesting, but often ugly

When you study faces and light together you will see that there are some pretty ugly shapes and shadows created by light on the face. We are programmed to follow edges, lines and contrasts with our eyes. Oddly, we see these on faces all the time but tend to ignore them.

Normally we ignore the ugliness of bad light because we have no control over light on other peoples faces. And, our familiarity with the face turns off our attention to light. It allows us to forget that faces can be pretty ugly in bad light or a bad position relative to the light.

Somehow, when we translate a scene to a 2 dimensional picture, these shapes, contrasts and lines created by light on the face become more obvious than in real life. They seem to take on an ugliness that we normally do not see.

‘Picture-awareness’, what we see on pictures but not in real life, happens in a lot of things. With faces it is pretty important. For photographers doing portraits it can make or break a picture. Becoming familiar with the concept is important if you want your portraits to succeed.

How to use natural light and fill flash Portrait tutorial

In the video Tony Northrup shows how light and shadow can be changed to your advantage easily and simply.

Tony Northrup  External link - opens new tab/page

Comments, additions, amendments or ideas on this article? Contact Us

find out more...Photokonnexion tips by email
If you enjoyed this article please sign up for our
Tips by email service.
                                                 Find out more

Simple portrait tips, excellent advice

Simple portrait tips - Excellent Advice

• Portrait by Bambi Cantrell •
Simple portrait tips: seeing the person, seeing the light, seeing simplicity.
(Image from the video)

The best portraits show the person

When photographer and subject gel the magic of portrait photography bursts forth. Bambi Cantrell just bubbles over with enthusiasm about portraiture. And, she gives simple portrait tips and great advice. See the person, see the light – make it simple. In this short video she explains about her portraiture. Really worth watching for the enthusiasm and the advice.

Wedding & Portrait Photography Tips & Advice by Bambi Cantrell

This video is all about simple portrait tips although Bambi also includes wedding photography ideas. But much of wedding work is about portraiture.
Marc Silber – Silber Studios

Simple portrait tips and light

The simplicity in seeing light passes many beginners by when they are starting. These simple portrait tips reveal how light can be used to good effect. But in real terms many of the most important tips about photography are lost if you don’t get great light. So follow up these simple portrait tips with a study of light – especially in your portrait work. Check out these Light and Lighting resources, articles and links

Comments, additions, amendments or ideas on this article? Contact Us

find out more...Photokonnexion tips by email
If you enjoyed this article please sign up for our
Tips by email service.
                                                 Find out more

Damon Guy - Netkonnexion

Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is a writer-photographer and editor of this site. He has run some major websites, a computing department and a digital image library. He started out as a trained teacher and now runs training for digital photogs.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’.
By Damon Guy see his profile on Google+.

Engaging portraits – it’s all in the hands

• It's all in the hands •

• It’s all in the hands •
The hands are very important for directing the eye around a portrait
Click image to view large
• Portrait 4 • Kayte Allen on Flickr External link - opens new tab/page

Make your portraits draw the eye…

Here is a quick tip with lots of examples. To make your portraits flow and to help direct the eye to the right places use the hands to help direct the viewers eye.

Up and down loses the eye

The typical beginners full length portrait shows the subject standing upright, arms limp and lifeless at their sides and a sort of half grimace on their faces. Coupled with a portrait-aspect crop this disaster is a straight-through for the eye.

Despite what charms lie below the face, we look there first. We seem to be programmed to do it. Then we follow the rest of the body down with our eyes. IF everything points downward our eyes continue to the feet and then we lose the eye out of the bottom of the frame.

The hands can use the power of lines to redirect the eye

The eye is trained to follow lines and edges – these are places where contrasts are the most obvious and there the eye can see the differences in light and pick out detail. This is the power of lines in Composition – they literally create tracks that the eye follows.

The power of the lines in upright, long portraits is to direct the eye downward and out of the picture. That will always happen unless some form of stopper can be used to direct the eye to where the main interest lies. No better way to do that than with arms and hands. They can be used to stop the eye progressing downward by placing them across the body or they can be used to direct the eye back to the face by pointing upward. They can even be used to direct the eye around to follow the curves of the face and head as in the portrait above.

Some long shots

In the next few pictures you can see how the eye is directed out of the picture by the vertical lines, the portrait crop and the stance of the subject…

• The Photographer •

• The Photographer •

Mum - the loving supporter

Mum – the loving supporter

• Portrait by Virotutis on Flickr •

• Portrait by Virotutis on Flickr •
While this is an interesting picture and has a fun aspect to it, the whole image works to force the eye downward. It is a great picture, but the direction to the eye is almost undeniable.
Click image to view large
• Portrait by Virotutis on Flickr •External link - opens new tab/page

The hands can change everything…

Consider now the way the subtle lines and positions of the hands and the arms redirect the eye back to the face in these shots. These portraits have so much more to offer the eye because the hands bring us back – prevent us from going out of the image.

• Portrait with the hat •

• Portrait with the hat •
The hat acts to stop the eye getting lost upwards. The arm and hand
act to keep the eye returning from the lower end of the shot. The enigmatic smile
provides wonderful interest. A thoroughly engaging portrait.
Click image to view large
• Portrait with the hat • by DeusXFlorida on Flickr External link - opens new tab/page

• Portrait by GummyPiglet on Flickr •

• Portrait by GummyPiglet on Flickr •
The wonderful light, the great use of the arm and hand and the lovely expression create a circle for the eye. Out down the arm and back to the face. A great shot.
Click image to view large
• Portrait by GummyPiglet on Flickr •External link - opens new tab/page

• Portrait by Benjamin Ballande, on Flickr •

• Portrait by Benjamin Ballande, on Flickr •
The strong framing with the darker top and hood act to allow the eye to stray downward after the face. But the upward arm and the hand around the face creates an endless cycle of interest around this lovely portrait.
Click image to view large
• Portrait by Benjamin Ballande, on Flickr •External link - opens new tab/page

• Portrait by natali Antonovich on Flickr  •

• Portrait by natali Antonovich on Flickr •
The technique works on men too. The eye naturally comes down the shoulder, and is drawn back up the arm to the face again. An interesting character in this one.
Click image to view large
• Portrait by natali Antonovich on Flickr •External link - opens new tab/page

Portrait workshop, I by Vicco Gallo

• Portrait workshop, I by Vicco Gallo •
The sweep of the hair, the collar and hint of jewellery act to take the eye out of the picture. In the nice of time the thumb sweeps up the eye and the fingers divert us back to the face again. Engaging!
Portrait workshop, I by Vicco Gallo, on Flickr External link - opens new tab/page

The hands and the arms rule the lines

We have an almost pathological need to go to the face or hands with our eyes. The rest is almost incidental. Used properly you can cycle the viewers eye endlessly in the portrait. It is a great technique and one that really satisfies the eye.

Comments, additions, amendments or ideas on this article? Contact Us

find out more...Photokonnexion tips by email
If you enjoyed this article please sign up for our
Tips by email service.
                                                 Find out more

Can you write? Of course you can!
Write for Photokonnexion...

We would love to have your articles or tips posted on our site.
Find out more…
Write for Photokonnexion.

By Damon Guy (author and Photokonnexion editor)

Damon Guy - Netkonnexion

Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is a writer-photog and editor of this site. He has run some major websites, a computing department and a digital image library. He started out as a trained teacher and now runs training for digital photographers.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’.

Thinking about different types of diffusion and reflection

• Diffusers and reflectors are important tools for using light •

• Diffusers and reflectors are important tools for using light •
Not all diffusers and reflectors are the same. Watch out for the different characteristics.
Photograph showing Mark Cleghorn of the Lastolite School of Photography
and three Lastolite reflectors/diffusers from the Skylite Rapid System.

Using light – creative fun…

Many photographers assume light is passive in the scene. I get really excited about working light. You can use two methods, modify or add light. Diffusers and reflectors are powerful modifiers to manipulate light. To add light you can use flash or continuous light sources. I want to expand on modifying light.

Modifying any light

You can use a modifier of any kind to change light and make it illuminate your scene the way you want. Light modifiers can include the use of gels, softboxes, and all manor of diffusers connected directly to the light source. However, reflectors and diffusers can also be free standing. Free-standing diffusers can be used to change the light from a natural source or an artificial one. However, remember that light falls off to a quarter of its intensity each time you double the distance from the source. Using a diffuser at a distance from an artificial source is going to significantly reduce the light intensity compared to using it at the source.

Using free standing diffusers and modifiers

I have previously written about table top still life photography and using modifiers. I mentioned that you can use white card as reflectors to bring light around the back of a table top subject. You can also use diffusers to reduce the natural light from a window. I use net curtains. The point is that actually there are a range of modifiers in you home and other places near at hand. Here are some simple household items I have used…

  • Diffusers: Net curtains, white blinds, paper, tissue paper, greaseproof paper, tracing paper, plastic bottles and containers frosted glass, drinking glasses, acrylic glass, white bed-sheets…
  • Reflectors: white walls, towels, card, silver paper, silvered insulation block, mirrors, white plates, white bed-sheets, white boxes, a slide projection screen, various white materials (cotton, nylon, wool)…

You might ask why I use such a wide range of different things as modifiers. That is a crucial point. Each and every one of those items in the list have different properties. For example reflectors with very course surfaces have very soft reflections indeed – towels are an example. A large sheet of white paper can be used as both a reflector and a diffuser in different ways and it has different properties too. People often don’t realise that light coming through glass is reduced by anything up to 40%. It is also scattered. So plain, see-through glass can actually be used as a diffuser and light reducer – depending on the properties of the glass. Frosted glass is an even better diffuser.

More after this…

find out more...Photokonnexion tips by email
Enjoying this article? Please sign up for our
Tips by email service.
                                                Find out more
#11030#

Most of these different materials and objects can be used by stretching them out, hanging them up or propping them up around or near your subject. All of them have a different impact on the final image. Some of the materials are better for table tops. Others are better for hanging and using for say, portraiture.

It is the properties that count

Modifying light is NOT about buying expensive equipment. While it is nice to have great tools for the job, for the photography enthusiast there are lots of other ways of getting a great result. Amateurs, enthusiasts and beginners alike can benefit from thinking about how the light is changed rather than by which equipment. It is the end result that is important, not the method or equipment used to do it.

Look for different properties and how to use the modifiers

In the video Mark Cleghorn shows us how to use a range of professional diffusers and deflectors. I would like you to think about the different properties of each of them. He shows us silvered ones, a semi-diffuser/reflector and lots of ways to use reflectors. He also makes various points about the way to use both reflectors and diffusers. The different properties have an impact on the shot – including light intensity, colour and reflective type. Overall Mark is showing us a variety of different types of modifying properties and how to use them.

You can use this knowledge to think about the things you have around the house. Once you have used something to modify light a few times you will have a knowledge of the type of light it creates. Then, you can experiment with other objects and materials. After a while you will develop a feel for creating different types of light for your various subjects. Becoming a master of light is about knowing what you can do with the materials at hand.

Using the Skylite Rapid system from Lastolite  External link - opens new tab/page

By Damon Guy (author and Photokonnexion editor)

Damon Guy - Netkonnexion

Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is a writer-photog and editor of this site. He has run some major websites, a computing department and a digital image library. He started out as a trained teacher and now runs training for digital photographers.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’.

Can you write? Of course you can!
Write for Photokonnexion...

We would love to have your articles or tips posted on our site.
Find out more…
Write for Photokonnexion.

The secret to a wonderful black background with moody lighting

Mastering the black background

• Mastering the black background •
With very little practice you can get a perfect black background and moody lighting.

The eye is captured by solid black.

It provides a really focussed experience for the viewer. Low key and solid black backgrounds provide a wonderful insight on detail and features. If you get this right it provides an excellent insight for portraits and helps many other aspects of your photography. This is a technique I use for product photos, still life, landscapes and flower photography.

Simplicity itself

The technique involves using a bright light (off camera flash) to overpower the ambient light. The steps are simple…

  • Set your camera to its lowest ISO setting (around ISO 100) – the sensor is least sensitive to light.
  • Set your aperture to a high f number (small aperture = low light), say f11, or higher so that the amount of light your camera lets in is very small.
  • Take a test shot to ensure your screen is black – you want nothing to show.
  • Shoot with a diffused off-camera flash at full power using a narrow beam.

This simple technique is relying on extreme underexposure. Basically you are underexposing the whole scene to blackness. But then you are introducing a very narrow beam of brightness that overcomes a limited area of the underexposed shot. This leaves your highlighted spot on the subject in a moody light with the rest in black.

Photography Technique: The Invisible Black Background

Glyn Dewis  External link - opens new tab/page introduces the technique on video. Notice the way the umbrella is creating a focussed narrow beam of light. You can do the same thing with “barn door” lights or cards either side of a reflected flash. Enjoy the video…

By Damon Guy (author and Photokonnexion editor)

Damon Guy - Netkonnexion

Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is a writer-photog and editor of this site. He has run some major websites, a computing department and a digital image library. He started out as a trained teacher and now runs training for digital photographers.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’.

Three great ideas to make group shots more compelling

Group shots - Bloomingdale beach girls put their heads together by JeromesPOV, on Flickr

Bloomingdale beach girls put their heads together
Click image to view large
Bloomingdale beach girls put their heads together by JeromesPOV, on Flickr External link - opens new tab/page

Group shots are about togetherness.

It’s important in any picture is to connect subject and viewer. Some pictures are more compelling than others. Here are three powerful ideas for group shots.

Group shots and cohesion

More compelling group shots show cohesion. A happy group of friends shows great cohesion. Much more than people on a street corner waiting to cross. Something in a friend-group holds them together. There are many ways to build cohesion in a group shot. I try to get the group to put their heads together. When people want to bring their heads close, or touching, it shows great intimacy. Cohesion is strong.

There are many ways to show cohesion . Another form of it is arms around each other. You could ask your group to be leaning in the same way. That imparts a powerful group-force. Group hugs are fun! Another idea is to pose arms in a similar way or a direction. You can also use pointing legs.

Commonality in group shots

Group shots can hang together well without being intimate. A common theme in the group shows a dynamic togetherness. Colour is a good theme. If I am doing family portraits it is important to capture the faces. Any distraction takes away the family feel. Bring the family group close with similar colours and clothes. That helps prevent distraction from the faces to create togetherness.

Poses of all sorts can help too. When you are all doing the same thing it pulls the group together. The pose does not have to be intimate. It just needs to show a common theme in the pose.

Group shots - Saudi Graduates by Ben SJ, on Flickr

• Saudi Graduates •
Doing something in common like the pose here, or wearing similar clothes helps the group to have a common theme.
Click image to view large
Saudi Graduates by Ben SJ, on FlickrExternal link - opens new tab/page

Framing

A strong element of composition in group portraits is framing. Find a frame to constrain your group shots in small places. It helps them look more cohesive. This is especially if the frame keeps them close together. A great example is wedding photography. Close members of the family pictured between tight columns outside a church is a good way to pull the group together. The columns prevent the eye from straying out sideways. The family hold the eye as a result.

More after this…

find out more...Photokonnexion tips by email
Enjoying this article? Please sign up for our
Tips by email service.
                                                Find out more
#11030#

Group intimacy through framing can be shot in trees or other landscape features. If the framing feature is not too strong the group will gain from being close and still be the centre of interest. Using landscape features is great for one-off family shots on holiday.

A traditional form of framing is the use of the vignette. You make a vignette in post production. Use a shadow or white-out technique at the edge of the picture and around the corners. It helps focus the eye gently to the centre of the picture.

Fishermen ... and friends!

• Fishermen … and friends! •
Small group portrait shot in Green Harbour, Massachussets
This shot pulls it all together. Close head intimacy (right hand three). Togetherness pose (arm positions, smiles/expressions). Commonality in colour/clothes. Common theme – fishing. Framing – the boat roof stops the eye straying upward.
Click image to view large
Fishermen … and friends! Small group portrait shot in Green Harbour, Massachusetts by Nicola Zingarelli, on Flickr External link - opens new tab/page

Getting it all together

There are lots of ways to help make your group shots hang together. Try to add cohesion, commonality and framing to your group shots. You’ll be on the way to a compelling shot.

Netkonnexion

Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is managing editor of Photokonnexion.com with professional experience in photography, writing, image libraries, and computing. He is also an experienced, webmaster and a trained teacher. Damon runs regular training for digital photographers who are just starting out.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’
By Damon Guy :: Profile on Google+