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Thursday, 31 January 2013

Portrait Photography Guide


When I first started doing portrait photography, I wished there was a straight forward guide that explained to me what I needed to do to take awesome portraits. Every book that I read seemed like it contradicted the previous book. One Author would say, you should do things this way and another one would say you should it that way. Since I didn't know much about portrait photography at the time; they all seemed right. However, if everyone was right, then who should I have really listened to?
I decided to find a way that worked best for me. I had a lot of trial and errors and made a number of mistakes. If there is a thing that you are thinking of trying, chances are I may have already done it. I feel the best way to learn something and actually remember it, is to make a lot of mistakes!!!
For this guide, I am going to assume that you are a beginner and can't wait to get started. I hope that after you are done reading this guide, you will be able to take great portraits and hopefully get a paying gig.
I have divided beginner's guide to portrait photography into the following sections:
Picking Your Camera
Different Camera Modes
Finding Your Style
Picking Your Camera
As a beginner portrait photographer, you might get caught up in the "Megapixels" (aka - MP) hype. Some people might tell you - you NEED at least 8 MP for a good quality. Others might say - you MUST have at least 15 MP for a good quality photo. Then the camera company will say - you need this $10,000 camera which is 21 MP to take fantastic photos.
As a beginner, you might think more "Megapixels" means better pictures, right? I thought the same thing, but found out that's not always the case as there are other factors that are involved; such as camera exposure, light and so on.
I believe the better question you need to ask yourself as a beginner portrait photographer is what size pictures do you plan to print? Are you going to print - 4x6s, 5x7s, 8x10s, or 11x14s?
If you are only going to print 4x6s, you will need at least 800x1200 Pixel Resolution and 3 MP.
Different Camera Modes
Sometimes many beginner portrait photographers get confused about which camera mode they should use. Should they use P, AV, TV, or M? Let's find out what each of these modes can do.
In P (aka - Automatic or Professional) mode, your camera does everything for you. All you have to do is just point and shoot. In AV (aka - Aperture Priority) mode, here you can change the ISO and Aperture. In TV (aka - Shutter Priority) mode, here you can change the ISO and Shutter Speed. In M (aka - Manual) mode, here you can change everything (Aperture, Shutter Speed, and ISO).
I would suggest that you start of with "Professional Mode". This will allow you to focus more on building your own personal style. As you will learn later, building your own style is more IMPORTANT (in my opinion) than learning all the technical side of camera. i.e. camera settings.
After you feel comfortable enough to shoot in P mode, then you should move on to different modes. Your goal should be to feel comfortable enough to shoot in "Manual" mode. This is my favorite mode!!!
Finding Your Style 

There is a famous saying that I love and that's "what's being said is not as important but the way we say it is!!! It's not the subject of the photo, rather the way we take it, show it, and make it our own. If you take a group of 30 photographers to a location and ask them to take a picture, assuming that all of the photographers have the same cameras, you will get 30 different unique photos. But you will know which photo belongs to which photographer because of his/her unique style.

I believe one of the reasons why my clients hire me is because of my photography style. In my style, I try to show my personality and try to capture emotions (smiles, laughs, serious editorial looks, and so on) that I want to photograph.
When trying to find or build your own style, you might want to ask yourself what it is you love about the photograph or frame before actually taking a picture; then try to capture that. This could be a head shot, full body shot, just the face and so on.
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