10 mistakes beginner portraitists make

Photography is an art form that allows you to show a variety of stories, freeze moments and preserve beautiful memories. Each shot is a means of communication between the photographer and the viewer, because a truly unique and amazing work not only attracts attention, but also makes one person experience and feel what the other person experienced, who decided at a certain moment to press the camera shutter button.

In the world of photography, there is a huge number of genres in which you can work and develop, however, as a rule, all beginners prefer to start their journey with portrait photography, considering it as one of the simplest genres, however, there are also nuances that are worth knowing about.

What exactly is portrait photography? Portraits are photographs of people. It would seem that photographing a person is not so difficult, so why is this genre not so simple? The thing is that just taking a picture of a person is one thing, and conveying his emotions, showing individuality and liberating means reaching a completely new level.

To create great portraits, you need not only to understand the camera settings and know the basic theory, but also to be able to work with people, correctly expose the light, choose the right clothes for the model and have knowledge of posing. Over time, other skills are developed, such as vision and composition and processing.

It is customary to shoot portraits in a vertical position, i.e. turning the camera 90 degrees (this is the portrait position), so the frame will turn out not only elongated, but also convenient for framing and building a composition. A group of people should be shot horizontally.

When shooting large portraits, it is extremely important to avoid using a wide-angle lens, as the images will be distorted, which in turn will affect perspective and naturalness.

In portrait photography, there is no need to close the aperture too much, as is usually done for landscapes or architecture, since the photographer does not need to capture much detail, and the background will be completely blurred. The main thing is to make sure that the eyes of the model are in focus, otherwise the depth and emotionality of the picture is lost. In addition, such a picture may even turn out to be a defect.

Opening the aperture as much as possible allows you to eliminate unnecessary details and focus the viewer’s attention on what you want to show them. Focus and blur can be used to manipulate other people’s attention. In addition, opening the aperture allows the background to be blurred beautifully.

Shutter speed and ISO depends on the conditions in which you are shooting. If the photoshoot is scheduled for a sunny summer day, then the ISO will be minimal, and the shutter speed can go up to 1/1000 s or even higher, which allows you to get the sharpest pictures and take dynamic shots in motion.

In low light conditions, shake and blur should be avoided (in the absence of light, autofocus may make mistakes). You will most likely need to raise the ISO level or use slow shutter speeds. If your plans include deliberate shake-up to add motion and further edit the shot in the style of film, you can photograph a moving subject at slow shutter speeds.

What mistakes beginner portraitists make? It’s important to remember that these are just rules, and rules need to be broken at times for the sake of creativity, originality and experimentation.

1. Bad shot composition.

 Композиция неудачного выстрела

One of the most common mistakes in portrait photography is poor composition: the habit of leaving too much or, conversely, little space above the head of the subject, placing it too close to the edges and not being guided by the rules of composition (rule of thirds, golden ratio, lines and diagonals, etc.). in order to obtain the most harmonious and eye-pleasing result. The emptiness in a photograph does not always make it better, unless there is important information above the person’s head that one wants to show (for example, an interesting background).

2. Too distracting background.

Слишком отвлекающий фон

In-focus detail behind your subject can be distracting and eye-catching. Try to make sure that unnecessary objects or people do not fall into the pictures (if this was not originally intended). Also, try to decide on the colors you want to work with before shooting: advise your model to find clothes in colors that would perfectly match the background.

3. The subject is too close to the background.

Объект находится слишком близко к фону

If you want to make the background blurry, then place the subject at some distance from it, not next to it. For example, to blur a wall or a building behind an object in a natural way, and not through Photoshop, you need to position the model at some distance from the background, and take a few steps back yourself.

4. Incorrect focus or lack of focus.

Неправильный фокус или отсутствие фокуса

The most important thing in portraits is the eyes, so make sure that you focus on the eyes, and not on the nose or cheek (autofocus can often move out here). Take your time while shooting and check the filmed result on the spot (this helps to avoid and notice mistakes made).

Remember that it is not the number of shots that matters, but their quality and originality, so be an artist and photographer, not a machine gunner (you don’t need to take 1000 shots per hour of shooting). In this case, there is a chance to make more mistakes and get a defect, and not a good result (autofocus does not always work quickly).

If you are shooting a person in full face, then it is quite easy to focus on the eyes. If you shoot in profile, then here you have to focus on the eye that is closer to you. Do not forget that you can focus your subject and then, without releasing the shutter button, frame the picture.

5. Using slow shutter speeds.

People are always in motion (exception: static footage), so to freeze them, use fast shutter speeds (unless you plan to do the effect of slight blur or dynamics on purpose). The optimal shutter speed is 1/250 s. Longer exposures can already be problematic.

6. Insufficient or poor lighting.

Недостаточное или плохое освещение

Modern cameras can take pictures even in almost complete absence of light, but it is quite easy to make mistakes.

When shooting portraits, it is very important to have the right lighting to match the mood you want to create in your photographs. Hard, high-contrast lighting is not suitable if you want a soft, romantic portrait. Likewise, soft light will not help you create drama in a photograph of a person.

The best light for portrait photography is natural light. Great shots can be taken in the morning or before sunset during the golden hour, and near a window. Make sure that the rays are scattered, not straight, otherwise there will be harsh shadows on the model’s face.

If the face is only lit on one side, you can use a reflector and fill the shadows with soft light on the other side.

7. Take the same shots.

You need to take a lot of diverse photographs that you will select during the processing. Try to capture the different poses and emotions of the model. What you definitely don’t need to do is sit with the camera in burst mode, filling the card with almost identical images. Your client will definitely appreciate the variety of shots.

8. Fill the memory card completely.

Полностью заполните карту памяти.

Finding a balance between not enough and too many photos can be difficult. Some people like to be photographed for a long period of time, while others prefer short photoshoots. If your subject gets bored or anxious about taking too long or taking too many photos, it will reflect on his face and ultimately affect the final result.

9. Inability to find a common language with the model.

Неумение найти общий язык с моделью

The photographer must be able to find a common language with the model and create comfortable shooting conditions for her, as well as constantly maintain a conversation and give tips.

Many newbies spend more time and attention setting up equipment instead of talking to a customer. This is a big mistake during a portrait photoshoot.

Establishing an understanding with your subject, even if you only have a few minutes, can have the greatest impact on the photos you get. A person will be good at taking pictures and happy to pose only if he trusts the photographer. It is important that he feels as comfortable and relaxed as possible.

10.  Don’t give hints to the model.

Не давайте намеков на модель

No one will enjoy working with a silent photographer who doesn’t suggest anything, but just takes shots and waits for the model to take a new pose. A person who has never ordered a photoshoot before can always come to your shooting, imagine how he will feel.

Not every person feels confident in front of the lens, not everyone has the skills to pose, which is why it is extremely important to maintain contact and communicate with their models throughout the shooting. Just try to avoid personal topics.

A person does not see himself, only you can see him, so he needs to be given directions and tips all the time. Even professional models listen to the tips of the photographers, as the photographer from the outside knows better what is going on. In addition, they see the result on the camera screen. Of course, the model can also see the result in the process of shooting on the screen of the camera or, as it happens on professional filming (for example, for magazines or catalogs) on a laptop.

Keep in mind that you will be using the captured images in your portfolio, so leading the model is a great way to get the images you want.

Lack of confidence.
Many newbies are afraid of their first shootings, especially in studios and with strangers. They have many responsibilities on their shoulders, and any mistake can upset or undermine their sense of self-confidence.

Even if you made some mistake, try to fix it quietly. And in any case, do not panic and do not show your lack of confidence to the client, as he, too, will begin to worry and, in the end, will be disappointed in the shooting. Even if something is not working out for you, pretend that everything is going well. If the client wants to try something difficult that you still cannot do, admit that you are just learning and have not done this before, but are ready to try and try to make a good result. In most cases, people react positively when you say that you are just learning, because they understand how difficult it can be to start learning something from scratch, especially on your own.

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