Basics of Portrait Photography Talk

Following Monday’s Basics of Portrait Photography talk, hosted by Kevin and Richard, a few members asked if it would be possible to share the information slides shown.

Unfortunately it’s not possible to upload the slides from Kevin’s part of the meeting, however, below you’ll find a brief summary of the info covered (along with links to the videos shown) and a copy of the slides from Richard’s part of the talk…

Summary of Kevin’s 3 Simple Steps to Better Portrait Photography.

Step One: Backgrounds…

  • Try to select a background which is clean and free from obstructions. Look for distractions such as light switches, traffic signs, lamposts etc.
  • Consider moving either yourself or your subject to achieve a clean background. Sometimes a few steps to the side or a change of height of the camera can be enough to remove a distraction.
  • Where possible try to avoid bright colours in the background such as white or red as these will draw the viewers eye away from the main focal point of the image.
  • Don’t rely on Photoshop to clone out distractions as this can become very time consuming to correct in post processing.

Step Two: Depth of Field…

  • A shallow depth of field will reduce sharpness in the background which will help the viewer to focus on the main image subject.
  • Wide apertures will achieve a softer background focus, however, be cautious when using very wide apertures as this can result in parts of the subject falling out of focus (eg at f2.8 or wider you may find the subjects eye is sharp however the tip of the nose and the ears are falling out of focus).
  • It was widely agreed that the ‘ideal’ aperture range for most portraits would be around f5.6 to f8 however this is not a strict guideline.
  • Where aperture cannot be directly controlled, such as using a phone or simple compact camera, depth of field can still be controlled to a degree. 
    • The distance from your subject to your background and the focal length selected will affect the depth of field.
    • The greater the distance between the subject and the background the softer the background focus.
    • The longer the focal length used (see step three) the shallower the depth of field.
    • If you cant control the aperture then control the subject to background distance or focal length to achieve a similar result.

Step Three: Focal Length…

  • See the following two YouTube videos to understand the effect of focal length when composing and taking portraits;
  • The videos show almost the same content but highlight the benefits and possible pitfalls when selecting a focal length when shooting a portrait along with examples of images at different focal lengths you can use as examples of what looks good and what doesn’t.

The slides from Richard’s part of the meeting can be viewed HERE

We hope you enjoyed the first of the four Basics of Portrait Photography sessions. In the next session on Monday 23rd October Kevin and Richard will be taking you through some studio lighting set up’s, how the angle and height of the light affects an image, what the different types of light are and a few other considerations you’ll need to take into account when shooting in or recreating a studio environment.