Portraiture, as an art form, is much older than photography. Great portrait masters have spent their lives learning this art. Vikas Sharma, a self taught photographer, finds himself in the same pursuit. He shares some of the rules of portrait photography, with the hope that one breaks them.
1. Eyes do the Talking
They are the foundation of a portrait. What do you want to do with them? Strong eyes, spontaneous, piercing, dull, happy or sad? Eyes looking away from the camera? Or closed, perhaps? Look at the subject’s eyes and decide what kind of story they speak. You can read the subject’s mind just by looking into their eyes.
2. Composing the Story
Just as an artist draws on his blank canvas, think about how will you compose within your viewfinder. Are you going to show the surrounding or just a blank background? Again, this will be dictated by what you want to show in your portrait.
3. No Talking at the Back
The strongest portraits are the ones, which emphasise the subject by using a simple blank background. Keep things simple, unless there is something really exciting in the background that complements the story. If you are unable to control the background due to the limitation of a studio, use a shallow depth of field to blur out the background.
4. Light-up Your Thoughts
While this is an infinite subject in itself and the most important one too, keep it simple. Keep it soft. Look at how great artists like Rembrandt have played with it. Think about what you want to achieve. Will it be flat? Is it low key? Or high key? Will, it has the dimension or will it have drama? Will it be warm or cold? Or perhaps a combination of all these. Whatever you decide make sure the picture is about the subject and not your lighting talent.
5. The subject of the Discussion
Know your subject, make them comfortable. They should enjoy and have fun. Nervous or uncomfortable subjects don’t make good portraits. Don’t even show them a camera unless you know they are ready for the picture. If possible meet the subject in an informal setting before the day of the planned shoot. Get to know them and listen to their stories. It will give you ideas on what kind of portrait you want to shoot.
Also if you are a begainer, then make sure to:
a) Invest in a good portrait lens
– 60mm to 135mm is a good focal length range.
– Get a fast lens with the aperture of 2.8.
b) Pre-plan on lighting
– Be ready with a reflector if you are shooting outdoors.
c) Shoot a million pictures
– You definitely can with a digital camera.
– Try different angles, get high or down low.
– Focus on the eyes.
d) Use an aperture setting
– Between 1.4 to 8, depending on the lens.
e) Always shoot camera raw
– Do not apply any in-camera filters like contrast, saturation etc.
– Keep all those things for postproduction in Photoshop.
f) Learn Photoshop
– It’s your darkroom of the digital age. Commercial images today are 30% photography and 70% Photoshop.
Published in Issue 17
We tried to capture the time of chaos and confusion we all are in. How it inspires and influences creative thoughts. Starting with the cover design by Ankur Singh Patar, who captures the duality in the way we treat women. Followed by a conversation with Italian illustrator Giulio Iurissevich who explores beauty behind this chaos. And many more inspirational articles to explore.
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