Formulas that work - Portraiture





For any subject be it landscape, architecture or a candid shot, you need a strong visual focal point for the viewer to look at and further hold the attention. In case of portraits this is usually the eyes.
Direct eye contact is a good way of making someone look at the picture. Make sure that the eyes in this case are absolutely sharp. Which is why it is important to always focus on the eyes so that even when you are shooting with very shallow depth of field you are sure that atleast your eyes are in sharp focus. Eyes convey a lot about the character and the mood of the person. Whatever are the expressions, these are conveyed from the eyes. If you are shooting portraits you may activate the apropriate focusing point in the camera which overlaps the eyes.
Depth of field is shallow but the eyes have been kept in focus. When you focus at the eyes you are sure that the eyes will be in focus irrespective of the aperture or focal length which may lead to a shallow depth of field. Its just the eyes and the area around which is in sharp focus in this glamour shot where the model is looking right into the camera.The photograph would not have had the same impact if the eyes were not in focus. Direct eye contact always has the holding power in a portrait.
Shooting Mode    Shutter-Priority AE 
Tv( Shutter Speed )    1/125 
Av( Aperture Value )    4.5 
Metering Mode    Evaluative Metering 
Exposure Compensation    0 
ISO Speed    100 
Lens    EF70-200mm f/4L USM 
Focal Length    200.0 mm
Image Size    4368x2912 
Image Quality    RAW 
Flash    Off 
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Choose the Ideal focal length for the portraits.
85mm has generally been considered as one of the best focal lengths for portraits as it gives very flattering perspective and allows the photographer to be at a good shooting distance from the subject. Although you may use longer focal lengths but do not use wide angles to shoot portraits as it causes a lot of distortion throwing the nose, eyes, ears and shoulder out of proportion with each other. You may consider investing in a good 85mm or 135mm prime portrait lens if you do a lot of portrait work. Prime lenses are always better than zooms as far as sharp optics and maximum apertures are concerned which is usually desirable to keep a the background out of focus in portraits.



Are the surroundings right?
   Everything that shows in a picture counts and adds to your efforts or works against the shot. So do keep an eye on the background and the surroundings of your subject. A common man may not be able to make out but the ambiance and the surroundings adds to his liking or disliking for the picture at the subconscious level. Besides the surroundings it is also important to use appropriate jewellery, accesories, settings, location, which go well with the mood and character of the portrait.


The right viewpoint for portraits
Delano & Danielle_Wedding (65)Delano & Danielle_Wedding (65)

How the subject appears in your photograph depends on your viewpoint which could be at the eye level, lower or higher. There is no right or wrong but it all depends on the split second decision which you take as you look at your subject’s face through the viewfinder. Shoot from where the person looks at his or her best or you may shoot from the viewpoint which reveals the persons characteristics you are trying to portray through your photograph. For example to avoid a double chin, you may shoot from a higher viewpoint and to make a long nose less prominent you may choose a lower viewpoint. However it all depends on your personal judgment and observation. Also shooting from a higher viewpoint may show your subject as a submissive character and a lower viewpoint shows the same subject as dominant.


The subject is not looking into the camera and has been shot from a lower viewpoint to o along with the mood of the shot.




Bold colours
Bold colours almost never go wrong. We do get attracted by a bold red, blue or any other colour for that matter. This could be a part of the subjects outfit or the background and the surroundings. However, be careful that strong colors can add to the photograph and if not rightly positioned might end up as a distraction from your main visual, overpowering what you intended to convey through your picture. Colors should work together. A red outfit may look attractive but a little red spot in the background may look as a distraction. Although you may make the picture as colourful as you want but at times too many strong colors may end up in a conflict for attention. Experiment to see which all colours work well together
whether it is the red of background or the yellow of the outfit , the striking bold colors almost never go wrong.    



Include elements to convey the subjects character.
Include what characterizes the subject in your portrait. It may be a hat, a cigar, a car, knitting kit, golf stick or a book. This reveals a lot about the character of the person and also makes him/her comfortable as he or she poses for the picture. It is the environment which further adds to the picture and the subject has something to do with his hands. Also enables you to suggest poses which are natural for the subject and to his taste and style.
  The cigar further adds to the roughness of the character, supported by the twist of the lips and the hard lighting. Though a posed photograph but the pile of books in the foreground very clearly shows that famous chef Neeta Mehta not only cooks but shares her recepies as well through her books.