Portraiture is all about making your subjects look their very best! Warm-up to your subjects by talking about their interests or any other positive topic to capture natural, authentic, and relaxed expressions. The more relaxed you make them feel, the better the results!
Try to avoid using wide-angle lenses; they have a lot of distortion that is not pleasing in portraiture. Ideally, use anything above 35mm. Make sure you understand the brief requirements, as sometimes you might have to include part of the location in your shots - this will dictate your choice of lens.
If you need to make your subject stand out, try using f4 or lower - this will create a blurry background (bokeh) and a sharp subject. If you need to include the location/background in the photo, to give context, try using an aperture of f5.6 or higher.
Whichever your aperture might be, always make sure the subject's eyes are in focus!
A tripod is one of the most useful tools you can have in your photo kit when you need to capture a set of images with consistency and focus.
It is good practice to ask your subjects to pose standing up. It helps minimize bad posture and elongates the body, which is more photogenic.
If your subject is wearing glasses, ask them if they wear them all the time, they might want to have a few options without them. Be mindful of reflections from your lighting equipment on their glasses. Ask your subject to tilt or move their faces slightly until the reflections are gone.
Capture a variety of poses; hands in pockets, arms crossed, shoulders a bit to the left and the right but looking into the camera, etc.
Pay attention to expressions; ask your subject to pose with big smiles, closed mouth smiles, a bit more serious, a bit happier, you want to capture a variety of options.
Be mindful of your words, make sure to always provide positive feedback. You can boost your subject's confidence and get more natural and relaxed expressions.
Make sure your subject's outfit looks as good as possible. Keep an eye on ties (they should look straight), jacket sleeves in men's suits can create bulky wrinkles, buttons undone, or bra straps showing. Try to fix as much as possible on set because these details can be difficult to retouch in Photoshop.
Pro tip: have a lint roller in your kit to take care of lint, dust, or any other unwanted particles on the clothes.
Hair and Makeup
You might not always have a hair and makeup artist on set with you, but you can still make it work by paying attention to details! Make sure hair is tidy and away from their faces - especially with subjects with long hair. Watch out for flyaways! Makeup can be difficult to do when you have no experience, but ask the subject to assist if they need to do a touch-up before starting.
Another good option is to use tissue paper to minimize sweat and shiny areas, like the t zone (forehead and nose).
These are some of the essentials you can have in your kit:
- Tissue paper
- Lint roller
- Brush & Comb
- Clamps - not only for gear but to adjust bulky/baggie wardrobe.
Retouching your subjects should always look natural - only remove temporary blemishes, like redness, pimples, and keep features like freckles and moles.
Consider brightening the eyes and teeth. Make sure to do it in a non-destructive way - always use layers where you can tone down the effect.
Check for hair flyaways, unwanted particles on the subject's outfit, and other details that could be distracting.
It is always a good idea to step back from the images you are working on and take a break. Grab a snack, come back to your desk, look at the photo again, and make sure your edits are natural-looking.