Digital Portrait Photography Tips and Ideas

Digital Portrait Photography Tips

Digital Portrait Photography Tips and Ideas

Digital Portrait Photography Tips Contents

There’s a lot to talk about when it comes to portrait photography so here are some links to the digital portrait photography tips you will read about in this article:

Digital Portrait Photography Ideas
Digital Portrait Photography People Skills
Outdoor Photography of People
Family Portraits Ideas
Black and White Portrait Photography of People

Digital Portrait Photography Ideas

The best digital portrait composition is more technically demanding than simply taking photos of people. It requires more skill and thought than photographing people without planning especially when it comes to studio portrait photography of people. These digital portrait photography tips tell you how to take professional headshots at home and include capturing the emotions on your subject’s face, proper use of lighting and the angle at which you take the image.

Even if you are not a professional photographer and want only to take family Christmas portraits, a little knowledge from our digital portrait photography tips will go a long way to improving your digital portraiture.

Digital Portrait Photography Tips Study the Face For People Photography

Study the Face For People Photography

Always study the faces of your subjects before you start taking photos of people. You need to do the to be able to capture your subject’s best side and decide from which angle you will take the photograph. By ensuring that you take the picture from the right side you make the light and shadows work in your favour to even out the features on your subjects face. However, you should still pay attention to include distinguishing features in the digital portrait.

Capture Your Subject’s Personality in the Digital Portrait

You should attempt to capture the personality of your subject in people photography. You can get the personality of the person into the portrait composition by making sure the subtleties of facial expression are included in the final photograph.

The best portrait photographers take time to learn about their subjects as people. If they don’t know their subjects the photographer meets them prior to the shoot. If you are taking family portraits then you are in a better position to capture their personality within the shot.

Digital Portrait Photography Tips for Lighting

As with all areas of photography, lighting is very important for digital portraiture. In many cases natural light is better than artificial but this can be affected by the subject. Natural lighting requires you to find the best aperture for portraits. You have to manipulate the shadow and light to create a contrast for the required effect.

When working outdoors on environmental portrait photography of people, harsh midday light is not ideal. This kind of light produces strong shadows and shows the worst of the subject of your digital portrait.

The kind of light produced in the morning and late afternoon is the ideal light for digital portraiture. You have more control to create desirable shadows on the face of your subject. You can sometimes recreate this kind of light by placing your subject under shade. So consider using a tree or a canopy to gain some kind of control over light.

On the other hand, studio portrait photography of people is the only setting in which you can completely control artificial lighting to guarantee that it won’t appear too harsh. Manual settings are required to guarantee the best portrait composition.

Professional Portrait Background Tips

The portrait background is linked to light whether on a professional level or when considering family portrait backgrounds. Studio portrait photography of people requires the photographer to avoid a portrait background that avoids merging the subject with the background. You must therefore create a contrast between your subject and the photography background.

When taking family portraits at home make sure the background adds colour to the subject rather than draining colour from the image. At the same time, you need to make sure that the background doesn’t provide any distractions from the subject. Make sure the subject is fully incorporated in the digital portrait composition rather than a peripheral feature.

Digital Portrait Photography People Skills

To produce the best portrait photography of people, you need good people skills. Using the best photography equipment and having good photographic technique is only half the battle. You need to build a rapport with your subject to emphasise their best features. Only when you connect with your subject and apply your photography skills will you achieve the best portrait composition.

Digital Portrait Photography People Skills

Take Control of the Digital Portrait Composition

The best portrait photography ideas are sometimes better explained by showing your subject what you want. In these situations, don’t be afraid to direct your subjects in order to get the best results. When talking family portraits or people photography in groups when children are involved, arrange the adults first. Try arranging the children from the oldest to youngest. Make sure you let the group know that you are in charge of the portrait.

Allow the Personality of Your Subject to Come Through the Digital Portrait

Try to capture your portrait subject in a natural situation as a forced scenario will result in a stilted and cold image. Try to think of digital portrait photography ideas that fit your subject and try to capture the expressions that follow. Think of how the portrait will look in the future. If the person is placed in a setting that is natural, it will have more resonance than a staged, sterile composition. If your subject can be best captured by a staged photograph, then concentrate on making this as smooth and elegant as possible.

Maintain Eye Contact When Taking Photos of People

Look at your subject when using a tripod rather than the camera viewfinder when shooting an individual, group or family portrait. This allows better communication between you and your subject. You can also control your subject more effectively through eye contact.

You can obtain a warmer expression and better results when the subject interacts with you rather than the camera. This applies whether or not you are using a tripod. A mistake that many portrait photographers make is to concentrate too much on the viewfinder. This results in a sterile image as the subject interacts with the camera rather than with another human being.

Capture the Moment by Allowing Candid Expressions

Digital Portrait Photography Tips and Ideas Candid Expressions
One of the most fundamental digital portrait photography tips is to never direct your subject’s expression by forcing them to smile. Genuine expressions, even frowns, make more interesting digital portraiture than forced smiles. Try saying something humorous if you want your subject to smile. If you smile, your subject will often, but not always, smile back at you. The most important point is that interaction with the subject is the key.






Outdoor Photography of People

Outdoor portrait photography presents its own difficulties as anyone who will know has ever attempted a family portrait, a group outing or holiday. Even an experienced portrait photographer, can struggle with harsh sunlight and distracting objects. Getting the colours just right can be difficult and the prospect of having to battle nature is daunting. However, with some patience and application of these digital portrait photography tips, you can overcome many of the challenges you may face.

Outdoor Photography of People

Remove Distracting Objects from Digital Portrait Composition

Distracting objects can also make the subject look silly, so this is something you definitely want to avoid. Suddenly that tree behind your subject can appear to grow out of their head in the final digital portrait! Look for a good angle that eliminates unwanted distractions from the final image.

Keep Your Subject at the Centre of the Portrait Composition

Remember that you want the viewer to be drawn to the subject of your digital portrait. So while an interesting background can make a great image, don’t let it take over the picture. Be careful to prevent bright colours, patterns or distracting features in the foreground or background from taking attention away from the subject.

Digital Portraiture Depth of Field

Mountains and forests may make ideal family portrait backgrounds but only with proper control over depth of field. This is the distance on which your camera can focus. With modern digital cameras, you can adjust this to bring the portrait background in or out of focus. This is useful because your viewer’s eye will be guided toward the brightest and most focused object in the image. One of the most important digital portrait photography tips is to make your subject in sharp focus relative to the background. This marks the subject as the focus of your digital portrait.

Finding the best aperture for portraits will determine the ideal depth of field for your image. Depth of field is determined by f-stops and describes the lens opening. Larger lens openings are defined by smaller f-stops and reduce the depth of field. You can see this setting in nature photography where a bee is on a flower in razor-sharp focus with the flowers blurred in the background. Beware of using this setting in bright light as this increases the shutter speed which, in turn reduces the resolution.

Family Portraits Ideas

Try not to fall into the trap of producing family portraits that look exactly the same as millions of others. Only a precious few family portraits catch the attention. This is where posing techniques and digital portrait composition become important. Try our digital portrait photography tips for families to improve your portraiture.

Family Portraits Ideas

Family Portraits Definition

Family portraiture is as important as any other kind of photography in that it creates a historical document by recording family growth. Think of the changing fashions from a family portrait taken in the 1970 to a current photograph. Or look even further back to the old black and white portrait photography of people at the turn of the 19th century. These snapshots create an important reference even if it didn’t seem so at the time.

Keep Your Family Portraits Natural

We refer to our digital portrait photography people skills section where we stated that the best portrait compositions arise from natural conditions. Stuffy family portraiture where everyone in the frame poses solemnly for the camera is old fashioned. Try for a modern natural look from your subjects. Allow your family to just be themselves and capture the different character of each family member in the one shot. Try to capture interaction between family members and encourage laugher, allowing the family to relax.

Creative Portraits for Families

Creative Portraits for Families
Think carefully about any props or family portrait backgrounds that could be used to enhance the photograph. Consider allowing parents with young children to play together against a suitable natural background and capture candid shots. If the family includes pets, allow them to play too for some truly memorable family portraits. If the family group includes a baby, put the baby in a cot and have the parents look at the baby instead of the camera.

Some really creative portraits for families can be made outside. The edges of streams, front porches, the edge of a forest, or even walls with the kids sitting on top can create really memorable images.

Try Capturing Family Portraits On the Move

There’s no substitute for using a tripod if you want sharp and stable images. However, if you feel the need to mix things up a little, try some alternative viewpoints without the tripod. Try shooting the portrait from the side or above. You can even get creative with lighting. This approach can be useful when the family doesn’t know what they want. By being flexible and creative, you can offer a range of portrait options to help them choose.

Tips for Family Christmas Portraits

Tips for Family Christmas Portraits
Start by looking around for objects to use as Christmas props. This shouldn’t be too difficult as there are sure to be Santa hats and Christmas decorations close to hand.

Look at our tip on camera apertures above and shoot your Christmas family portraits using low apertures. Try doing this with your subjects in front of family portrait backgrounds of Christmas fairy lights and bright decorations. This will bring the subject into sharp focus while blurring the bright lights in the background in an effect known as Bokeh. A great way to bring the subject into even sharper focus and increase the blur of the family portrait background is to get close. This requires concentration but the effects can be stunning and warm when applied properly. To add to the warmth of the image, use natural light, rather than the flash. This will highlight the ambience of your lights and create interesting shadows.

Some of the best portrait photography tips for families at Christmas include using silly poses. That’s right, pull faces, have some fun and capture the reactions generated. Christmas is a season of good cheer after all!

Capturing good family Christmas portraits requires you to be something of a street photographer in the home. Always have you camera ready to capture a special moment such as the reactions when your family open their presents.

Black and White Portrait Photography of People

Black and White Portrait Photography of People

Photographing in black and white can give you that classic portraiture effect where the composition is pared down to the most basic elements. Some of the most creative portraits today are shot in black and white so there are many points to consider when using this technique. Try these digital portrait photography tips for shooting in black and white.

Elements of Black and White Portrait Photography

As with all areas of photography, it is easier to get the correct image during the shoot than to edit in post-production. You need to pay close attention to making sure the lighting is set just right so the contrast creates the right tones. Make sure your subject is positioned correctly and think about their expression as you may want to capture a different mood to colour photography.

Black and White Portrait Photography Tips for Facial Expressions

The features of your subject’s face should be emphasized in black and white portraiture. This is a great tool for the expression of emotion in your images. Small details such as the beginnings of a smile and lines on your subject’s face can transform the final image.

Eyes are incredibly important in digital portraits. The composition is constructed around this feature and as this is also emphasized in black and white, so becomes even more important. The eyes should be well lit, focussed and prominent in the picture as they draw your viewer’s attention.

Best Lighting and Contrast for Black and White Portrait Photography

Lighting and contrast provide an opportunity to be creative with your portrait composition. You can use hard and soft sources of light for hard tones and more subtle lighting as required. Personal aesthetics and artistic judgement in relation to the subject and background are key with these settings.

As always, it is better to get the contrast right during the shoot rather than during post-production. Therefore use light and shadows to create high contrast. If you must use editing software such as Photoshop, keep the changes minimal and restricted to a local level within the portrait.

Black and White Portraits Exaggerate Errors

Resist the temptation to attempt to save a bad colour image by turning it into a black and white image in Photoshop. The flaws, mistakes and problems of the original will most likely look even worse in the black and white image. A bad colour portrait will make a terrible black and white portrait.

Digital Portrait Photography Tips Conclusion

There are many factors that can influence the quality of your digital portrait photography. The quality of your camera combined with lighting, angles, photography techniques and subject matter dictate the final image. With better application of these factors you can raise the standard of your digital portraiture considerably.

To get inspiration for portrait photography look at portfolios of famous portrait photographers such as Annie Leibovitz or Steve McCurry.

Check out the latest exhibitions and information for Annie Leibovitz here.

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