5 Portrait Photography Mistakes Every Photographer Makes.. | Tutorial Freak – Online Tutorials

5 Portrait Photography Mistakes Every Photographer Makes..

Mistakes, mistakes.. TutFREAK

Shooting wide..

Although you can produce really funky shots with a wide-angle lens, few of them tend to find favour with the subjects.

Wide-angle lenses make close subjects look much bigger than those that are further away and with a portrait this can mean a big nose, above a receding chin, on a small face with tiny eyes.

It’s far more flattering to shoot from a little further away and use a longer lens as this will help keep the sitter’s facial features in proportion.

While an effective focal length of 50mm (or wider) lens may be a good choice for an environmental portrait, where the subject is in their workplace, for example, and you’re not too close, something a little longer, perhaps around 70-85mm, is often regarded as a good choice for head and shoulders shot.

Don’t forget, that a 50 mm lens is equivalent to around 75 mm on and an APS-C format SLR, so your standard prime lens can be an excellent choice.

Longer telephoto lenses also work well, although you’ll need to stand further away so you need more space to work in.

Using a longer lens has the added advantage of restricting depth of field so the background is blurred slightly putting greater emphasis on your subject.

Eyes not sharp..

As a general rule the eyes in a portrait image should be sharp. This is especially important if you’re shooting with the aperture wide open to restrict depth of field.

Shallow depth of field is a great way of directing the viewer’s attention towards the subject, and if the wrong part of the image is sharp that’s where the viewer will look.

With a portrait this means that it’s no good focusing on the sitter’s nose, the focus point needs to be right on one of the eyes.

If you normally let the camera select the autofocus point for you, it’s time to take control and set it yourself. Your camera manual will explain exactly how to do this, but look for an option called something like one point or one area auto focusing.

Alternatively, if your subject isn’t moving you could try focusing manually. In this case it’s worth using your camera’s live view mode and composing the image on-screen with the camera on a tripod.

It’s usually possible to magnify part of the scene so that you can be sure that the focus is spot-on. With a portrait you want to magnify the eyes and focus on them.

An added advantage of shooting with the camera on a tripod and composing the image on the camera’s screen is that it’s easier to engage your subject in conversation, helping them to relax and making the shoot almost incidental.

Too much depth of field..

As alluded to previously, selecting a small aperture to create extensive depth of field isn’t always a good idea with a portrait.

If the background is busy or cluttered it may distract from your subject. Choosing a wider aperture, for example if/5.6 will often produce better results.

Even if the background isn’t heavily blurred, restricting the depth of field a little separates your subject from the surroundings giving them greater dominance in the shot.

If you find that the background isn’t as blurred as you would like, ask your subject to step forward, increasing the distance between them and it.

You could also switch to a longer focal length lens as this will result in less depth of field at the same aperture, although you will have to move further away from your subject to maintain the same composition.

Unusual headwear..

One of the all-time classic errors when shooting people is to not pay enough attention to the background and as a result end up with shots that have lampposts, trees or flagpoles sticking out of the top people’s heads.

It may be possible to avoid this by shooting with a wide aperture to blur the background, but it’s often just a case of taking a few steps to one side of the other to give them a different background.

Depth of field to shallow..

While restricting depth of field in a portrait can be very effective, if you shoot wide open with an 85mm f/1.8 lens the depth of field may be so shallow that only the eyes are in focus, while the ears are soft.

This means that you need to be extremely careful with your focusing, and if you want a little more than the contact lenses on your subject’s eyes to be sharp, you may want to consider closing the aperture down a little.

Be sure to check your images at or near the size that you want to use them, or enlarge the image on the camera’s screen when you review it to check the focus and depth of field.

It can be hard to assess depth of field in thumbnails and when the image is squeezed onto the back of the camera, out of focus areas often look sharper than they actually are.


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