One pleasure of photography is taking photos of your loved ones, capturing life’s milestones and significant moments with your camera or smartphone.
Here are some tips to get the shots you will be proud to show off.
Light, or The Lack Of
Too often, we take for granted that when we see the sun or the indoor fluorescent lamp, there is enough light for the camera to capture. Most often than not, we rely on the camera’s ISO settings to brighten up the photos but realise that it is not as sharp as it should be.
Finding the right time to shoot helps with portraiture shooting.
The just-risen sun or just before sunset presents a lighting scene where the sun’s warm yellow saturates the scene to give that soft glow look. It is called the Golden Hour for a very good reason.
Secondly, is to look out for artificial light that illuminates the subject. It can be a table lamp or window light. You can buy a Video LED Panel light for better lighting or get a friend to help to light your subject with their phone’s flashlight can be a creative approach.
A portrait can be shot in bright day light but come evening or even night time, it provided an ambiance for the photo. PHOTO: Wilson Wong
This counts as a street portrait where the surroundings helps to give a sense of the place. PHOTO: Wilson Wong
There are two ways to capture portraits – with a plain background that helps the viewers to focus on your subject or at the place of capture that gives you the context of where the picture is taken.
Both have pros and cons, but the latter gives you the story element in the picture.
One way to give a bit of separation of the subject from the background is by introducing an out-of-focus area behind the subject we called bokeh.
You do this by using a longer zoom lens and opening the aperture. For a smartphone, activate the portraiture mode to create the bokeh behind and zoom in to get the same effect.
Sometimes a busy background such as the incense at Hue, Vietnam gave the viewer clues about the place and the context of the portrait itself. PHOTO: Wilson Wong
So many times when I tried to shoot the children, the whole family behind me tried to make funny faces so the child could look in their direction. The problem is the kid is NOT looking in MY direction. Or worse, giving that ‘shocked’ look when the whole family is shouting to gain attention.
This is where the skills of street and action photography come into play. You must expect the unexpected and try to anticipate the subject’s movement and capture the moment.
Another way is to talk to the child while letting them be as comfortable as possible, and they will eventually look up from their toy.
Most parents would stand and shoot the kids. A more powerful shot can be captured if you squat or sit down and interact at their height level. It gives the portrait of the child a more natural look.
Wait for the moment. It can be tough but when you get the emotions, it is pretty rewarding. PHOTO: Wilson Wong
Going low by sitting or squatting when you shoot gave it a more natural perspective. PHOTO: Wilson Wong
Most subjects will not know how to pose since they are not professional models. There are some simple tricks, though. Make them sit on a ledge, steps, or chair and relax. Put the hand in the pocket or ask them to hold something so they would not think how to hide the hands.
I would usually pose the subject at a 45 angle to look at me, forcing them to tilt their head and relax. Just ask them which side of the face they like best.
There are also posing references you can easily download from the internet. Train yourself by looking at fashion magazines or pictorial books.
Just getting your models to look to the side helps with the nervousness of looking at the camera too. PHOTO: Wilson Wong
Poses need not to be at the front. Sometimes it makes a photo more dynamic by shooting from the side. PHOTO: Wilson Wong
Two essential portrait accessories are continuous lighting devices, such as a LED video light panel and a reflector. Both introduce light into the frame to brighten your subject.
A reflector can sometimes act like a diffuser if the light source is too harsh.
More powerful then the mini light on the smartphone, the LED light provides more light for a better exposed portrait.
Using a simple LED Panel Light helps to bring the subject out from the background. PHOTO: Wilson Wong
Use Spot Meter
A meter is a function in the camera that measures the intensity of light for the camera to choose the correct setting for the best exposure.
I use the spot meter and get the reading between the eyes. This will help the camera focus on the eyes too.