View Full Version : Portrait help required please

Phill D
10-03-2009, 01:33 AM
My daughter has just come home with her latest school portrait which is OK but really not good enough to be happy to spend money to buy & dissapointing for a professional shot. My wife told her " I'm sure dad can get a much better shot this weekend" hence my dilema. :eek: I've never taken any specific portraits before and she is usually a pretty camera shy teanager. I don't have any flash other than the pop up on my Olympus E510 so natural light will be the main lighting plus it looks pretty overcast here in the UK this weekend :(
So all tips gratefully received for lighting, setting, lens choice (I have oly 14-45, 40-150 kit lenses & 70-300), basically anything that might help me make a reasonable go of this.

10-03-2009, 06:17 AM
Let me start by saying, I am not a portrait photographer. If I were taking the photos I would try the following:

Use a 35mm equivalent lens of around 85mm. Try the diffused light of the cloudy sky, as that's what you have and it may be pleasing. Experiment with the built in flash. Focus on the eye, if one eye is closer, use that one. Let her be natural, and hopefully happy. Now the tough part. You need a plane, but pleasing back round. A hedge or the siding of a building may work. Keep her far enough away that the back round will be out of focus. This will require a larger lens opening.

Experiment, hope you get the good one.

10-03-2009, 12:13 PM
JVL had some good tips. I probably wouldn't use the pop up flash. Overcast is good for portraits. You won't have to fight as many shadows. You might try some window light. If it's one of those days where it's overcast but the sky is still bright then you could use some poster board to reflect that light for some fill. Brick walls make nice backgrounds or something with a strong line leading to the subject (bridge, railroad tracks, etc), but make sure it's a not cluttered. Looking up is more flattering than looking down, so don't shoot from below your subject. There's also some other rules I think. Something about making sure your subject is standing at an angle and tilting their head a certain way. Not sure, you'll probably have to look those ones up. Here are a few ambient light portrait examples. My portrait photography doesn't get nearly as much practice as my landscapes. Tough to find someone who's willing to put up with me making a bunch of mistakes.

This one was taken a couple years ago on an overcast day. It could probably use a little fill light but I didn't really know what I was doing at the time.

Taken in shade on a sunny day. Subject looking up. It helps to be tall. :)

This is another sunny day shot taken in the shade. I screwed up on the background though. I should have chosen somewhere w/o any sun shinning through. Also her hair is kind of lost in the darker bush.

This one was taken in the shade. I think probably after the sun had gone below the hill. Make sure you expose for the eyes. I think Rooz spot meters on his kid's eyes.

10-03-2009, 12:39 PM
In terms of lenses, Phill, I'd probably use the 40-150 at 40MM, aperture priority. Am I correct in assuming it's the older, metal-mount version? If so, try a number wide open, and then a number at F4.0.

Phill D
10-03-2009, 12:58 PM
Thanks guys those tips are brilliant, I'm planning to have a go tomorrow. If I can get some as good as you posted Lukas then I'll be happy. Jekostas my 40-150 is the newer plastic version so f4 is as wide as it goes. I was thinking of trying something between 40-50mm at f5.6 for closer up shots & maybe a few at ~100mm where I'll stand back more. Hedges & walls sound like good suggestions for backgrounds I was wondering what to try. Thanks again I'll post a few shots if I'm allowed.

10-03-2009, 02:21 PM
Normally, you want a 3rd /4 face pose (Don't know if im saying it right), Basically, the normal pose is about what Lukas showed in picture n2.

Remember that looking down on her will make her seem small, fragile, looking up, will empower her and make her taller/bigger, use that as you wish or keep it leveled.

Good backgrounds are important, try not to have any lines cutting her head halfway, be mindful of where things are in the background (Truck going in her ear is never nice, i said ear to be nice, could be worse)

Since your using kit lenses, im guessing you won't get a very nice brokeh (blurred background) but to maximize what you can get, i suggest you go in close to her, and keep whatever background you are using far away. Using aperture priority on your camera will help keep your aperture as wide as possible. (Lowest number)

And, please, no brick walls. Its your daughter here, they are nice and all, but they have been used and abused everywhere, something simple yet elegant usually works for girls best.

Pretty please?

Looking forward to see what how you'll do, and even though shes camera shy, shes your daugther, you have the edge here buddy make her have a good time and capture it.

Phill D
10-05-2009, 01:28 PM
Sorry guys wasn't able to try out your suggestions this weekend I'm afraid, much to my disappointment. Daughter & wife had changed plans. No problem, I'll store the tips up for another day and work on dropping hints about needing a flash ;) . Thanks again for your help.