Need a head shot for your web site? A good photo of the little one for your holiday cards? Taking good pictures of people can be hard, but don’t despair. An average digital camera can take great portraits if you keep a few simple guidelines in mind. No special equipment is required and the features discussed are widely available on most point-and-shoot cameras. Who knows, if you follow along carefully you may never have to pay for those expensive school pictures of your kids again.
Choose The Right Camera Settings
Portrait_mode.jpg Most digital cameras have a “portrait mode” built in. Activate it by turning the mode dial to the portrait icon (usually a person’s head). This setting draws attention to your subject by blurring the background.
Blur More? If your camera has a zoom lens, go to maximum telephoto and zoom in all the way. You may need to take a few steps to get subject in frame; step back and zoom all the way in. This makes the background blur even more, throwing your subject into even sharper relief. (No “digital zoom.” Optical zoom—or “real zoom”—is what you want.)
Make the flash go off. Set your camera so that even in brightly lit places that your flash off in every situation. Do not just let the camera flash if it needs to, because it won’t; you’ll be shooting in plenty of light. You want to literally force the flash to fire. Doing this will soften the shadows on your subject’s face and add a gleam to his/her eye.
Forcing the flash is usually very easy to do and involves pushing the flash mode selector button until the flash mode indicator displays the “will flash no matter what” icon (usually a lightning bolt) as opposed to the “will flash if necessary” icon (a lightning bolt with an “A” next to it). On many cameras there will also be an option to force the flash in red-eye reduction mode (a lightning bolt plus an eye but no “A”). Do this if available.
More About Light
To take a great picture you need more than just the light from your camera’s flash. To get it, go outside in the daytime. Sunny or cloud. Indoor light is often insufficient for good photography, so do yourself a huge favor and step outdoors.
Once you’re outside, place your subject with the sun to the side usually works well. I find that the sunlight from the side, combined with the light from the flash in front, make for a pleasantly lit subject.
Bonus tip: If possible take your picture in the early morning or the late afternoon. The light at these times makes for the best photography.
Composing And Shooting
Frame your shot so you get just the subject’s head and maybe their shoulders. Really, the tighter you frame it the nicer it’ll look.
Remember to zoom all the way in and then compose your shot. You may need to take a step closer to your subject or maybe take a step back. Do not frame the shot by adjusting the zoom; leave it at maximum telephoto.
If you can, try to shoot where the background is as far away as possible. This also helps blur it and draw attention to your subject.
Now that your camera is set, you have good light and you’ve framed your shot it’s time to shoot. Hold your camera steady and push the shutter release button only halfway down. Pushing the button halfway down tells the camera to figure out the auto-focus and auto-exposure. Once the camera is done taking its readings, (a green light, a beep or both will notify you)then you can simply push the button. You could pause here and tell your subject a joke to make him/her laugh and then push it the rest of the way down, capturing that perfect expression.