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Article: Portrait photography guide

Leitfaden für Porträtfotografie

Portrait photography guide

Mastering portrait photography is considered by many photographers to be a top class skill. After all, professional portrait photography is the type of photography that forgives the fewest mistakes. The special challenge in creating a portrait: the photographer must simultaneously keep all technical and compositional aspects in mind as well as direct the model portrayed. In this guide to portrait photography, we have therefore compiled valuable tips on portraiture for ambitious photographers - including tips on posing for portraits. These will help you put any model in the right light.

Basic tip before you really get started: Lenses with a focal length of 50 mm or more are suitable for portraits. Professionals shoot with 80 to 200 mm focal length. The higher the focal length, the greater the depth of field - and the more the viewer's focus is on the person.

Step 1 in portraiture: What image do you want to create?

The first question in any portrait is: What message do you want the finished image to convey? - Because every person can be staged in very different ways: from dreamy to determined, from friendly to dismissive, from sad to euphoric. All this is not just a question of facial expression, but also of the photographer's staging. In addition to the choice of perspective, the photographer has lighting as a variable element at his or her disposal.

The following applies: Extreme impressions can be created by extreme lighting effects - while diffuse, soft light usually creates complete illumination of the face. When planning the portrait statement, the following applies: where there are shadows, secrets remain - while fully illuminated portraits radiate transparency and openness.

Step 2 of professional portrait photography: portrait lighting techniques.

There are two very different types of professional portrait photography in terms of lighting: outdoor and indoor shoots. While outdoors, natural daylight is primarily used, an artificial lighting setup is necessary for shoots in the studio or even in your own four walls.

Our tip for beginners looking for tips on portraiture: In the beginning, try to shoot outdoors if possible. This is because natural daylight usually provides good illumination - and allows you to initially focus more on the subject and model than on portrait lighting techniques.

Tips for outdoor portraiture:

The only additional equipment you should have with you when doing professional outdoor portrait photography is a reflector sheet. This can be held by the model and used to direct soft light to shadowy areas of the face.

Light cloud cover is ideal for outdoor shoots because this provides particularly diffuse, soft light. Direct sunlight, on the other hand, creates strong contrasts between light and shadow. This can also be used in portrait photography - for example, to photograph a person in such a way that one half of the face appears very bright and the other very dark.

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In most cases, however, it is advisable to use indirect light - which is most likely to be found in shaded areas on days with strong sunshine.

The ideal time of day for outdoor portraits is the hours after sunrise and before sunset. This is because low sunlight allows for exciting effects - and ensures that the portrait has a great depth of space.

Tips for taking portraits with portrait lighting techniques in the studio:

To illuminate a model for indoor portrait photography, one or more artificial light sources should be used. Both flashes and continuous light, preferably provided by powerful LEDs, are suitable for this purpose. These light sources must be positioned to create the desired lighting effect on the model - for example, as an extreme side light if you want to create strong light-shadow contrasts on the face.

A classic setup is to position the light sources frontally to slightly to the side of the photo subject. If the light falls on the model's face at the desired angle, the next step is to adjust the light intensity. Depending on the strength, individual areas are better illuminated or are more in the shade.

If you are experimental, you can also place a strong light source just below the model so that it is illuminated from below.

Step 3: Tips for posing for portraits:

  • To create body tension in the shoulders and torso, the model can put her hands halfway into her pants pockets or rest them on her hips.
  • An upright, straight back combined with a slight head tilt creates a confident look.
  • For standing portraits, the weight should be shifted to one leg.
  • A slight body turn makes the upper body appear longer and slimmer.
  • The shoulders should remain straight and not be pulled upward.
  • The effect is particularly intense if the model looks directly at the viewer.
  • With the gaze averted, effects such as dreaminess, determination or thoughtfulness can be created particularly well.

Important note to the photographer: When giving instructions to the model, always be calm, friendly and as precise as possible.

Step 4: Tips for choosing a profile in portrait photography

There are several profile options when shooting portraits, all of which bring their own specific benefits.

  • Frontal perspective: If the photographer faces the model completely head-on, the result is a very flat portrait. This creates a very direct effect on the viewer, but does not suit all faces.
  • Half-profile portraits: If the person portrayed turns his or her upper body to the side, the result is a half-profile shot. The advantage of this is that symmetrical inequalities in the face are less noticeable than in frontal shots - and you can show off the model's best side.
  • Three-quarter profile: Here, the model turns even further away from the photographer than in the half profile. This emphasizes one half of the face much more than the other.
  • Profile portraits: In this profile choice, only one side of the face is photographed. Shooting from the side can accommodate people who have distinctive facial features.

Step 5: Tips for taking portraits from different perspectives.

You can also add excitement and an unusual effect to a portrait if you, as the photographer, leave the classic normal perspective at eye level with the model - and shoot from a frog or bird's eye view.

If a person is portrayed from the frog perspective, he or she appears larger and more massive. So if you want to create the impression of dominance, you should try a shot from below. However, caution is advised, because this perspective can also quickly create an impression of arrogance and arrogance.

Bird's-eye portraits, on the other hand, make the model look smaller and more vulnerable. An impression of sadness is often created because the eyelids appear more closed from above. In addition, the forehead often appears larger in photos taken from the top view than at eye level.

Conclusion: Mastering portrait photography requires ambition and practice.

This guide to portrait photography shows: In this type of photography, the photographer must consider and arrange numerous components. In addition to planning the image statement, this includes the right choice of background, perspective, lighting and profile.

An additional tip: If the model is not placed in the center of the picture, but offset to the left or right, a special tension is created in a portrait shot.

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